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7 Things you Need to Know Before Marrying your Indonesian Partner



If you read my blog you may have noticed I stick mainly to topics like visas and business. Today I thought I would write about something different which will hopefully be of interest to anyone considering dating or even getting married to someone from Indonesia.

1. Family

Family is everything to most Indonesian people. Most westerners tend to live pretty independent once they find work and leave the family home. With little to no support from the government for older people in Indonesia, they pretty much rely on their children. It is also one of the reasons why Indonesians tend to have a lot of children. While families are close-knit, parents are fairly understanding if their children need to move to a different city/country for study or work.

2. Money

Money is important in any relationship and financial problems are a common reason for couples to divorce. I don’t think Indonesian people are known for forward planning, particularly when it comes to saving for the future. It is typical for Indonesians to think all foreigners are rich and for sure most westerners visiting Indonesia are well off, but it doesn’t mean they have unlimited funds or financial troubles of their own.

While your Indonesian partner may (or should) have a good idea of your financial situation, it doesn’t mean the friends and family of your partner will be as understanding. For some people in Indonesia, ‘scoring a bule’ equates to winning the lottery and like anyone winning a lottery, there will be people who will be looking for their share.

3. Religion

To get married in Indonesia, a couple must share the same religion. Atheism is not tolerated. People tend to follow the religion of their family and their ethnic group. It is not easy for families to accept their children to change religions, so it is often up to the foreigner to change to the religion of their spouse. Couples can get around the law by marrying outside of the country. Levels of devotion will depend on the individual, but most will do whatever is required to maintain harmony with the family.

4. Personal Space and being alone

If you value your privacy and personal space, you could have trouble living in Indonesia. Indonesians are very social people and rarely do anything alone. Your Indonesian partner may have trouble understanding why you might want to spend some time by yourself.

5. Having Kids

When you marry someone from another country, you do tend to mindful of cultural differences and make allowances for problems and difficult situations. When you have kids though, it adds a whole new dimension. I think it is natural that parents bring up their kids with a similar style to how they were raised. It is hard to generalize Indonesian parenting, but it can go from being very laissez-faire to strict discipline. Most kids from a very young age ride a motorbike to school for example. It is illegal, but widely accepted by schools and police. You have to ask yourself how would you react as a parent?

And what if you don’t want kids? Not even an option in Indonesia!

6. Property/business ownership

If you decide to live in Indonesia and start a business as many mixed couples do, there is a good chance that all of your property will be put in the Indonesian spouse’s name. Foreigners cannot own freehold property, or small company structures for example. This can be a source of potential friction, especially if there is an eventual breakdown in the marriage and assets need to be split.

7. Sleeping with the light on

When I first came to Indonesia, I heard about a book “How to catch Mr Bule“. One of the peculiarities about foreign men as pointed out by the author, is that they like to sleep with the lights off. Obviously I can’t speak for every Indonesian, but I know when my wife’s family stay over, they all tend to sleep with all of the lights on.

Would tips and advice would you give?



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One Response to 7 Things you Need to Know Before Marrying your Indonesian Partner

  1. David V Davy July 28, 2016 at 7:33 am #

    Greetings Mike!

    We have corresponded often albeit infrequently over the years. Still get your Expat Newsletter which Kia and I read with interest.

    We visited Bali for 3 weeks in 2009 and rented a Jimny allowing us to tour the periphery of the Island as well as criss-cross the midland repeatedly in all weathers. We stayed in a Home-Stay in Sanur mostly. It was a memorable 20 odd days that we will always treasure.

    Kia and I met when I was on business as a QAO for a large group based in South Africa. I alternated between Jakarta and Bogor as the fast-track building system we were engaged in was for a developer in the latter.

    We struck a problem with the building sand in Java and it was thru my investigative effort that I met Kia who worked in Jakarta for a company that imported graded sands from Sumatra by barge and prepared mixes for aggregates to suit special requirements and conditions.

    We were married in South Africa when I invited her over for a visit to this beautiful land and have been so related and resided for 17 years now.

    We enjoyed the article on Indonesian “Bule” relationships and yes, it takes a lot of give and take to make it work but applying some empathy by understanding the cultural differences makes it easier. Ignorance of whatever Indonesian cultural background the “Bule” has to adapt to is invariably a reason for conflict. The “family” ties are very strong and anyone denying his partner that and the religious disciplines ingrained, will certainly run into trouble!!

    Thanks again and in closing I want to say to those contemplating marriage, to an Indonesian lady, your Indonesian bride will likely be the cleanest, most self-collected, well presented, thoughtful, capable and hard working person you have ever met. Good luck!!

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