No matter how well educated you are and how respectfully do you treat people around, you need to understand that a foreign country is like another planet, and in order to feel comfortable on its territory, you will have to study the rules, orders and traditions of your place of stay.
You can spend a lot of time reading guides and articles on culture, but we have provided a short digest for you to help you avoid unexpected mistakes in behavior, communication and understanding of the traditions of Indonesia, as well as easily answer your guests' questions.
There are many distinctive features of Balinese traditions that are truly fascinating, and with the correct use of some rules of conduct, a visitor will quickly gain the respect of the Balinese which will make his stay on the island even more enjoyable.
Part 1: Salutation & Communication
“ Ibu” means “ladies” and “Pak” means “men”
Balinese people honor their traditions and are proud of them: the correct address to the interlocutor is an integral part of the traditional greeting. Women should be referred to as "Ibu" and men should be referred to as "Bapak" or "Pak". You will see how a drop of understanding of the national language of the Balinese will help to win the locals towards you!
Traditional salut "Om Swastiastu"
Though modern Balinese shake hands as Westerners do, the traditional salute is the Sembah salute as in the Indian Namaste where the palms are joined together and placed vertically against the chest. In this position, Indonesians should say, "Om Swastiastu" which means "May peace be with you" to each other.
A simple smile is better than words
It is believed that the Balinese are the most smiling nation, and indeed it is. By smiling, Balinese show politeness. Conflicting behavior and demanding disgruntled tone are considered bad manners. Smile, be calm and open even in an argument, and soon you will learn to negotiate like a real Balinese.
One shouldn't point a finger at another because it's considered impolite. Also, the common European arms-on-hips pose gives the impression of being ready for a fight or shows aggression. If you want to call out to someone using your hand, you should have your fingers downward.
Body parts: good to know
According to national traditional beliefs that are part of Balinese culture, the body is both pure in some parts and impure in others. This defines a particular set of behaviors.
- Despite the fact that Balinese can be quite tactile in communication, the head is the most sacred body part as it contains the door of Siva or the Fontanel through which the soul enters the body. You should not touch the head of a Balinese.
- From the navel downwards, the body is said to be impure. So, to show something using one's feet is for example regarded as insult.
- The left hand is regarded as “dirty”. Usually people give and receive either with the right hand, or with both hands, while the left hand is kept slightly behind the right hand, without touching the other person.
Time flows more relaxed
Do not be offended or angry with the Balinese for being late and a relaxed attitude towards time in general - this is also part of their cultural tradition, which is called Jam Karet (Rubber Time). If someone is late for a meeting, then most often this is due to poor traffic and, regardless of the reason for being late, the best solution is to simply nod and agree. And also don't forget to smile at each other!