How to Behave as A Foreigner in Jakarta (Things You Need to Know)

Should get a chance to visit Jakarta in the near future, there are a few things you need to keep in mind during your stay. Just like any other place with a local population on earth, Jakarta has its social norms and etiquette that people adhere to without being pushed or reminded. For instance, it’s considered highly abnormal and offensive to show anger through shouting in Jakarta; calmness is the norm here.

In this post, we explore some of the things you might find different in your stay in Jakarta and give you practical tips on how to behave around here. That said, Jakarta is a modern city with people from all over Indonesia and the world. You won’t be carted off to jail if you happen to break any of these social rules but it’s important to know how to behave in a new city anyway.

Physical Contact in Public

While Jakarta is a modern city with an educated population, most people in this city are quite conservative due to cultural, religious and social norms. It is therefore quite rare to see any type of elaborate physical contact between men and women beyond a brief handshake. Public shows of affection such as kissing, pecking and even hugging between men and women are frowned upon in most places.

Hospitality and Tipping

Tipping is a common thing that travelers need to be aware of wherever they go and Jakarta is no different. There is no shortage of 5-star hotels in Jakarta Indonesia to enjoy during your stay and the waiters and other staff members you will interact with won’t mind a tip when appropriate. Tipping is not really mandatory in this part of the world and therefore not part of the culture in the hospitality industry in Jakarta. That said, a five to ten percent tip will always be met with a smile😊

Never Use Your Left Hand

Warning, this one might sound weird or strange to most people who don’t understand Indonesian culture and social norms. Most people, well almost everyone, in Jakarta and Indonesia, in general, consider the left hand unclean. It’s therefore frowned upon to use your left hand to handle food, wave at people, handing items such as cash at the store and pretty much everything you might imagine. Always remember to use your right hand when interacting with Indonesians otherwise you will be met with frowns wherever you go.

On Drinking and Partying

Unlike some of the popular tourist destinations in Indonesia where drinking in public is a norm, Jakarta is a bit more conservative. You are not allowed to take alcohol, smoke or party in public in this city. Don’t even think about using any type of drugs as the laws here are quite tough on any type of drug use. A simple case of drug abuse would have you in the docks facing a potential death sentence; it is that serious.

On Greetings, Bowing and Standing Up

Most Indonesians are extremely polite and courteous in public and this is evident in the way they greet other people and behave in a business meeting. You will be expected to shake hands (with your right hand) perhaps a bow and a smile when greeting people in Jakarta. Always ensure you arrive at business meetings on time in Jakarta regardless of the crazy traffic here. It’s also not unusual to see people standing when a meeting convener enters a meeting room.

Dressing in Jakarta

You might find the higher temperatures in Jakarta a bit uncomfortable if you come from the west but don’t be tempted to rock your summer wear on the streets. You are encouraged to dress in no-revealing clothing while in public. It’s also good for you especially for the ladies as most men will be staring at foreigners and muttering a few unsolicited compliments when they see you walk past.

Final Remarks

Well, hope you are now fully confident to walk the streets of this beautiful city that is home to millions of Indonesians. Jakarta is such a welcoming city and has so much to offer for those who stop by. All the best in your travels!