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As an expat, living in Indonesia may well be quite different to what you're used to back home. However, if you're willing to adapt and approach all situations with an open mind and lots of patience, you're likely to enjoy your new lifestyle and leisure time in this archipelago nation.

From the food and the weather to the language and religious practices, living in Indonesia is a fascinatingly rich experience for many, especially those who already appreciate its geographical and cultural landscapes.

Being aware of certain formalities and bureaucracies will make it easier to adapt to the Indonesian culture. If you are ever unsure of anything, ask a local contact or another expat who has been living in Indonesia for a long time for advice. They should be able to point out how best to behave in order to integrate and immerse yourself in all that Indonesia has to offer.

Religion in Indonesia

Indonesia is officially a secular country, and there is a relative freedom of religion there. However, 90% of its citizens follow Islam and the country has the largest Muslim population in the world, although there are Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist minorities in Indonesia as well. As a result, you may find that many businesses close early on Friday afternoons for prayers (jumu'ah); and various Islamic practices, such as Ramadan, are observed, while holidays, such as Eid, are widely celebrated.

The practice of Islam also means that Indonesian authorities don't have quite the same tolerance for alcohol as some of their South-East Asian neighbours and, although Bali has a reputation for its nightlife, many citizens in the rest of the country don't have the same party attitude.


While Indonesia is fast becoming a modern nation, traditional beliefs are still upheld, and it's advisable that foreigners be respectful of the culture by dressing modestly and not displaying physical affection in public.

Language in Indonesia

If you travel outside of the major cities and tourist hotspots, you'll find that English isn't spoken much, so it's a good idea to learn some basic Indonesian phrases to help you on your way.

The language, Bahasa Indonesia, is one of the easiest languages to learn, as it has simple verb conjugations and follows the Roman alphabet. A few words and phrases can go a long way, even in popular destinations where most locals speak English.

Good to know:

Bear in mind that it is not safe to drink water from the tap in Indonesia, so you will need to buy reusable bottles or boil water before consumption. If you are living in Indonesia on a long-term basis, then it's a good idea to purchase a water cooler and contact a water delivery company that will replace your empty bottles when they run out. These tend to be 19-litre bottles, so it will end up costing you less in the long run as you won't need to buy many, and the reusable system is much better for the environment as well.


You must carry some form of identification on you at all times ' and many foreigners choose to apply for a local driver's licence so that they have a valid form of ID without having to carry around their passport. If you are stopped by the Indonesian police, you must present this identification, and failure to do so can result in a fine or further punishment.

Leisure in Indonesia

Indonesia is rife with leisure opportunities. After a week of working in the bustle of the city, you can kick back on a beach with a coconut, or soak up the culture in museums and at historical sites, or reflect on the wonders of nature in the national parks. There are also more than 150 volcanoes in Indonesia, which are known as gunungs, so hiking can be an enjoyable pastime for the adventurous (just be wary that over 125 of them are still active!)

Alternatively, if you are a shopaholic, then major cities such as Jakarta, are a paradise for those with cash to splash, and there are massive malls that are usually packed on weekends. There are also many culinary delights to sample, and restaurants to suit every taste and budget, from street food to fine dining.

Although Indonesia enjoys a huge success in badminton, their most popular spectator sport is arguably football, and it was the first Asian country to have qualified for the FIFA World Cup back in 1938. Traditional sports, such as sepak takraw, which is a cross between football and volleyball that takes place on the badminton court, are also enjoyed across the country, so you can either watch on in awe or try to learn a new skill!

And if you'd prefer to get your kicks away from land, then Indonesia is a popular destination for divers and surfers. With great waves and incredible marine biodiversity, so much is happening beneath the waves, that it'd be a shame not to cool down in the waters over the weekends.

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