A-Z Indonesian Expressions that Foreigners Should Learn

Hello! Selamat Datang!

When you learn about Bahasa, you may get confuse with some idioms or expressions. It is happened because those are related to cultural background of society. Therefore, you should know many Indonesian Cultural Words as well as Indonesian Expressions. It would be very useful in terms of translation.

Indonesian Expressions that Foreigners Should Learn

Therefore, at this opportunity let’s try to understand Indonesian Expressions that Foreigner Should Learn. You will find several common expressions that used by Indonesian. Before we start, take a look of these following articles.

Common Expressions

Here Are The Indonesian Expressions that Foreigners Should Learn:

  • Gede Rasa (literally: big sense) – too overwhelmed
    e.g. Lukisanmu sangat indah, tapi jangan gede rasa (Your painting is beautiful, but don’t get too overwhelmed)
  • Besar kepala (big head) – cocky
    e.g. Baru saja menang sekali, dia suka besar kepala (He has won only once, but gets cocky easily)
  • Santai kayak di pantai (relax like in a beach) – relax/too relax
    e.g. Pekerjaan ini sangat mudah, kami saja santai kayak di pantai (This assignment was so easy, we were even too relax)
  • Makan asam garam kehidupan (consume the sour and salt of life) – have experienced lots of thing
    e.g. Percaya sama dia. Dia itu sudah makan asam garam kehidupan. (Trust him. He has many experience about it)
  • jam terbang (flying hours) – experience
    e.g Pak Dino merupakan seorang pengajar dengan jam terbang tinggi (Mr. Dino is a highly experienced teacher)
  • tidur kayak bayi (sleep like a baby) – safe and sound kind of sleep
    e.g. Andi tidur kayak bayi, jangan diganggu (Andi is sleeping very safe and sound, do not disturb)
  • jual mahal (sell expensively) – could not easily be persuaded/seduced
    e.g. Aku tidak berhasil membujuknya, dia sok jual mahal (I failed to persuade her, she was not so easily to be persuaded)
  • mau ke belakang (want to go the back) – go to the toilet
    e.g. Permisi, Pak. Saya mau ke belakang (Excuse me, Sir. I need to go to the toilet)

Additional notes:

  • buang air kecil (literally: throw small water) – pee
  • buang air besar (literally: throw big water) – poop 

Furthermore, here are several other Indonesian Expressions that Foreigner Should Learn

  • jam karet (rubber clock) – late (condition or person)
    e.g. Sudah jam 2 nih, jam karet banget sih dia! (It has been 2 o’clock, what a late person!)
    Check: How to Say Time in Indonesia Language
  • NKRI harga mati (literally: dead price for NKRI) – it’s a patriotism slogan to prioritize Indonesia in your heart and action
    e.g. Apapun yang terjadi, NKRI harga mati (Whatever happened, NKRI is always first)
    Notes: NKRI (Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia – Indonesian Repubic), check Indonesian Language Abbreviations
  • kabar burung (literally: bird news) – hoax or gossips
    e.g. Masih percaya dengan kabar burung itu? (Do you still believe on that hoax/gossip?)
  • sampah masyarakat (people trash) – unworthy person (public enemies, criminals and so on)
    e.g. Politisi yang korupsi adalah sampah masyarakat (Corrupt politician is an unworthy person/trash)
  • B1 and B2 – (replacement for dog meat and pork)
    e.g. Orang Muslim haram untuk makan daging B1 dan B2 (The Muslims are prohibited to consume dog meat and pork)
  • jam pulang kantor (going home [from office] hour]) – traffic jam hour (around 5 p.m.)
    e.g. Duh, sial. Kena jam pulang kantor (Oh, shit! traffic jam hour/It’s 5 p.m.)
    *mostly it is used in capital city, Jakarta because the traffic (especially at 5 p.m.) is crazy
  • tanggal tua (literally: old date) – end of month (before pay day)
    e.g. Tanggal tua makan Indomie aja (At this end of the month, let’s just eat Indomie [instant noodle])
    *instant noodle is a ‘survival food’ for most people
  • batang hidung (nose) – a person
    e.g. Dia di mana sih? Kok gak keliatan batang hidungnya? (Where is he? He has not been seen at all)
  • cinta bertepuk sebelah tangan (literally: love which clap in one hand) – unrequited love
    e.g. Kasihan dia, cintanya bertepuk sebelah tangan (Poor him, he has unrequited love)
    Other synonym: kasih tak sampai (literally: love does not arrive)
  • dikasih hati, minta jantung (was given a liver, but asked for a heart) – ungrateful
    e.g. Maunya apa sih? Dikasih hati, minta jantung. (What does she want? very ungrateful

Additional Notes : Otewe/otw

Another important Indonesian Expressions that Foreigner Should Learn is otewe/otw. It’s a tricky one. You know on the way has literal meaning that you have been on the street to catch/meet someone. However, in Indonesia it depends on the person character.

Be careful, if your friend is an on time person, it possibly means he/she really on the street. However, sometimes people (who are not strict with time) could also means ‘they’re getting ready’. Worst case scenario, if your friend is a late person it could means they are on the way… to his/her bathroom! Therefore, there was an expression called ‘jam karet’ too, right?

That’s all about Indonesian Expressions that Foreigners Should Learn. To add more knowledge to your mind palace, check these following articles.