Language learning is doable for a person at any age. The central ingredient required–desire!

Don’t Begin with Colors, Numbers, Months, Days, etc.

As foreigners living in Jambi, we frequently meet new people, and with Indonesians being very friendly and inquisitive about new people they meet, they never fail to ask many of the below questions we’ve listed.

For the foreigner coming to live and work in Indonesia, the basic set of language skills you will need is not the vocabulary of colors, days of the week, months, or lists similar to that (that can come later). Being able to answer the below list of questions will speed your language acquisition along much faster. If you can answer the below questions fluently, Indonesians will think you already have their language mastered and they’ll be very impressed.

Selamat Belajar!

  1. What is your name?
  2. Which country are you from?
  3. Where do you live in your country?
    • Give them the name of the largest city that is closest to your address, or just the state.
  4. Why are you in Indonesia?

    Indonesians are genuinely interested in meeting people and learning all they can about them. They are very relational. For people who come from countries where there is a lot of privacy, this level of openness upon an initial meeting may be somewhat intimidating–especially if you are asked how old you are, or how much you weigh!

  5. How long have you been in Indonesia?
  6. What is your job?
  7. Which company do you work for?
  8. In this Indonesian city, which area do you live in?
  9. Do you stay at the hotel or do you rent a house?
  10. How old are you?
  11. How much do you weigh?
  12. Are you married?
  13. Do you have children?
  14. What are your children’s ages?
  15. What grades are your children in?
  16. If married, do you want a second wife?

    C. & P. at Ancol (Tanggo Rajo)

    • C. was presented with this offer, but being married to his best friend, and being fully and completely satisfied with her, he had to turn the offer down     :^)
  17. What’s your impression of Indonesia?
  18. Do you feel comfortable here?
  19. What do you think about Indonesian people?
  20. How much do pay for rent on your home here in Indonesia?
  21. How much did you pay for your car?
  22. How much did you pay for your motorcycle?
  23. How much…. they will ask many questions which westerners feel are quite private.
  24. Do you like the local foods?
  25. Can you eat rice?
  26. Do you eat rice in your country?
    • Some Indonesians are concerned about traveling outside their country, out of fear there won’t be any rice for them to eat.
  27. Can you eat spicy foods, and if so, do you like it?
  28. What traditional Indonesian foods have you tried?

    Assortment of Traditional Indonesian Foods

    • Indonesia has a wide variety of traditional foods and drinks.
  29. What traditional Indonesian food do you like the best?
  30. What are the main foods Americans eat?
    • Many Indonesians think Americans subsist on bread and Coca-Cola.
  31. Do Americans eat rice?
    • Here in Jambi they are very curious about what we eat in our Indonesian home every day.
    • Indonesians eat rice 3x per day. They feel rice will keep them satisfied until the next meal, whereas they feel other foods don’t have that ability.
  32. What other cities in Indonesia have you been to?
  33. What Indonesian tourist locations have you visited?
  34. Do you really use toilet paper?
  35. Can I have your HP (Hand Phone / cell phone) number?

    Ha Pay–HP (hand phones) are more in use in Indonesia than in the USA. Most children in elementary school have them. The cost is minimal compared to the cost of phones and providers in the USA.

    • It’s okay for men to give out their phone numbers. Many Indonesians feel that by having your phone number you have accepted them and that you are somewhat of a friend–which will give them great prestige among their Indonesian friends. For unmarried women, if a connection is needed for some reason, it may be best to allow another Indonesian friend, or a male foreigner be the go-between for you.

      Indonesians enjoy getting their pictures taken with foreigners.
      This is C. with some of the staff at a vocational High School In Jambi.
      SMK N 2–State Vocational High School No. 2

  36. Can I get a picture with you?
    • For people who are reserved, this can become overwhelming, especially if you are among a large group of Indonesians and the picture taking goes on for a very long time.
    • Foreigners take on a celebrity status in many areas of Indonesia, especially in areas outside of large cities where foreigners are rarely seen. Foreigners need to realize that they represent their country, and Indonesians will formulate their opinion of your country of origin based on your behavior.
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