Rude Indonesians

I‘m just back in Indonesia (I suppose I can’t call it home anymore because Scotland is my home now) yesterday and before too long I’m annoyed already. Not because the idiot KLM counter officer in Aberdeen airport made my luggage wandered around Schiphol Airport without its owner and arrived a day after me. Not because the unbelievably slow dial-up internet connection makes me drink coffee three times more out of a boredom of waiting for the graphics and words to grace my monitor screen. Not because I have been so used to quiet Aberdeen I had to bite my nails waiting for the traffic to move. It is because I realise that Indonesians are rude.

Yes, we keep bragging as the country of friendly people with smiles and good services. Which somewhat is true. When money is present, Indonesians smile broadly. I expect to get good services from taxi drivers, bank officers, receptionists, waiters, even security guards. But those who are not in the service industry will behave like this is their own world and no one else deserves better than them.

It started from the last journey I had to take, from Singapore to Jakarta. Unable to sleep during 13 hours flight from Amsterdam because the lady sitting next to me was so restless and her partner snored so loud I barely could concentrate on my CSI show and killed the mood to watch any movie, we landed 20 minutes late and I was panicking I wouldn’t catch my next flight (to my relief, we got out at the gate next to my flight to Jakarta so I just made a turn for another boarding, no chance for toilet break let alone last minute shopping), I was getting more irritated when we were start boarding and everybody just rushed to get into the plane first. People dragged their suitcases and elbowed everyone else like somehow their seat were about to be stolen if they didn’t get there first. The same thing happened during custom clearance queue. I mean how difficult is it to give more personal space for the person in front of them? Why is it s/he had to stand so close, breathing onto my neck I could hear or smell them? And when the person before me got his/her turn, the person behind me pushed me straightaway to be as close as possible to the custom desk.

But the worst thing happened when I got to my apartment. No one cares to hold the door or the elevator. No one cares to wait until the people inside the lift get out first. And if I do hold the door no one realises it, let alone say thank you! There were several cases when the lift was full of people I was stuck in the corner and couldn’t reach the button, and I had to ask before someone offered to push the button for me.

The people I mentioned above are what we call rich, well educated Indonesians (my flight from Singapore was full of Indonesian business people complete with suits and laptops, and my apartment is full of university students who could afford to live in apartment rather than sharing room or kost). But somehow the etiquette lesson got lost in between their busy schedule, fancy dress, and frightening titles. No one bothers to say “please” or “thank you” to the always-cheery flight attendants, or the apartment officer whose job is to open the car door (I suppose he is the greeter).

Sadly on the contrary, those people always smile and very polite, and they look like they always smile from the heart. From the lost luggage officer and the SQ airport staff in Jakarta airport who apologised for my inconvenience (not their fault!), to the receptionist who could maintain her smile listening to the tenants’ queries while being effective calling cabs and receiving letters at the same time. It breaks my heart to see them trying their best, suppress their own emotion while the customer barking rudely.

A simple ‘thank you’ (terima kasih) and ‘please’ (mohon or tolong) are small gestures that matters a lot. Please do say that to those who assist you, no matter how small it is.

Thank you.

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  1. You sound like spoiled rich brat who complains about tiny stuffs. Stop looking at the world from your tinted glass window then you find out the real problems Indonesia has!

  2. Jakarta Casual says:

    youre so right

    being polite is only for rich countries


  3. aroengbinang says:

    Hi jeng, in a way you are right, that many Indonesians are no longer like what were described long ago by our teachers, especially those who live in big cities. People are increasingly more difficult to genuinely smile to others, especially to foreginers.

    Hence, it’s good that once in a while we go “mudik” and inhale the fresh air of our kampung and re-learn from the elderly old wisdoms that may bring back a little peace in our polluted mind and soul.

  4. Anita, sorry to hear your return trip to Indonesia was unpleasant! I think there are rude people everywhere, it doesn’t matter where you go. This isn’t an “Indonesian” issue only, but it is a miserable and sad human issue. Everywhere you go you can find people who are rude, self-centered and completely ignorant…but over it , there’s a lot of good and nice people out there too. Enjoy your holiday :)

  5. Silverlines says:

    I, for one, has long concluded that there are three basic things parents sometimes (most of the times, sadly!) forgot to teach their kids to say, “Please”, “Thank You”, and “I am sorry” … regardless of the nationalities.
    Sadly, we found that quite largely happening in our beloved country.

  6. I don’t think Anita is overreacting. On the lift and holding the door, this is not the first time I’ve heard about it, both from expats and Indonesians who has been taught properly.

    They are just not brought up to be polite because their parents didn’t have any idea of the word ‘polite’. Later on, try queueing and driving in the city. You will bitch big time about it.

    Besides, malls and apartments are practically new to Indonesia. Those days, you don’t have to hold the doors at the pasar2, that’s why they don’t know it. Maybe lho…

    Like Elyani said, there are always rude people everywhere and if you do travel a bit while you are in here, you will see friendlier people.

  7. Hope your holiday improves. I keep saying I’m oing home for Xmas but you are right, home is Aberdeen now.
    Take care.

  8. “It is because I realise that Indonesians are rude”

    I don’t deny the fact that there are rude people in Indonesia, and I am sure in every part of the globe as well.

    However, I see you have a tendency to look at things from ‘western’ view, and therefore western standards.

