Did you experience culture shock when you arrived in the USA? This country has different rules and norms which surprise and cause culture shock. Compared to my county, Indonesia, there are so many extraordinary differences, American and Indonesian have unique cultures especially in fashion, food, and religion.
In Indonesian’s view point, fashion represents how the characteristic of somebody is. It’s a symbol of him/her personality, age, or social standing. Before choosing your clothes, you must think over your event, the situation, or your role. You will get complaint if you wear inappropriate fashion. Wearing sexy clothes is considered rather taboo and impolite because Indonesia has strong Eastern-ethical and influence of Islamic value. When Miss Indonesia 2004, Artika Sari Devi, wore her bikini in the fashion show of the Miss Universe Contest, she got many protests from Indonesian. Unlike in Indonesia, people in the USA can choose what clothes they want to wear freely. An old woman can wear a vivid clothes with many bright accessories. A boy may change his hair in an unique style. A girl may draw a tatoo in her skin. Nobody will complain what your fashion is.
The second significant difference between the two countries is about food. Some Indonesians have difficulty to choose their food in the USA. They are not familiar to eat Western food even though some of them are healthy. A bread mixed fresh vegetables and bread is rather strange for Indonesian tongues. Another difference is about rice which became main menu for Indonesians’ breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well without feeling bored. The rice is served with lauk pauk (food that produced from animal like fish, egg, or chicken) and sayur mayur (vegetables). Actually, it’s not difficult to find American restaurants in Indonesia but the restaurants have been adjusted to Indonesian taste. For example, McDonalds will give you some rice if you go there. In other countries like Japan or China, McDonalds couldn’t offer rice. It means McDonalds has a market strategy to attract their customers. Other international restaurants such us Hoka Hoka Bento and KFC also adopt this strategy. In the USA, people usually eat hamburgers, sandwiches, or salads. Most of American food is smaller than Indonesian ones but it’s more solid. American also love coffee like Indonesian love rice. Every morning American drink coffee. It’s like a part of their life.
The third unique diffrence is about religion. Having a religion is so essential for people in Indonesia. The reason about that has a long history. After Indonesia got its independence from Netherlands and Japan in 1945, Indonesian leader declared Pancasila , the Indonesia state ideology (Morfit, 1981). It contains the five principles. The first principle of Pancasila is Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa (a belief in one supreme being). It means Indonesian states as a nonseculer country. However, Indonesia is not a country of specific religion. Indonesian can choose freely their religions such us Islam, Catholic, Hinduism, or Buddism. Maybe there are people who choose Kong Hu Chu, Judism, or mere beliefs, but they are in minority. They usually have same religion with their parents. Indonesian children get religion education in school as a subject and in their home from their parents. It’s polite to talk about religion even you can ask to someone, “What’s your religion?” It’s also common to invite someone to go to a church or a mosque. Sometimes my Indonesian friends who have different religion make me do sholat, “Why don’t you do sholat, April?” In an official document, it usually has a field that ask about religion.
The culture is so different when we life in the USA. Religion is a private thing in this country that well-known as Uncle Sam. You can’t ask directly, “What’s your religion? Why do you wear a veil?” The question are really impolite like asking weight. When you fill out an official document, there is no question about your religion even in the population survey. There is no statistic report about “How many muslims live in the USA?” The USA doesn’t have a Department of Religion like Indonesia does. Some Americans may be atheism, agnostic, amis, muslim sunny, or even ahmadiyah etc. You have absolute freedom to choose religion or pray. However, you can’t bother others who are praying. Attacking other holy places is really prohibition. You have to respect to all people even if they have different religious view.
By understanding the differences in fashion, food, and religion, you can adapt well in Indonesia or in the USA. Indonesia has strong Eastern culture where people have to obey the norms. The USA that renowned for their Liberty statue emphasize on its freedom. Learning about cultures is important so we know how to appreciate other cultures by keeping our cultures.
Morfit, Michael. “Pancasila: The Indonesian State Ideology According to the New Order Government.” University of California Press. August 1981. Web. 19 July 2010. 15.00 AM.