Charming Facts About Indonesian People

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Indonesian people are some of the most curious people in the world. So don’t be surprised if friendly locals would approach you asking about your name, where you come from, and what do you think about their country. 

It is because of the friendliness of the Indonesian people that makes travelers want to keep on coming back to their country.

With more than 13,000 islands, Indonesiainfo-icon is a country with vast opportunities. It has something unique to offer for any kind of traveler. 

From the idyllic banks of Bali to the vibrant capital of Jakarta, Indonesia is definitely one of the top countries to visit in Southeast Asiainfo-icon. But what makes the country stand out from the rest of its neighbors are the curious, friendly, and welcoming Indonesian people. 

Brief History of Indonesia

Indonesian history is influenced by Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.
Indonesian history is influenced by Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.

Indonesia is by far the largest country in all of Southeast Asia. With a population of 260 million, Indonesia has one of the largest communities in the world. 

It’s a place of incredible diversity and endless paradoxes with a long history dating back to several thousands of years. 

The first group of Indonesian people arrived in the country around 40,000 years ago when the sea level is still low, and the country is linked to the rest of Asia by a bridge. At the end of the Ice Age, new groups of people have arrived. 

During the 400 BC, the Indonesian people started trading with other countries, such as Indiainfo-icon and Chinainfo-icon. It was also around this time that Buddhism and Hinduism are introduced to the country.

Around the 8th century, Indonesian civilization started flourishing, and various kingdoms were established. One of these is the Hindu Kingdom in the central area of Java. Another is the Buddhist Kingdom in Sriwijaya at the southern part of Sumatra. 

Read more: Where is Indonesia and Why Should You Go?

However, the Sriwijaya Empire was broken up around the 13th century. Meanwhile, Islam was introduced to Indonesia by a group of Indian merchants. The religion started in Aceh at the northern part of Sumatra and continued to spread throughout the country.

Nowadays, although Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim nation, the government recognizes five other religions.

The Indonesian People

Indonesians are generally young people; only 8% of total population is 60 years and older.
Indonesians are generally young people; only 8% of total population is 60 years and older.

95% of the more than 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia belong to the native Indonesian ancestry. As a culturally diverse country, the Indonesian people have different religions, languages, and ethnicity.

Here are some facts:

  • Indonesia’s ethnic groups comprise mainly of Sudanese people, Javanese, Malay, and Maduranese. The Javanese live mostly on the island of Java, although millions have decided to migrate to other islands due to the government’s transmigration programs.
  • Aside from the ethnic groups, the Indonesian people also include ethnic Chinese, making up 1% of the overall populations. There are also Arabs and Indians that live mainly in the urban cities.
  • Bahasa is the official language of Indonesia. It’s the Malay language that’s spoken mainly in the islands of Riau that was later on influenced by the local languages and foreign languages of people who came to trade. Bahasa Indonesia has evolved into a language that’s independent of its roots. Although Bahasa Indonesia is the main language, the Indonesian people speak several other languages.
  • To preserve the local Indonesian traditions, culture, and languages, the country’s Ministry of Education has established policies to teach the students with subjects that are highly relevant to the local culture.
  • Indonesia has one of the largest young populations all over the world. There are 165 million people who are less than 30 years old and only 8% of the country’s population is more than the age of 60.
  • 60% of the Indonesians live in Bali and Java, which represents only 7% of the total land area of the country.
  • The Indonesian people are polite and courteous. Thus, most of the local Indonesian languages are filled with vagueness and euphemisms. They tend to talk politely especially about a delicate subject.

Indonesian Culture

Indonesians value their community and maintain close-knit relationships between each other.
Indonesians value their community and maintain close-knit relationships between each other.

Indonesia’s central location along the ancient trading routes of the Middle Eastinfo-icon, South Asiainfo-icon, and the Far East, has resulted in the country’s cultural practices being highly influenced by a multitude of religions. 

The most interesting things about Indonesian culture are:

  • The Indonesian family culture is essential to the Indonesian people. No matter how independent they are or how old they become, they tend to maintain very tight relationships with each other. Many young Indonesians would choose to stay in their parents’ house except if they absolutely need to live for marriage, work, etc.
  • Indonesian beliefs and traditions are often a result of religion. In fact, religion comes first in most people in Indonesia. For instance, in Bali, you’ll find many offerings all over the streets every morning. Regardless of what their religion is, Indonesians tend to be generally spiritual.
  • Indonesia’s diversity extends to the variety of Indonesian beliefs. A lot of communities still live traditionally and uphold the religious belief and practices of their ancestors. In some other communities, these beliefs are still intact with traditions and influenced by other religion, resulting in a wide range of unique practices.
  • Indonesians value their communities a lot. Farmers work alongside each other in cultivating their lands and managing resources. Villages maintain close-knit communities and will make sure to take care of each other.
  • The Indonesian people believe in legends. In fact, almost every place in Indonesia has a legend. You’ll hear locals talking about stories of royals, spirits, hermits, and gods that contribute to a particular area, like temples and cultural landmarks.
  • Indonesians love to celebrate everything, and there are so many Indonesian rituals that locals have to go through. From certain months of pregnancies to funerals, harvest thanksgiving, and birthdays, Indonesians will always have something to celebrate.

Indonesian Food

Nasi Rawon is just another showcase of how diverse the Indonesian cuisine is.
Nasi Rawon is just another showcase of how diverse the Indonesian cuisine is.

The Indonesian archipelago is blessed with an abundance of herbs and spices, which is why most of the traditional Indonesian recipes are made from a wide range of herbs and spices.

