Understanding Indonesian from their Ear, Mouth and Color

While working for a radio station many years ago, class distinction through advertising became apparent. The interesting things about Indonesian is that they can be traced by their daily behahior – what they wear, hear, eat and speak are related to their social status. The big economic gap among them has shaped them into three social groups- lower, middle and high class. Simply, if an Indonesian who listens to Jazz you can comfortably say he comes from the higher class while those who listen to local music called Dangdut, they come from the lower classes.

In addition, radio station that air Jazz music reach small number of listeners but from high income bracket while the station that broadcasts Dangdut music reach the lower stratas of society.That`s why banks or Airline or Car manufacturing companies will not put their commercials on radio stations that play Dangdut music. And it can also be said that energy drink products won’t be advertised on the higer income stations. There’s class distinctions. Just turn the dial of the radio station and see how Indonesians are being catered for by the advertisers. There’s some very specific marketing going on here.

Apparels design, color and materials selection tell who Indonesian belong to social group are. These segmentation also reflect to their thoughts, values and behaviors that basically have been shaped by education and background.

Japanese vs Sundanese

Early in the morning I was called to meet Mr. Shiro Sudo, a Japanese World War II veteran who had been assigned in Indonesia. He was was getting impatient with the governor office of West Java province. He has sent a request letter to make a courtesy call to governor with a delegation of 30 Japanese business people. But the Governor was not in the office in that day. I tried to understand the misunderstanding. A spokesperson from the Governor ’s office said that Mr. Sudo has sent a request letter but he could not find it. I then got back to Mr. Sudo who gave me the copy of the letter. It had been sent over two years ago.

Mr. Sudo thought that because Governor was too busy with his schedule it was best to notify him as early as possible of his meeting. The Japanese never do things at the last moment. In this case, Mr. Sudo had planned two years ahead. While the spokesperson from the Governor’s office was confused that a letter for a meeting was sent two years before the date.

In West Java there is a way of thought called “Sangkuriang philosophy”. It means all things have to finish within a night