How to Greet People in Indonesia – Gesture and Culture

Selamat datang!

When you having a conversation, you want to have a good impression right? One of the key factor is about greeting. Therefore, let’s learn the proper way of how to greet people in Indonesia! It is not as simple as Good Morning Greetings only, but also includes Sacred Communication Etiquette in Indonesia. Yes, we will learn about Indonesian culture too! To refresh your mind, you could also read these following articles!

Indonesian Greeting Phrases

First thing you should remember is the greeting phrases because it is the opening of our conversation. Here are the greeting phrases in Indonesia.

  • Selamat pagi = Good morning
  • Selamat siang = Good afternoon
  • Selamat sore = Good evening
  • Selamat malam = Good evening/Goodnight

Notes: for informal situation, you could simply say above greetings without ‘selamat’. So, it will be only ‘pagi’, ‘siang’, ‘sore’ and ‘malam’.

Furthermore, other greetings include:

  • Hai/halo/hello = Hello
  • Selamat datang = Welcome
  • Salam sejahtera = Greetings (mostly in a ceremony or tv shows)
  • Apa kabar? = How are you?
    *Even though apa kabar is a question, it does not always means asking someone condition, but also just to open with small talk, similar with the function of ice-breaking.

Check also these following articles for details.

Indonesian Local or Specific Greetings

In addition, you could also use these local greetings. Here are some examples

  • Sugeng Enjing (Javanese) – Good Morning
  • Mejuah-juah (Batak Karo – mostly in Sumatra) – equal with ‘halo’

Or you could use religion-related greeting

  • Assalamualaikum (Muslim)
  • Shalom (Christian/Catholic)
  • Om Swastiastu (Hindunese)
  • Sotthi Hotu/Namo Buddhaya (Buddhist)

Check also : Useful Words to Get You Anywhere in Indonesia

How to Greet People in Indonesia Using title

Remember, Indonesia has a strict rule when you talk to someone older than you. For example, unlike English that separate siblings based on the sex (male/female), in Bahasa Indonesia siblings are divided to older (kakak) and younger (adik). So, age does matter. Therefore, when we talk to someone, we mention them with their title to, to show respects. Here are the example.

  • Selamat pagi, Pak (Good Morning Sir)
  • Selamat siang, Ibu Ana (Good afternoon, Ms. Ana)
  • Apa kabar, Kak? (How are you, Brother/Sister) – even though they are not related
  • Assalamualaikum, Paman (Assalamualaikum, Uncle)

That’s how to greet people in Indonesia. But, if the person is at the same age with you or younger, you may call them by their name only (except if he/she is your boss).

Check also : Formal Pronouns

Indonesian Hand Gesture

The other important part of greeting people is the gesture. Of course do not up your chin when you talk to other people. But, let’s we learn more about the hand gesture of Indonesian people. It again depends on where and who you talk with. For example, when you say ‘hi!’, you could add the hand gesture of usual ‘hi’ (wave your hand) to your friends or peer. But, waving your hand to say hello to older/formal situation would be very awkward even impolite.

  • Hand Shake

The usual hand gesture when you say ‘Good Morning’ or other greeting is hand shaking. It is also show politeness and respect, as well as friendliness. But, it is usually used in formal situation (or when you have a deal). Therefore, it would be very awkward when you do it to your parents or close friend. In addition, because it is usually used in formal situation and for partners (such as business), using it to older people would give a ‘distance’ sense and considered impolite. So, know the situation!

  • Salim

What is salim? It is a Javanese culture (quite national) to shake other hands and kiss back of the hand. It expressed respect to older people. Even though not all Indonesian use it (especially the big city), it is meant to i.e. siblings (younger to older), children to parents, grandchild to grandparents or student to teacher. It is a learning of respect the elderly. But, again know the society because it would be very awkward to use it in offices or certain region in Indonesia. 

  • hugging/pat the shoulder

The last one is hugging or pat other shoulder. You could greet people and also hug or pat them if the people feel comfortable with it because it is not Indonesian culture. You could use it to old pal, or very close friend. However, it is mostly did by same-sex person because touching people, especially hugging, is sometimes considered inappropriate, depends on where and who.

Maybe people in the big city find it normal, but may be it is not in some culture in Indonesia. Moreover, certain beliefs also limit two opposite-sex person relationship if they are not meant it. So, you must enhance your sensitivity to understand the situation.

Read also: Understand Indonesian Communication System

Learning about Indonesian and its Bahasa Indonesia is quite easy and complex at the same time. Practice and practice more to get use to it and prepare your mind for differences and unexpected culture. Now you know about how to greet people in Indonesia. I hope you enjoy this lesson. If you still want to know more, please check these following articles. See you at the next opportunity.