Pronouncing ‘colonel’ right on the first try? Mission impossible. 🥵
Knowing how to say hello in Indonesian can make all the difference if you’re traveling to the Indonesian paradise. It’s true that tourism growth opened the area a lot and most locals speak English now, but Indonesian greetings are a nice way to break the ice. Throw in a smile and next thing you know, you’re friends with everyone!
Besides, you’ll love learning Indonesian words as some of them sound very cute to English speakers. Known as Bahasa Indonesia to Indonesians, Indonesian calls the dolphin lumba-lumba and the teeth gigi. Cute. Told ‘ya!
When and how should you say hello in Indonesia
Unlike other Asian countries that place a big emphasis on the culture of respect, Indonesia doesn’t necessarily use honorifics. Besides, just like in English, Indonesian greetings don’t have formal variations for elders or those of a higher social status.
Therefore, you’ll use the same greetings regardless of age, social context or status.
However, there are some things you need to remember. You won’t be sanctioned if you don’t respect the local etiquette, but it would be nice to offer your greetings to any older people present first, ideally without maintaining strong eye contact.
In fact, persistent eye contact is to be avoided when you shake hands as well. Unlike Westerners who like a firm handshake, Indonesians like their handshakes light and sometimes accompanied by a slight nod of the head.
Last but not least, if someone greets you using the wai gesture (slight bow with the palms put together in front of the chest), you can show respect towards their culture by returning the same gesture.
How to say ‘hello’ in Indonesian
If you want to say ‘hello’ in Indonesian, you can simply say halo. It’s short, sweet and almost identical to the English ‘hello’ you already know and use. Besides, it’s friendly and works great in most social situations.
In case you’re looking for a stronger conversation starter, you can also ask people about their day. “How are you?” is apa kabar in Indonesian.
On the other hand, if someone asks you how you are doing, you can say kabar baik, which means “I am fine” or “I am well”. Here’s what a basic conversation in Indonesian sounds like:
‘Hi’ in Indonesian
Made some new friends during your trip to Bali? When you meet them, you can also use the more informal hi, which is pronounced the same as the English “hi”.
Learning how to say ‘hello’ in Indonesian wasn’t that hard, was it?
Indonesian greetings for different times of day
Like most languages, Indonesian also has some specific greetings dedicated to different times of the day. While in English, we begin every such greeting with “good”, in Indonesian selamat is the word we use to wish people a “happy”, “peaceful” or “safe” day.
- Selamat pagi! — Good morning!
- Selamat siang! — Good day!
- Selamat sore! — Good afternoon!
- Selamat malam! — Good evening!
- Selamat tidur! — Good night!
The same way we say “morning!’ in English, Indonesians sometimes drop the selamat. This results in a very informal greeting that can be used with friends and family.
Determining the correct time of the day during which you should use a certain greeting is somehow tricky. However, most people will agree that selamat pagi is best used until 11 p.m. and selamat siang until 3 p.m. Selamat sore and selamat malam highly depend on the daylight so it’s best to adjust your greetings on the spot.
Naturally, selamat tidur is only used when someone is retiring for the night.
How to say goodbye
Similarly, you can use selamat tinggal if you’re ready to say ‘goodbye’ and leave. If you’re the one staying, you should say selamat jalan, which has no direct translation in English.
Supposing you’re aiming for something a bit more informal, you can say sampai jumpa (“see you later”).
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