Indonesians are an easygoing bunch and don't expect foreigners to know or understand intricacies of local etiquette. If you're wondering about a person's reaction or you see any peculiar gesture you don't understand, they will appreciate it if you ask them directly.
However, one general tip for getting by in Indonesia is that saving face is extremely important in Indonesian culture. If you should get into a dispute with a vendor, governments official etc, forget trying to argue or 'win'. Better results will be gained by remaining polite and humble at all times, never raising your voice, and smiling, asking the person to help you find a solution to the problem. Rarely, if ever, is it appropriate to try to blame, or accuse.
So with that, the following are the top 5 things you should absolutely NEVER do when in lovely Indonesia!
1. Use your left hand for anything! It is considered very rude. This is especially true when you are shaking hands or handing something to someone. Also think about it, a left-hand shake is also way too awk! Sorry left-handers !
2. Call older people by their names! Another faux pass which can be solved by calling all the elders as Father/ Mother…no seriously! Polite forms of address for people you don't know are Bapak ("father") for men and Ibu ("mother") for women
3. Wear your shoes in the house, unless your host explicitly allows you to keep them on. Even then, it might be more polite to remove your shoes. Do not put your feet up while sitting and try not to show the bottom of your feet to someone, it is considered rude. Don't walk in front of people, instead walk behind them. When others are sitting, while walking around them, it is customary to bow slightly and lower a hand to "cut" through the crowd; avoid standing upright.
4. Finish your drink completely: It is not polite to finish any drink all the way to the bottom of the glass. Instead, leave about a half of an inch/2 cm in the bottom of your glass and someone will most likely ask you if you would like more. A common follow-up gesture is to gulp down the rest of your drink right before leaving, down to an empty glass - this gesture implies that one appreciates the drink and wouldn't like to see it go to waste. This is often done while simultaneously standing up or after gathering your belongings
5. Wear shorts/ skirts for women: Sorry ladies, Indonesia is a conservative country and modest dress is advisable for us. On the beaches of Bali and Lombok, the locals are used to foreigners in bikinis, but elsewhere women are advised to keep legs and necklines covered. Wearing shorts or miniskirts is unlikely to cause actual offense, but clothing like this is sometimes associated with sex workers. Men, too, can gain respect by wearing collared, long-sleeve shirts and trousers if dealing with bureaucracy. Particularly for men, Batik, which comes in many shapes and forms for any price range, is often the most foolproof dress for anything semiformal and above - it's a great way to "blend into" the culture, and a foreigner wearing Batik is very well-received.
That was it! Do you recommend other Not To Dos when in Indonesia? Let us know in the comments!