    I’m not going to say one is better than the other, but sometimes things just don’t click (cultural shock).

    Your perception of politeness may not apply in some parts of Indonesia, and therefore doesn’t meet to your expectations.

    Still, I don’t think it is fair to straight away say that it is wrong or there is something wrong with Indonesians.

    Again, it really depends on from which direction you look at things.


  9. I dont mind the rudeness. Its not really rude, just different attitude. holding the door is somethnig servants do, and who wants to be mistaken for a servant?

    On the other hand, why do Indonesians stop at the top of the escalator and hold a discussion, then stop at the bottom and do it again?

  10. @Adit: Today, on the flight to Surabaya from Mataram, I was seated on no. 1, but a passenger behind me pushed himself in between me and the passenger next to me so he could be the first when the plane door was open. His friend was about to do the same so I told him nicely, “Sabar pak. Saya juga mau keluar, pintunya gak akan ditutup sebelum bapak keluar kog (Patience, Pak, I’m going too, the door won’t be closed before you’re out), and you know what he said? He said, “Oh no, I just… want…” and squeezed himself so he passed me and stood right in front of me. I was so in disbelieve, and only my mum’s gesture that stopped me to preach at him about being polite and have manners.

    I think being polite by saying thank you, please, and sorry, are universal. As well as treating people nicely and not being bossy. Indonesians culture are full of symbols, it’s beyond words. We were full of tata krama. Where have those gone?

  11. I believe you’re a perfectionist who wants everything in order and by your way. Only in your ideal world, darling. You won’t get that in Indonesia, especially in tiny city like Mataram. My suggestion is to take a deep breath and accept the condition if you still love your heart. Smell the roses.

  12. Ha! Good post.Rude people are everywhere! At the risk of sounding patronising you never see the negative parts of you country until you return to it. Its kind of like thinking about an old flame and wondering why you ever broke up with him/her. So you call them up and 2 minutes into the conversation you say” oh yeah now i remember”

  13. Yes. Maybe like how Italians are different from the rest of the Europeans, I guess Indonesian are also different from the rest of the Southeast Asians.

    I, myself, once reprimanded an middle-aged woman (probably mother of several children–and trust me, the last thing we need are people like her reproducing) for breaking through a queue for train tickets.

    She was majorly pissed off, even threatened to rip my mouth off.

    So here it is, the first difference of Indonesians: it’s not rude to break through queues. But it’s a blasphemy to reprimand someone who’s doing it.

  14. Samuel Goh Kim Eng says:

    Usually one, from anywhere, who’s rude
    Is also one who’s brought up crude
    To often behave openly like a brute
    Losing sweetness from sugar cane to jute

    (C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng
    Thur. 10th Jan. 2008.

  15. ?? ?? (Toshihiko Atsuyama) says:

    some may think that you are stereotyping Indonesians, but no, that’s the way they really are. i agree with your points. i’ll consider blogging about this too sometime soon.

    btw, org indo jg ya mbak?

  16. hey, you too much complaining already. (I am Indonesian. Am I also rude enough? 😀

  17. Gosh, holding the door is just for servants? well so in my country we are all servants, and I’m so proud of it. That’s call politeness. I always will hold the door, say thank you, please and I’m sorry. I don’t want my country to know as a rude country. Now having doubts about going to Indonesia.

  18. Agree 100% with you. I can’t tolerate people who can’t wait for their turn too, and Indonesians are so bad in queuing! Can’t believe to whoever that said holding the door is just for servants? Oh my! Another spoilt brat!

  19. Akira… Don’t come to Indonesia. You’ll be just wasting your money. Go somewhere else seriously. I live in Indonesia now and I find them very rude. It’s like they can’t wait.. They have to be the first to get off the plane, get in the elevator, and can’t wait for the next one even though it’s already full, they just try to squeeze themselves In. And I get why someone Said about opening doors is for servants. Sadly it is what Indonesians think. When i nicely open a door for someone, they just went through without saying thank you as if it is my job to do it. Next time i thought u people can open your own doors.
    And Indonesians cannot appreciate someones personal space. Whenever queueing, they would stand really close to you. I used to live in western country for a
    Long time where there was politeness and common courtesy. So when I got back it
    Was like a shock and unfortunately I have to stay here now and bear constant rudeness and people with no manners.

  20. I think the situation that you faced can only be found in the city. It is very surprising for me though because most of the people in the village know the true values of respect and manners( I have been growing up in the small city). Seriously, they do not see other people based on the religion, colors or races, they live based on kinship and harmony, you may think that is very exaggerating, but I feel that to myself and I can surely tell the difference once I’ve landed in the big city. The atmosphere in the big city probably causes all of those are thrown out of the window, maybe because the pressure of living there, with lots of crimes and all, horrifying news and anarchism.. people who live there barely even trust anyone, let alone I think it’s very hard for them to at least regard for little things like that in big cities, sadly though.
    Besides, we are still a lot better compared to other south asean countries, I have been living in another ASEAN country now, and I find Indonesians are so much better than them, but I can’t tell you where because that’s just making me generalising.

    • Mimi: I’m not convinced, I think regardless whether it’s a big city or a small village, we will find the similar situation in Indonesia. People don’t recognise the queuing method, and at some places, they can be rather racist towards other ethnicity or religion. I’ve lived in a small town (which is not in Java island) for a long time and witnessed it myself.
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