Read more: Best Food To Try in Indonesia!
The Indonesian cuisine might come out strong in the foreign tongue. Nevertheless, here are some of the best Indonesian foods you need to try.

Beef Rendang - this savory dish originated from the island of Sumatra in Padang. Padang foods are known for their richness and spiciness, and Beef rendang is one of these. This dish is almost similar to the Beef curry; however, it does not have the broth.

Satay Indonesia - satay is Indonesia’s version of the barbecue. These delicious skewers are cooked over coals and often served with rice cakes and peanut sauce. You’ll find this dish being sold in various vendors in Indonesia and is often a common staple during festivals and celebrations.

Nasi Rawon - this delicious dish came from East Java and is made of beef stew. It has a nutty flavor and a deep black color because of the keluak nut. The dish is best eaten with a serving of rice.

Nasi Uduk - this fragrant dish is said to be the national dish of Indonesia. It’s quite similar to Malaysiainfo-icon’s Nasi Lemak, which is a rice dish cooked in coconut milk. The only difference is that the Nasi Uduk is often served with fried chicken, shredded omelet, soybean cake, anchovies, grilled onion, and topped with sambal.

Gulai Ayam - this is basically a traditional Indonesian chicken curry doused in traditional ingredients of Kaffir lime, coconut milk, chilies, and lemongrass. As a curry dish, the gulai ayam is cooked in a yellowish, curry-like sauce that’s known locally as “gulai”.

Soto Ayam Indonesia - this is an Indonesian chicken soup with rice noodles cooked in turmeric, ginger, and fresh herbs. This hearty meal is often served with a boiled egg, celery leaves, fried shallots, and herbs.

Sweet Martabak Indonesia - Indonesians love their desserts, and one of the most popular Indonesian desserts is the martabak. It’s like Indonesia’s version of the pancake, and you can choose from a wide range of fillings like cheese, peanuts, and chocolates.  

Pempek - pempek, also known in Indonesia as the empek empek, is a dessert made from tapioca. This dessert originated from Palembang in South Sumatra. Pempek is available in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, although the most popular version is known as the kapal selam, which comes with an egg in the middle. Before serving, shrimp powder is sprinkled over the dish and served with a dark sauce made of chili, sugar, and vinegar known as “cuka”.

Places to Visit in Indonesia

Awaiting the sunrise at the Borobodur temple complex is awe-inspiring.
Awaiting the sunrise at the Borobodur temple complex is awe-inspiring.

Having more than 17, 000 islands spread across South East Asiainfo-icon and towards Oceaniainfo-icon, Indonesia is definitely filled with so many wonders that are waiting for you to discover. 

Read more: What to do in Jakarta?

If you’re heading to Indonesia, here are some of the best places to visit in this beautiful country.

Bali – this vibrant island is often the main reason why people would visit Indonesia. True enough, the island of Bali will leave you wanting to visit Indonesia over and over again. Although it’s often crowded with tourists, this island is gorgeous. You’ll not run out of interesting things to enjoy in Bali - you can go surfing at Kuta, hike in the rice fields of Ubud, or visit temples to experience Bali’s vibrant culture.

Gili Islands - if you want to experience what it really feels to be in an island paradise, head over to the stunning islands of Gili. In this breathtaking island, you will not find any cars on the streets as people travel on a bike or horse. Gili is also the best destination to snorkel and scuba dive, and a great place to party with fellow travelers.

Borobudur - Borobudur is a massive Buddhist temple complex that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and dates back to the 9th Century. The temple is awe-inspiring. As you walk towards the top, you’ll see reliefs that are meant to highlight the Buddhist beliefs. It’s been said that you won’t be able to reach the top unless you discover the meaning of each relief.

Bromo-Tengger Semeru National Park - this national park is where the scenic Bromo volcano lies. The famous volcano is surrounded by the breathtaking lunar landscape of the Sea of Sand and is indeed a sight to behold! If you happen to visit around the middle of August, it’s a perfect time to witness the Upacara Kasodo, an Indonesian ritual that the Tenggerese would take part in. Wake up early to catch the sight of the most beautiful sunrises at the Bromo volcano.

Raja Ampat - known as the world’s last paradise, Raja Ampat is indeed, one of the most beautiful islands in the planet. It’s the best destination for snorkeling and diving or if you simply want to enjoy the laid-back island vibe.

Komodo National Park - if you want to have a close-up encounter with the Komodo dragons, then visit the Komodo National Park. These massive lizards are fierce creatures and seeing them in their natural habitat is an exciting experience you’ll never forget. In fact, the Komodo National park is the only place where you get to see these lizards in the wild up close.

Jakarta - Indonesia’s capital may not be as famous as Bali, but this vibrant city is definitely worth a visit. The city is not as touristy as Bali or other popular islands in Indonesia, but it is also home to some attractions that are worth exploring, such as the miniature park of Taman Mini Indonesia Indah and Indonesia’s National Monument.

Sumatra - if you love to experience the wildlife, the island of Sumatra is worth a visit. You can go on safari and explore its forests where you could encounter orangutans, elephants, tigers, leopards, and white rhinos. Sumatra is also home to Lake Toba, said to be the biggest lake in Southeast Asia and known for its breathtaking lakeside views.

When people think of Indonesia, the first thing that often comes to mind is the island of Bali. But as you can see above, there’s definitely more to Indonesia than Bali. Traveling to Indonesia will surprise you in many ways, especially when you meet the friendly and welcoming Indonesian people.

Carolyn Boston freelance content writer for
Travelling the world on a budget for several years without having a hefty savings account.