Indonesia: Public Behaviour – Part 2


Acceptable public conduct

Since the bottom of the shoe is also considered unclean, do not use it to point at, move or touch things. Also, refrain from resting your shoes on desks or tables. Be aware that following this rule affects how you will be able to sit: you can cross your legs at the knee, but not with one ankle over your knee.

The ‘arms akimbo’ position, that is, standing tall with your hands on your hips, is perceived as an angry, aggressive posture. Indeed, this pose is popularly identified as a symbol of anger in Indonesian shadow puppet theatre.

To beckon someone, hold your hand out, palm downward, and make a scooping motion with the fingers. Beckoning someone with the palm up and wagging one finger, however, will often be interpreted as obscene.

When pointing, do so with an open hand, rather than with your index finger. You can also point with your right thumb and a closed fist [similar to the hitchhiking signal]; this gesture is also used to indicate “You go first.”

Pounding one fist into the palm of your other hand is another gesture to be avoided, as Indonesians sometimes perceive it as obscene.

Chewing gum or eating while walking in public is discouraged.

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