As an international recruiter for EF English First Indonesia, I often get asked about what Indonesians think of us English-speaking foreigners. Out of all the questions that I get asked, this is the one I love answering the most.
Despite not having visited Indonesia before, most people believe that Indonesians are friendly whether that be because they knew an Indonesian native at work or university, or perhaps because a close friend told them about the fun they had in Bali.
Throughout my time working in Jakarta, I have to admit that the friendliness of Indonesians has exceeded my expectations. Locals are almost always more than happy to have a conversation with a stranger regardless of the strangers ethnicity and in some cultures where eye contact with strangers is avoided, there exists a stark contrast in Indonesia where smiles, nods and hand waves are the norm. In fact, on my 10-minute commute to work this morning via O-Jek* I counted myself greeting 5 strangers who were a mix of satpams** and random locals chilling in my gang*** (nope I didn't join an Indonesian gang – check the definition below!).
So are Indonesians really that friendly? Yes. Their friendliness and hospitality are one of the best things I love about Indonesia and I hope that this is something that never changes in this beautiful country.
* O-Jek – basically the Indonesian version of Uber for motorbikes which has quickly become one of the main forms of local transport and my personal favourite way to get somewhere quick and cheap
** Satpam – pronounced SAT-PUM is a guard who is often stationed at building entrances and performs basic security checks
*** Gang – pronounced GAHNG is the indonesian word for a narrow street/alley way