Indonesian Common Words and Phrases – Indonesian Culture for Kids

Greetings in Indonesian:

  • Selamat pagi : Good morning

  • Selamat siang : Good afternoon/day

  • Selamat malam : Good evening

  • Selamat tidur : Good night

  • Selamat tinggal : Good bye


Other common words/phrases:

  • Ya/tidak : Yes/no

  • Terimakasih : Thank you

  • Terimakasih kembali : You are welcome

  • Apa kabar? : How are you

  • Kabar baik : I am fine

  • Maaf : Excuse me

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Indonesian Children’s Names – Indonesian Culture for Kids

Indonesian names portray various cultures in the archipelago. Naming customs are also different among ethnic groups. Generally, Indonesian people do not have family name, with the exception of some ethnic groups such as Batak or Mollucan. So, Indonesians who have two or more names, all of them are usually given names. Names are usually derived from words in regional language or Sanskrit. As Indonesia has the highest Muslim population in the world, it is also quite common to see people with Muslim/Arabic names.

Indonesian names can be divided into four types:

  • A single name, such as Soekarno (the first president of Indonesia)

  • Two or more names without family name, such as Muhammad Hatta (the first vice president of Indonesia)

  • Two or more names with family name, such as Mochtar Lubis (journalist) and Abdul Haris Nasution (Indonesian army general)

  • Two or more names with patronymic, such as Megawati Soekarnoputri (the fifth president of Indonesia) – Soekarnoputri means daughter of Soekarno.

Today, Indonesians usually have two or more names. All of them are given names without family names. Generally, they are called using first names, unless they opt otherwise. Lacks of family names are clearly shown in Indonesian phonebooks. Names are listed according to first names, not family names.

These are some common Indonesian names:


  • Adi

  • Ahmad

  • Ari

  • Bambang

  • Muhammad

  • Names initaiated with “su”  are very popular such as Soekarno, Soeharto, or Susilo. Su meand good in Sanskrit


  • Mega

  • Putri

  • Ayu

  • Meutia

  • Fatimah

  • Indah


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Indonesian Children’s Stories – Indonesian Culture for Kids

Indonesia has varieties of children stories, ranging form folk tales, fables, to localized foreign tales. Each ethnic has its own folk tales that sometimes have similar version in neighboring communities. Children folktales are often centered in origin of a place such as mountain, lake, or river. There is also a localized old Indian story, named Tantri Kamandaka in Java. It is very similar to the tales of 1001 nights as both of them were derived from ancient India. Fragments from Ramayana and Mahabharata epochs are often taken and rewritten to suit children storytelling.

There is a famous fable tale among Indonesian, Dongeng Kancil or Tales of a Mouse Deer. It tells about a smart and fast thinking mouse deer, on how it outsmarts fellow animals such as crocodile, tiger, dog etc., and even farmers. This story is very popular; today Indonesians often call people who are mischievously smart as ‘like mouse deer.” As a central figure, this mouse deer is portrayed as a smart one, but a bit cocky sometimes. On the other hand, depends on the theme, it is also often portrayed as a wise animal, helping other animals to solve their problems.

There are numerous versions of Indonesian children stories, as they have been passed mouth to mouth for generations. Each of them reflects cultures the story originates.

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Indonesian Alphabet – Indonesian Culture for Kids

Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) is written in Roman script and less extensively in Jawi script. Words in Indonesian are spelled the way they are pronounced with a few exceptions. Modern spelling was adopted in 1972 in Perfected Spelling System. These are 26 letters of Roman script used in Indonesian.






a as in father

u as in fur



b as in bat



ch as in check



d as in dam



e as in camel

e as in bed

e as in grey



f as in farmer



g as in game



h as here



i as in Indonesia



j as in Java



k as in key



l as in lemon



m as in mango



n as in no



o as in go

o as in both



p as in pen



q as in quran



r as in read



s as in same



t as in time



oo as in foot



v as in vega



w as in wave



x as in xenon



y as in yes



z as in zebra

Jawi script is derived from Arabic script. It uses letters in Arabic script with additions of nonexistent letters in Arabic (c, p, ng, and ny). Other than official Roman script, Jawi script is widely used in areas populated by Malay Indonesian such as, Sumatra and Riau Archipelago. Jawi script is also widely used in neighboring countries Malaysia, Pattani (south part Thailand), and Brunei.

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History of Indonesia – Indonesian Culture for Kids

The Malay Archipelago has been inhabited since prehistoric era. Fossils of Java Man show presences of Homo erectus around 1.5 million years ago. There are traces of prehistoric civilization along river valleys in Bengawan Solo River and Flores Island. Modern inhabitants are Austronesian people, who came to the archipelago around 2000 BCE.

Contacts with Indian subcontinent began before 200 BCE, brought Hinduism and Buddhism to the archipelago. Later, Hindu and Buddhist states rose in Sumatra, Java, and Borneo. By the time European renaissance, there had been two empires and one thousand years of civilization in Java and Sumatra. Srivijaya Empire conquered western part of the archipelago around 7th to 11th century, followed by Majapahit Empire in 13th – 14th century. Majapahit ruled an area of modern day Indonesia, including Malayan Peninsula, part of Vietnam, and southern Philippine.


Contacts with Islamic states began as early as Abbasid Era. The archipelago was famous among Muslim sailors to seek varieties of precious spices such as cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, etc. Trading with Muslim states in the Middle East facilitated the spread of Islam. Islamic kingdoms rose in Sumatra and Java since 13th – 16th century. Spice trade reached Europe via Middle East. Spice trade was one of many reasons of European to come to the archipelago.

