A Javanese Proverb says, "Negara mawa tata, desa mawa cara".
Negara : city, Desa : village, Tata = cara : custom, means One has to honor local custom, where he or she is staying.
In general the people of Yogya, Solo and Central Java are polite, cooperative, honest and low profile. The Javanese language in this region is more halus (refined), it is understood easily as they are living in the center of a highly cultured society, strongly influenced by royal tradition.
It is not likely that visitors should face difficulties in communicating with local people, on the contrary it is easy to mingle with them. Just relax, there are as other people in the other part of the world, they like to respect each other.
Avoiding minor misunderstanding, might be these advises are good to follow :
- Have a nice trip -
- Never give or receive something by left hand. It is considered not polite, with the right hand is okay. Giving and receiving with both hands, with the body slightly downward is perfect.
- Don't put hand on your hips while talking to someone. As in the wayang show, that kind of position is for somebody who is ready to fight physically.
- Don't ever touch other man's head with your hand, it's considered as an insult. It's totally different with the Westerners.
- Don't put your legs on the table, while you are sitting on the chair, when there are people around. The local people does not like this 'cowboy style' of sitting.
- Don't be up set if people, only after a very short time of meeting you, ask you some questions such as : How are you?, Are you married?, How many kids do you have?, What's your profession? It's not that they want to mix your privacy, it's a common talk here, as just like Westerners talking about weather.
- Don't wear your shoes when you enter a mosque and some holy sites. It is better to ask permission from the guard.
- In the town or villages, it is better to wear a proper dress, so you should be respected.
- When you are visiting someone with higher position in his office, or elderly man in his house, you should talk after you have been invited to come inside the room or house and sit down.
- When you are travelling by car and you need address or direction from someone in the street, You should step down from the car and ask, don't ask from the seat of your car.
- When you are served food and drink by your host, you should begin after you are invited to eat and drink. Serving food and drink is considered as a sign of hospitality. It is impolite to refuse the offer.
- Don't argue about faith and religion, it's very sensitive.
Nowadays, in order to preserve national unity, the government advice the people not to expose SARA abbreviation of Suku, Agama, Ras, Antar golongan (Ethnic, Religion, Nationality and Group of Community). The debate of SARA in public must be avoided.
- Don't be up set to see people around smoking 'kretek' clove cigarettes, except in the non smoking area.
- Don't be upset to 'jam karet' (rubber time) habit. It's normal if a certain ceremony being late for several minutes. Relax and take your time.
- Hand shaking is okay for men and women on introduction and greeting.
- The used of drug, such as marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, etc are officially forbidden. So, keep out of trouble !
- Don't hesitate to come to Java and other parts of the country. You are warmly welcome.
(Suryo S. Negoro)