Busted: The Untold Secrets Of Indonesia

Busted: The Untold Secrets Of Indonesia
Myths about the Indonesian culture Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Discover the biggest misconceptions about the ‘Emerald of the Equator’

Roshni Subramanian
October 25 , 2019
04 Min Read

Stereotypes are a dangerous territory. The terrifying power of stereotypes is that people tend to fall for it.  This ‘stereotype threat’ has grappled the Indonesian society as well. Many might claim that the future of tourism lies in Indonesia and it’s hard to disagree. With stunning beaches, exotic cuisine, and incredible nature and wildlife, it surely is an irresistible destination. In a country as diverse as Indonesia there’s no dearth of cultural clichés. Well, this snap judgement can often land you in a pickle. It isn’t wholly unexpected though. Chances are you have heard of most of these common myths about the Indonesian culture and lifestyle at some point of time and we are equally guilty of it. Take a look as we bust some common misconceptions about the Indonesian way of life.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Bali


Bali is the capital city of Indonesia

Be it the adrenaline rush of modern tourist facilities like ocean rafting or the alluring rich culture and heritage, Bali offers something for everyone. But for many foreign tourists, their tour of Indonesia begins and ends at Bali. And a majority of them have certain pre – conceived notions about this holiday destination, the most common one being that Bali is the capital of the Indonesian archipelago. However in reality, Bali is just a province of Indonesia with Denpasar as its capital. In fact, taking into account the recent developments and as recent news reports reveal, Indonesia is in fact on the lookout for a new capital. Currently, Jakarta is the capital city of this country, but if reports are to be believed, it will soon be replaced by a yet-to-be-built city of Kalimantan on the Borneo Island.

Indonesia is an Islamic state

Well, this one’s difficult to refute. It’s true that the Muslim community forms a majority of the crowd here. With a population of over 261 million people, it is not only the fourth most populous country in the world but also the most populous Muslim-majority country. However Indonesia hasn’t been officially recognised as an Islamic country. The law states that it is a secular state and the constitution officially recognises six main religions including Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. With the exception of Aceh region, which has been conferred the status of “special territory”, Indonesia is governed by the principles of democracy and secularity. 

Balinese women in traditional sarong costume

Indonesian society is extremely conservative

Some of the fist images that form in a foreigner’s mind while talking about the Indonesian culture and society is more often than not, visuals of women clad in long dresses with their head covered in colourful scarves. For a country that boasts of being one of the most popular destinations for a beach holiday, isn’t that a bit ironic? If you’re answer is in the positive then we are with you on the same page. A myth about the Indonesian culture that is doing the rounds is that it’s extremely conservative and has a strict dress code. Well, this is partially true. Different regions of the country have different dress codes. While cities like Jakarta, Bali, Surabaya, Semarang and others are more tourist-friendly and do not have any restrictions in terms of how to dress. Other areas prefer a more modest style of dressing.

Indonesians don’t speak English

This is probably applicable to most Asian nations. People are often surprised at the fluency and proficiency that Asians have over the English language. And Indonesia is no different. While Indonesian or Bahasa Indonesian is the official language here, English is still widely spoken by the localites and many have even mastered American English, credit to the pop culture explosion transcending boundaries. Though there are several other regional languages like Javanese , none are officially recognised.  Most of the multinational companies and international schools use English as the medium of instruction.  A basic command over the local language can sure come handy while dealing with cops (let’s hope it doesn’t come to that), but the misconception that Indonesians can’t speak English is completely false.

Authentic Indonesian cuisine

Indonesian food is spicy

Often perceived to be similar to Indian food, courtesy spice factor, Indonesian cuisine is as diverse as it is delicious. With streets bustling with vendors selling authentic delicacies like nasi goreng, satay and bakso, Indonesia undoubtedly is a foodie’s paradise. Contrary to popular belief, Indonesian cuisine not only boasts of a variety of flavours but also offers a diverse platter to choose from. The cuisine reflects of Arabian, Indian and Chinese influences with each region bringing forth its own distinct culinary style. While Pedang cuisine is considered to be the spiciest among the lot, the Javanese style on the other hand is mildly sweet and savoury. If you’re up for a culinary adventure, then we’d recommend that you hop onto the next flight and work up your appetite for a flavoursome meal.


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