Indonesian Etiquette: Cultural Dos and Don’ts for Travelers

Indonesia, with its diverse culture and rich heritage, offers travelers a unique experience. However, navigating through Indonesian social norms and etiquette can be a daunting task for newcomers. To ensure a smooth and respectful interaction with locals, it’s essential to grasp some dos and don’ts of Indonesian etiquette.

The Importance of Etiquette in Indonesian Culture

Etiquette plays a significant role in Indonesian society, reflecting values such as respect, humility, and harmony. Understanding and adhering to local customs not only show respect for the culture but also enhance your overall travel experience.


1. Greet with a Smile and Handshake

Indonesians appreciate friendly gestures, so always greet people with a warm smile. A handshake is a common form of greeting, especially in more urban areas. However, in rural areas or when greeting elders, a slight bow or placing your hands together in a prayer-like gesture (known as “salam”) is more appropriate.

2. Use Polite Language

Politeness is highly valued in Indonesian culture. Address people with respectful titles such as “Bapak” (for men) and “Ibu” (for women) followed by their surname unless otherwise instructed. Saying “please” (“silakan”) and “thank you” (“terima kasih”) is customary in all interactions.

3. Respect Personal Space

Respect personal space, especially when interacting with the opposite gender. Avoid physical contact unless initiated by the other person. Additionally, avoid pointing with your index finger, as it can be considered impolite. Instead, gesture with your thumb.

4. Remove Shoes Before Entering Homes or Places of Worship

It’s customary to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home or a place of worship, such as mosques, temples, or certain areas within a Balinese compound. This practice signifies respect and cleanliness.

5. Show Interest in Local Customs

Indonesians take pride in their traditions and customs. Show genuine interest in learning about local culture, such as batik-making, traditional dance, or culinary practices. Locals are often eager to share their knowledge and appreciate outsiders who show respect for their heritage.

6. Bargain Respectfully

Bargaining is a common practice in markets and street stalls. However, do it respectfully without demeaning the seller. Keep the negotiation light-hearted and acknowledge the value of the goods or services offered.


1. Public Displays of Affection

Avoid public displays of affection, especially in more conservative regions. Holding hands is generally acceptable, but kissing and hugging in public may be frowned upon.

2. Pointing Feet

Pointing your feet, especially at people or sacred objects, is considered impolite in Indonesian culture. Keep your feet flat on the ground or crossed at the ankles when sitting.

3. Disrespecting Elders

Respect for elders is deeply ingrained in Indonesian society. Avoid speaking loudly or contradicting elders, even if you disagree with them. Always show deference and listen attentively.

4. Touching Someone’s Head

Touching someone’s head, including children, is considered disrespectful in Indonesian culture as the head is considered the most sacred part of the body. Similarly, avoid patting children on the head.

5. Pointing with Your Index Finger

As mentioned earlier, pointing with your index finger is considered impolite. Use an open hand or your thumb to gesture instead.

6. Wasting Food

Food is highly valued in Indonesian culture, and wasting it is considered disrespectful. Take only what you can eat and finish your plate as a sign of appreciation for the meal.

Integrating Etiquette into

At, we understand the importance of cultural sensitivity and etiquette when interacting with our clients. We ensure that our tour packages not only offer a glimpse into the stunning landscapes and attractions of East Java but also provide insights into local customs and traditions.

Our guides are trained to respect cultural norms and facilitate meaningful interactions between travelers and locals. From visiting traditional villages to participating in cultural ceremonies, we strive to create immersive experiences that foster mutual respect and understanding.

By integrating etiquette tips into our tour itineraries and providing guidance on respectful behavior, we aim to enhance the overall travel experience for our clients while promoting cross-cultural exchange and appreciation.


Indonesian etiquette encompasses a rich tapestry of customs and traditions that reflect the country’s diverse cultural heritage. By familiarizing yourself with the dos and don’ts outlined in this guide, you can navigate Indonesian society with grace and respect, forging meaningful connections with locals and enriching your travel experience.

At, we invite you to embark on a journey that not only explores the natural beauty of East Java but also embraces the warmth and hospitality of its people. Let us guide you through an unforgettable adventure filled with cultural discovery and personal growth.