Portuguese and Dutch initiated European contact in 16th. Later, the Dutch colonized the archipelago island-by-island, kingdom-by-kingdom, until 1942 AD – with a brief of British occupation in 1810s. Japanese invaded the archipelago in 1942, in the height of World War II. The Japanese occupation took place until the end of World War II in 1945. Took advantage of Japanese defeat in WW II, Indonesian proclaimed their independence in August 17th 1945.

There was four years of physical struggle to resist reoccupation by the Dutch in 1945-1949. Kingdom of Netherlands eventually transferred its sovereignty to Indonesia in the end of 1949. Soekarno served as the first president of Indonesia from 1945 to 1967.

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All About Indonesian Culture – Indonesian Culture for Kids

Indonesia (officially Republic of Indonesia) is a country in South East Asia. Indonesia is located in Malay Archipelago, consisting of more than 17,000 islands, with around 900 islands inhabited. Geographically, Indonesia is located between two continents (Asia and Australia) and two oceans (Indian and Pacific oceans).

As it straddles equator, Indonesia has a tropical climate with sunny days throughout the year. Located in southwestern part of Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia has high volcano activities resulting in high quality of soil for agriculture. There are two distinct monsoonal rainy (October to March) and dry (April to September) seasons. High rainfall, sunny days, and fertile soil support biodiversity; Indonesia is the second highest level of biodiversity in the world after Brazil.

Indonesian cultures are characterized by its vast varieties. Indonesia has hundreds of ethnic cultures. Separated geographically by land and sea, each community develops its own unique cultures.

Culture of Indonesia is a mix between indigenous cultures influenced by centuries of relationship with outside world. Ancient relation with Indian subcontinent brought two Indian greatest epochs – Ramayana and
Mahabharata – to Indonesia, in which they fused with
local cultures, along with Hinduism and Buddhism. Later Islam came in the height of the middle ages, brought by Muslim preachers and merchants. Consequently, there are cultures influenced by Islamic teachings, such as Saman dance in Aceh and Sekaten festival di Jogjakarta. Missionaries brought Christianity in the colonial era. Kroncong style is a traditional music  introduced by Portuguese centuries ago. Dominant religion of an ethnic clearly influences its culture, as seen in Sumatra, Java, Bali, and East Nusa Tenggara.

Wayang kulit is a popular shadow puppet theater among Sudanese, Javanese, and Balinese people. These show present stories taken from localized Ramayana and Mahabharata epochs. Gamelan, a set of traditional musical instruments, accompanies this show that often takes place a whole nightlong. In November 7th 2003 UNESCO designated wayang kulit as Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity; in return Indonesians must preserve this heritage.

Almost every ethnic in Indonesia has its own language. Malay has been a lingua franca for centuries. Today Malay is codified in Bahasa Indonesia and serves as Indonesian national language.

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Indonesia culture for children – One Thing You Must Know about Indonesia

One Thing You Must Know about Indonesia

There are 237 MILLION people in the country of Indonesia; this makes it the fourth LARGEST country in the world. It is made up of 17,508 islands in which 6000 of them are lived on by Indonesians and tourists.


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Indonesia culture for children – Traditional Tunes

Traditional Tunes

Gamelan orchestra: most popular and important kind in Indonesia. Most instruments used for this kind of music is struck with wooden mallets, padded sticks or hammers. It has been handed down for many generations but was never a written type of music. It is essential to Indonesian life, and varies from island to island.


Angklung music: This is another extremely important form of music that is representative of the Indonesian culture. It is played on instruments made entirely of bamboo of different lengths. Each instrument is made up of two bamboo tubes, each of a different note. The instruments are shaken to produce sound.


There are many genres and forms of music in Indonesia, but their people strive to keep the traditional music intact. While the younger generation will enjoy westernized music from time to time, everyone will know of the top two genres listed because they are very representative of the Indonesian culture of music that started around the Bronze Age, or 2nd-3rd century B.C.


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Indonesia culture for children – Getting dressed in Indonesia

Getting dressed in Indonesia

Men: in the house, men usually wear checker patterned sarongs. The sarongs are worn in public only before prayer on Fridays during mosque. For national occasions, the men wear batik shirts with trousers or teluk beskap, a combination of the Javanese jacket and sarong.


Women: Indonesian women wear the kebaya, a beautiful, figure-hugging embroidered blouse worn with a batik sarong that is usually dyed with flower motifs and in bright colors. Women will tie their hair into a bun and may even wear a hairpiece instead. Selendang are often worn over one shoulder. This cloth can be used as a head shawl or on less formal occasions, used to carry babies or objects. Their traditional dress consists of silk robes with metallic thread woven into the material.


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Indonesia culture for children – Festivals/Holidays of Indonesia

Festivals/Holidays of Indonesia


February 15 – Sekaten Fair: In celebration on this day annually of the prophet Mohammed, all festivals are centered on the Kraton, or the royal palace. There are stalls, games, and many cultural shows. There is a feast to end the event, that promotes good luck and great harvest.


Proclamation of Independence, August 17th: Being more important than New Year’s Day, Indonesia celebrates the independence of their nation in the state capitol annually. It is like the Fourth of July here in America, as the flag is raised during a ceremony in Jakarta and the President delivers a state of address to the public. There are festivals and fireworks as well.


New Year/January First: as it is not a tradition to celebrate this day in Indonesia, it is not as important of a holiday as any other holiday. Yet, there are still some forms and varieties of festivals held to bring in a new year.


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