Javanese Etiquette

Java is one of the island in Indonesia. The sensitive visitors to Java will want to interact harmoniously with the local people. Some knowledge of etiquette is essential for this. This does not, of course, mean trying to master all the intricacies of local customs. The Javanese do not expect this of foreigners. But a sympathetic awareness of the different code of etiquette and some evidence of an endeavour to come to terms with it – with out necessarily abandoning one’s own cultural character – is much appreciated by the local people.

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In the lives of the Javanese, some rigidly stylized patterns of behaviour play an important part. In fact, so much is mastery of formal etiquette equated with Javanese identity that one who has not yet learned the intricacies of formal etiquette is often labelled as “kurang Jawani” (not yet Javanese). It is not unusual to hear Javanese refer to etiquette as the “busananing bangsa” (the garment of the nation) and to claim that the level of civilization of the people can be gauged by the refinement of its system of etiquette.

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The four principal elements of Javanese etiquette are:

1. Skill in recognizing and honouring rank and age

2. Skill in avoiding upsetting and offending others

3. Skill in concealing one’s negative feelings

4. Rigid self control

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The first of these skills is expressed in discourse of conversation. The Javanese language incorporates a large honorific vocabulary (vocabulary of politeness), which, to be used correctly , demands as sensitive awareness of the proper respect due to rank and age.

The second skill is expressed most characteristically in the indirectness of conversation and action. The cultivated man always endeavours to put others at their ease, and to ensure no unexpected shock or offence to a listener.

The third skill requires one to be skillful in dissimulation, the art of concealing one’s dislike or disagreement for someone or something they do not like or agree with, since open disagreement would give rise to a astrainedor uneasy atmosphere, which the true Javanese people would prefer to avoid at all cost.

Finally, the polite Javanese exercises rigid self control, not only to avoid shocking or upsetting others, but also because irregularity, jerkiness and unpredictability are signs of a lack of inner refinement; the less refined a person is seen to be, the more he falls in the estimation of his fellows.

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In what follows are some basic rules of Javanese etiquette:

Posture

Appearing calm and self-controled is always recommended. When standing, one supposed to keep one’s bearing upright but not rigid. It is a good thing to smile as much as possible. But not to laugh extravagantly. Standing with one’s hands on one’s hips is considered an intimidating and aggressive posture. Sitting cross-legged on a chair or standing with one’s legs wide part in the presence of someone to be respected is considered impolite


Gestures

Gestures should be measured. Never sudden, jerky or extravagant. When meeting as acquaintance. It is becoming more common to shake hands, especially after relatively long separation. Pointing with one’s index finger at a person one is talking to should be avoided. Should he point with his hand to show things or direction, he would use his the right hand. One must use only the right hand to give and receive. If he should use his left hand, he has to say “maaf” (excuse me).

One will receive what is given by an elder or superior with both hands, accompanied by a slight bow. When passing in front of an elder, superior or person of equal rank that one doesn’t know, he is supposed to bend his body slightly, especially if the person concerned is sitting

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This etiquette of feeling is a kind of instrument or tool for making others peaceful with in, and then yourself also. If you meet you colleague on the street and you coast by and do not say, “where are you going ?” (a typical Javanese greeting), he will feel upset; and later his upsettedness will react back and you will feel upset.

This passage makes very clear the cause and effect link between outward and inward refinement. Refined behavior works outward, giving ease and pleasure to others, and this is turn adds to the inner peace of the giver. It also works inward, protecting the personality from becoming upset and conditioning a more tranquil inner state.

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Comments 18 comments

always exploring profile image

always exploring 22 months ago from Southern Illinois

Interesting topic. I know I will never get to visit, but seems like their etiquette is something we all could learn from. Americans are in too big of a hurry. We need to slow down and be more friendly as these people are...Thank's for sharing...


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 22 months ago from malang-indonesia Author

Dear, Ruby (always exploring). Thanks for coming and sharing your opinion about Javanese Etiquette. You can visit my country someday to know about different culture, especially in Java. I really appreciate every people who have different culture and different etiquette as well. Take care and have a nice day!

