Indonesians are super friendly. Indonesians are chatterboxes.
I’ve heard those things a million times from visitors to my beloved country. So, what do I think about that?
That’s such a hard question. Indonesians are amiable and easy to talk to, especially if you speak our language, Bahasa Indonesian. Others that don’t speak the language are no less friendly.
We’re simply friendly and like to talk, question, and gossip. If you’re a foreigner living in Indonesia, or you’re just simply a tourist, you might consider it as great hospitality while still in the ‘honeymoon phase’. You’ll have this feeling that everything is still fine, beautiful, nice. This usually lasts up to two weeks of your vacation, but sometimes lasts longer. During that phase, you won’t mind talking to an amiable, unknown stranger you met at the warung (small kiosk), or a friendly seller, etc. But after the honeymoon phase ends, you’ll soon become a really quiet person, keeping away from anyone you think might ask you something.
We love asking. Questions are the best way to open a warm, long-lasting (sometimes everlasting) conversation. There are many questions in Indonesia that are considered polite that you might think are really mmm… impolite, offensive, or blunt. Based on my long, rich experience as a native, here are the most frequently asked questions in Indonesia:
What’s your name? Where are you from? Asking about name and nationality is the most common question from native Indonesians. Even though we can’t spell your name, it won’t matter. The most important thing is that we know who you are. It’s not a silly question. To be honest, having been away from Indonesia for some years, I still can’t break the habit. When I lived in the college dorm, my roommates probably thought that I was odd asking where they were from and what their names were. One by one!
What’s your job? Occupation can say everything. It shows your status and also your salary… hmm… Of course, not all of us are materialistic. We don’t mean to be so, but as long as I can remember occupation has equaled social status. Freelancers or part-timers like me are nothing. It’s not even considered a job in Indonesia (in some parts of Indonesia, to some people — not all). That’s why they keep reminding me to go to work at the office — freelancers earn nothing (they are totally wrong) — working at the office is cool. Meh…
What’s your religion? I don’t even understand why this matters to some people because they already know that we live in a multicultural, multiethnic, multireligion, multi-belief country. I guess that’s because atheism is forbidden in Indonesia, and being with an atheist is considered a huge sin. So, everybody wants to make sure that you have an appropriate religion, even though you don’t practice it, and you can’t differentiate between a mosque and a church.
Are you got married? Think positively, maybe they want to match you with their handsome son or beautiful daughter. After this question, there are two possible questions they will ask you, depending on your answer: If you say yes, then the question will be, “Have you got any children? How many? Son or daughter?” If you say you haven’t got any, the next question will be,”When will you have children then?” The sooner the better they think, as if they’ll financially support the kids. If you say, “Yes, I have one, two, or three,” then the question will be, “When are you having the next one?” One or two is never enough. Bigger is always better to Indonesians. We love big family.
If you say NO! Be ready to get plenty of advice, suggestions, or even presentations on how important it is to build a family and raise kids… and how beautiful marriage is. This kind of situation is always followed by one more question: “How old are you?” Age matters. Most Indonesians get married between 20-30 years old. The older you get, the bigger problem it is. If you are over 30, just take whichever man or woman you meet on the way and ask them to marry you. Sorry for saying such a rude thing, but that’s the truth…
Other extreme questions:
How much do you make a month? aka How big is your salary?
Do you own your house or car?
Aaannnddd, thousands of questions I can’t even describe here.
How should you react?
Give your best smile, Say that you’re extremely busy and really must dash,
Just give the answer they want; something that will make them happy.
I love my own culture, and I love Indonesia, but that doesn’t mean I approve of all the questions Indonesians ask. We are friendly, but sometimes, to be frank, we are quite annoying (even to other Indonesians). We ask so many questions because we care too much, even though it’s certainly not our business.