Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Surabaya and the surrounding province of East Java are famously tolerant. Foreigners should be aware that Indonesia officially recognizes six religions; Islam (Sunni), Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Indonesian citizens are required to declare a religion which is printed on their identification cards. As a diplomat you won't have your religion printed on your diplomatic id, but people will frequently ask your religion as a conversation starter or ice breaker. Atheism seems to be strongly frowned upon and, strictly speaking, not legally possible. - Nov 2018


yes, but behind the scenes and below the surface. Javanese politeness usually prevents the in your face prejudices. - Oct 2015


Dark skin is undesirable in Indonesia, as evidenced by the entire aisles of "skin whitening" products in grocery stores and pharmacies here. Outright racism is rare, but there are undercurrents. People of color are treated somewhat differently, but usually it's more of a sense of wonderment, especially for those of Afro or West Indian descent. Whites are also treated with wonder, sometimes being more popular than the animals in the zoos here in East Java. Religion can be an issue, as there are only 6 accepted religions here: Islam, Christian (Catholic), Christian (Protestant), Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism. You're forced to state your religion on your entry card, and expats marrying an Indonesian must also choose a religion. Sunni/Shia tensions are real, and tolerance can be strained at times. - Apr 2015


No racial problems, but as this is a Muslim majority country, there are those who believe that Saudi Arabian Islam (along with its culture) is the purest and closest to Allah. Radical Muslim groups intimidate through fear and threats of violence. Being Jewish is not understood, as Indonesians are taught through the media and in Muslim schools that Palestinians are being victimized. Belonging to minority sects of Islam may lead to death. Only five religions are legal in Indonesia, and political leaders often endorse violence aimed at other religions, or are intimidated into silence by radical Muslims. - Oct 2012


There is definitely tension between the Chinese and Indonesians. - May 2012


Within Indonesian society, there is a lot of tension just under the surface directed almost exclusively towards fellow Indonesians. There is a cultural distrust of Chinese and Chinese-Indonesians, who are perceived as wealthy and exploitative of native Indonesians. The various Indonesian cultures and religions generally tolerate each other, though there are occasional mob situations resulting in violence. The Indonesian culture overall regards people with darker skin to be relatively poor, uneducated, and likely to be manual laborers--this is manifested by Indonesians that work outdoors completely covering their body even in the hottest weather, and the abundance of skin care products/soaps, etc that are openly advertised as having skin lightening agents. - Oct 2010


I don't think so. There is a strong Muslim majority, but other religions are very well tolerated. Women occupy positions of status here. If you have Western features, you will get stared at and called out to, but it is good-natured. - Aug 2009


New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More