Prasetio


Reynold Jay profile image

Reynold Jay 22 months ago from Saginaw, Michigan

I learned a lot with this hub. It is nice to see it come down to 4 main points--something I could remember. I suspect I would be very happy there as those traits dwell within me. I'm a teacher too.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 22 months ago from malang-indonesia Author

Hi, Reynold Jay. Welcome to my hub. Thanks for sharing your wonderful thought about this topic. I hope you can see how Javenese people very welcome with others. I am so happy to know that you are a teacher too. Success for you and have a nice day...Take care!

Prasetio


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 22 months ago from The Beautiful South

Thanks so much Prasetio for sharing this culture and we should learn to respect others and their ways. Interesting lesson, friend.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 22 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

It's interesting to learn about etiquette and behaviour rules in other cultures. This article is a useful guide to Javanese etiquette.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 22 months ago from Taos, NM

Very interesting and informative and thanks for sharing this. It is always the visitor to a foreign country who should be aware of and assimilate into the cultural norms of the country being visited. You have given us a great tutorial on the customs and mores of your country. I enjoyed reading and learning about you country.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 22 months ago from South Africa

Very interesting, prasetio! Though most of this is also considered to be etiquette in Western civilization. Receiving a gift with both hands while bending a bit is also a typical African way of showing humbleness and gratefulness. Somehow the boundaries in Western cultures were destroyed and 'free expression' has become everybody's human right. I (we) will think twice before asking someone we don't know very well where they are going, as we are supposed to mind our own business. Therefore "How do you do?" is more appropriate.

Very-very interesting hub about Javanese etiquette. Thank you, prasetio :)


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 22 months ago from USA

I enjoyed learning about the Javanese culture. I can imagine the responses someone might get here in America if they routinely asked people where they were going.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 22 months ago from malang-indonesia Author

Dear, Jackie Lynnley. Thank you very much for coming and also thanks for a wonderful thought about Javanese Etiquette. Because we have different culture, that's why I write this hub. I hope you enjoy it!

Prasetio


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 22 months ago from malang-indonesia Author

My friend, AliciaC. I am glad you love this hub. I hope we can learn about different culture and different etiquette as well. We are the same and we love to live in peace..amen. Take care!


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 22 months ago from malang-indonesia Author

Dear, suzettenaples. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your opinion about this topic. I hope you have a chance to visit my country and learn about culture through the people, especially Javanese people. Have a good day!


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 22 months ago from malang-indonesia Author

Dear friend, MartieCoetser. I am so happy to see you again and I am proud to present this hub for you. Thanks for sharing how the African have good attitude, like: Receiving a gift with both hands while bending a bit. I think kind of this habit was gone because of modern era where technology has a big role. God bless you!

Prasetio


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 22 months ago from malang-indonesia Author

Dear, FlourishAnyway. What a lovely comment from you. I know it's so challenging today if every people give permission and ask about where they were going. It's like simple expression, but difficult we can find like this one today. Thanks for coming, my friend.

Prasetio


drbj profile image

drbj 22 months ago from south Florida

This was fascinating, Pras, and very informative. It appears that Javanese etiquette may be similar to Chinese and Japanese customs that I have observed when visiting those countries. Thanks for sharing this with us.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 22 months ago from malang-indonesia Author

Dear, drbj. I am so happy to see you again. Thanks for coming. I live in the country which has an eastern culture. I am glad to know that you had visited Chinese and Japanese. Those are beautiful countries. Take care!


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 21 months ago from Stillwater, OK

Thank you so much for writing about this. I don't know anyone from Java, to my knowledge, so I appreciate this material. I enjoy learning about other peoples.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 21 months ago from malang-indonesia Author

Your welcome, aviannovice. I am glad to introduce about the culture from my country. I hope you can visit my country someday. Take care!

Prasetio

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