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The Culture of Indonesia and Its Dynamic Nature Shaping the Island Nation

Culture of Indonesia Southeast Asia, along the Indian and Pacific oceans, is the nation of Indonesia. Indonesia’s state is reportedly the largest among the others, with over seventeen thousand (17,000) islands. The culture of Indonesia is rich and diverse, with epic narrative traditions heavily influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism heritage. The historical architectural structures dating back to the early kingdom of Hinduism and Islamic alongside the colonial era still linger within the cities and some parts of the islands. Indonesia shares a lot of rich cultural history worth of exploration by visitors and historians.

If you have never worked in Indonesia before, you might find some of the local cultural traits difficult in the beginning. Especially if you have only been accustomed to working with Western cultures in the past. In any country you go to, it is important to understand the local culture and Indonesia is no different. This is the only way a company can succeed when it blends in with the local customs and traditions.


Brief History of Indonesia

Humans already inhabited the native Island of Indonesia way back before the coming of the Hindus millions of years ago. There is archaeological evidence that proved this from the remains found around the island of Java. After Indonesia fell under the Srivijaya Kingdom’s influence in the 7th century, it led to Hinduism and Buddhism’s infiltration to the islands for the first time.

Following Islam’s arrival in the 13th century, Sumatra and Java transformed into powerful sultanates, while the other islands remained to follow Hindu, Animist, and Buddhist traditions. In the 16th century, the Portuguese arrival marked the beginning of Europeans coming into the Southeast part of this region. Trade was the Portuguese epicentre when they arrived on this island as they explored other opportunities available.

In the 17th century, the Dutch then established the Dutch East India Company to capture all the major trade routes and eventually a colonial empire. The Japanese invasion brought a lot of devastation but marked a new chapter of a sovereign independent country. On 17th August 1945, Indonesia attained its independence and began a new political sovereign dispensation.



The History of Indonesia Education

In the early kingdoms of Hinduism and Islam, the culture of education came into existence. The leaders under these religions were the primary instigates as part of the teachings of their doctrines. Today, the education system in modern Indonesia has elements of religious and European background. For instance, Islam introduced their traditional education system, the Pesantren.

  • Pesantren (Islamic School)
    The Islamic boarding school is among the oldest schools of learning in Indonesia. The schools have continued with their system of education, which teaches religious teachings. The learning doctrines are based on the Islamic Holy book and other literature.

The Influence of Portuguese and Dutch

The Portuguese’s influence did not last long, but they were the first to visit Indonesia in the 16th century. The Dutch’s influence in education started in the 17th century, where the education system during the colonial era was to accomplish the workers’ needs, notably lower rank officers.

More higher education institutions were established through Dutch influence, ushering in Bandung and Java universities and universities.

The Current Education System in Indonesia

Indonesian education structure is both formal and informal where it has the basic education, senior-secondary to higher education. The government has it that every child must attend the primary level of education. The other levels include senior secondary, vocational training levels, religious and special schools. Students planning to pursue higher education will either attend institutions that offer professional or academic courses.

There is no doubt that the Indonesian education system is transforming young citizens’ minds and making them game-changers in society. Despite different government regimes having various ideas on running the education system, they all have one thing in common: improving its quality.

The legislative directive enacted at the beginning of the 2000s introduced free and mandatory basic education and more budgetary commitment (20%) alongside giving school administrative autonomy. Each level of education is under the supervision of individual ministries of the government to ensure better oversight and quality control.


Food Culture in Indonesia

The culture of Indonesia includes food as part of its heritage that cut-across several centuries. The diversity of the Island of Indonesia’s vast languages offers excellent richness in various delicacies from different parts of Indonesia. This promoted local tourism as visitors can tour the various islands to learn and enjoy various dishes. Indonesia is culturally dynamic concerning food cuisines that have seen a blend of Chinese, Hindu, and European tastes over the past centuries.

There are numerous traditional cuisines in Indonesia, but only a few of the thousand recipes are considered significant. When you’re in different regions, you’ll experience unique cuisine that is associated with that region. For example, the Sumatran food, which is said to have Indian influence, and the Middle East, contains meat-curry and vegetables. If you go to Java, you’ll notice that some of their cuisines have Chinese inspiration. Other specific ingredients and spices such as bumbu make up the vibrant flavours in Indonesian dishes. The coming of the Hindus brought the element of some of the Indonesian foods being spicy or sour. Today, Indonesian food is known to have many of the mentioned ingredients.

