Culture & Curious Habits / Indonesia

What is it like to be Indonesian?


I have this strong curiosity in diversity of ways of life in different cultures. Curious habits, myths behind habits, reasoning about certain cultures is something I ‘collect’ through travels, talking/working with people and some observation.  Well, today I will pose this question upon myself: What is it like to be a millennial Indonesian?

This is an overview of things I have personally learned, unlearn and re-learned while growing up. This is not to say representing an entire generation of course, only my personal experience.


There were numerous times that, as an adult, I felt that I was tricked and fooled by what my school years have taught me about history of Indonesia. Sometimes it is infuriating and frustrating to realise what lies being fed in my younger years. I still felt that way every now and then. The other thing is that there are so many things left out from basic education of history,and worse, missing and twisted stories.

However, realising this, I know better now to channel that frustration through unlearning, re-learning and keep challenging my own thinking and understanding about the history of Indonesia and in general. Every sides has their own story.

Traveling, or chance to be citoyen du monde

It is widely realised by Indonesian that getting permits to visit or venturing to other countries can be a very challenging issue to many, if not all Indonesians. Getting permits has became this entire journey of their own along with (sometimes) drama and acrobats even before getting into that country of intended visit.

But then again, we are lucky enough that we have such a vast array of places to visit and enjoy within Indonesia itself. So, hey it isn’t too bad really.

(Sometimes) unbearable discrepancies

Indonesian demography is interesting to put it mildly. You have ridiculously rich people who owns multiple Lamborghini’s and the other end those who lives (& breed) on literally piles of waste. Educational state is continuously concerning. Patriarchy is dominant and often times abusive. Social pressure is high. You have the religious extremes and the seculars. You have people saying things about Indonesian having good manners and hospitality but at the same time finds it difficult to throw garbage into the bin. Standing calmly in line is a habit light years away it seems. Logic can sometimes be scarce and therefore making it very hard to manoeuvre in talking sense with people. In short, it can be really confusing.

Idea about pluralism and multiculturalism

One of the nice things about being Indonesian is that at a very young age you were taught to be aware about diversity and multiculturalism at some magnitude – hundreds of languages and tribes is what makes Indonesia.

While it is nice, it could also be overwhelming though, because what comes with diversity is not only beautiful nuances but also potential conflicts… and meta-conflicts.

Lots of attention on food

I mean it made perfect sense, Indonesian fertile soils and biological wealth is wholesome. In addition, a lot of the process of getting food on the table has plenty involvement from members of society (production of rice, the making of certain food, &c). The food heritage is wonderful and it is something (if not the only thing) every Indonesian could agree upon.


Since its unification of the language in 1928, Bahasa Indonesia has grown into many nuances, both mixing with respective local language ( say you live in West Java, you will mix Bahasa Indonesia and Sundanese in your daily use.) but also with more international language ( especially those who lives in large cities ) such as English. Being Indonesian you tend to inherent the custom of mixing and adapting languages. Hey, the more the merrier!

I do wonder, for fellow Indonesian reader out there, how do you feel being Indonesian so far? 


2 thoughts on “What is it like to be Indonesian?

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