Seasoned travellers know that even a little understanding of a country’s culture can help build bonds with the locals, not to mention prevent one from committing potentially offensive social gaffes (after all while most people are willing to overlook the occasional faux pas from a well meaning foreigner, others can be less forgiving). A lot can be said of a country by the customs it practices. While different cultures may seem worlds apart, they usually have the same underlying themes of community and brotherhood.

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world. In addition to having a large population of native people, the archipelago is also home to a large foreign population. Although the majority of its people are Muslim, one can see the obvious influence of Hinduism, Buddhism and even Confucianism in its culture, especially in the country’s art and architecture. The Wayang, the renowned shadow puppet theatre, generally tell stories of Hindu or Buddhist kingdoms. The extent to which religion influences culture varies by region, with major cities generally being more westernised in their ways.

As the country comprises of more than 17,000 islands (of which 6000 are inhabited) and over 300 ethnic groups, most Indonesians define themselves locally. That means that in any particular area, the regional customs and dialects are preferred to those followed nationally. Even the official language, Bahasa Indonesian, is usually spoken as a second language. The existence of such diversity allows tourists to have a variety of experiences in a short space of time. What is interesting though is the number of things they have in common. For instance food is eaten only with the right hand; gifts are never opened in front of the giver; and an adherence to ‘Jam Karet’ (literally ‘rubber time’), the Indonesian approach to time which counsels against rushing even on important matters.

While observing the local customs from afar can be amusing, it can be more fun to take part in. Jakarta serviced apartments can provide tourists a home of their own in Indonesia. The Ascott Jakarta is renowned for its elegantly decorated apartments and luxurious services. Boasting a central location, it is the ideal short stay accommodation Jakarta for foreigners on business or leisure.