Some of the popular food in Indonesia comes in different flavours depending on which region of the island you visit. The government has identified that food is one of the unifying components that’s worth celebrating. Each of the dishes represents a heritage and remains to be part of the culture of Indonesia. For example, you’ll find that particular dishes under a unique frothing food processing method in the Java area. This processing has been passed on from different generations within the region and becomes famous.



We believe that traditional clothes have a significant bearing on a people’s heritage and culture, and Indonesia is no exception. Each of the different regions in Indonesia has a variety of traditional costumes for both men and women. The most noticeable traditional costumes in Indonesia are the Batik, Kebaya, and Sarong. You will encounter these costumes when you’re in the region of Bali, Sundan, and Java. If you’re in Indonesia and most Southeast Asian countries, you’ll notice that men and women wear the traditional sarong. This is a long piece of cloth that men and women wrap around their bodies from their waist downwards.

During a traditional wedding ceremony, men would often wear the sarong and batik top. These conventional attires are culturally recognized under the UNESCO heritage befitting section. Another traditional costume is peci. It is a black cap called songkok–worn by Muslim men or fez from the Egyptians. You will often see top officials in government and politicians wearing this particular attire on several occasions, even the Indonesian president.

For women, kebaya forms their traditional national costume. This women’s attire has long sleeves and can come in different types of materials. Bali women tie their hair into a bun during the religious procession and decorate it with golden or silver hairpins as part of their tradition. Previously the kebaya was only for the royal families and Indonesian nobility. Today, it is standard apparel throughout Indonesia graced in different celebrations and events.

Interestingly, the different parts of Indonesia have unique costumes that represent religion and culture. As Udeng is a Balinese, blangkon belongs to the Javanese headscarves. The designs and the technique of folding up some of the attire are also varying. The Java and Bali dancers will have jamang when gracing their religious occasions, whose origin is from India. The Sumatra has one of their kind—suntiang–which differs from the Javanese jamang worn by the Minang bride.



Despite Indonesia having over 700 indigenous languages and dialects, Bahasa Indonesian is the official national language. In areas where tourists often visit, the widely used language is English. This also applies to government officials and institutions of learning where we have international students. The Maori of New Zealand and Hawaiian also form part of these subgroups. The lineage of most languages in Indonesia stems from the subgroups from the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and New Zealand.


Religion in Indonesia

Religion makes up part of the culture of Indonesia. The fact of the matter is that religion has played an essential role in transforming today’s modern culture. The majority of Indonesian are Muslims; however, other religions are spread out in different regions. Under the constitution, freedom of worship is a right for everyone, irrespective of their religious affiliation.

Religion as a culture of Indonesia has been embraced for many years and has shaped Indonesia’s political and economic path. Indonesia’s beauty is that even with the numerous languages and Islam being predominant, the country is still united under one common purpose. The constitution has played a massive role in safeguarding the interest of each person living in Indonesia.


What to Expect in An Indonesian Work Environment?

The work culture of Indonesia is like many other Asian countries in certain aspects. There are several things that set the work culture of Indonesia apart from everyone else. Here are some of those distinctive qualities:

  • The typical workday in Indonesia starts from 8 am to 5 pm for both public and private sector workers. Some sectors work on Saturdays and Sundays, depending on the industry. In general, however, the official working days in Indonesia are Monday through Friday.
  • English is one of the many languages spoken locally. Besides the local Bahasa Indonesia, other languages spoken include Chinese and a host of others.
  • Punctuality is something that is appreciated. In fact, those who arrive earlier than expected often leave a much better impression.
  • Employees are friendly with each other but professional at the same time. They can be on good terms with their colleagues and understand the importance of being professional at the same time.
  • It is customary to greet those who are older than you first in Indonesia. This is a sign of respect, a prominent quality in many Asian cultures. In a business environment, Indonesians greet the senior members of the organisation first.
  • Indonesians have great respect for employees in ranks higher than they are. Very rarely will you see an employee talking back to their manager or supervisor? This is thanks to the hierarchical structure of most work organisations.
  • Indonesia is generally a peaceful country and that same sense translates into the work environment too. Those who work together tend to make the effort to get along to maintain peace.
  • Nepotism is not as frowned upon here as they are in many Western countries.
  • Indonesia’s belief system is still influenced by a belief in supernatural forces. This belief sometimes extends beyond personal life and affects business life too.


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Culture of Indonesia