Land of Cultural Diversity

July 31, 2018 | Susan Bachtiar


Every time I meet a foreign friend or relative, I am always questioned about the Indonesian culture. What is actually the culture of Indonesia? The question keeps making me think about our nation that is made of thousands of islands and hundreds of ethnicities, where each of them have their own unique customs and tradition. They even have their own languages and hundreds of dialects. I believe Indonesia is a country of cultural diversity. It is difficult for me to explain to friends and relatives about just what Indonesian culture is.

I spent some time looking for information about it on the official website of the Directorate General of Culture. From the website I found a fact that confirmed my belief. The website writes that there are more than 300 ethnicities in Indonesia, with more than 742 languages and dialects that still exist and developing, more than 64,000 archeological heritage, 749 cultural heritage, 4 world cultural heritage and 9 intangible cultural heritage recognized by UNESCO. It made me sure that cultural diversity cannot be simplified into one specific cultural entity, like the Javanese culture, Sundanese culture, Batak culture, and so on. The Indonesian culture is an entirety of the diverse culture, a union of a variety of ways and experience of life that keeps being inherited and correlating one another. The Indonesian culture, I conclude, is the result of dialogues of various cultures that lived and grew in Indonesia. And that makes me proud and grateful.



And then I started to ask myself, how could this fact about the diversity of Indonesian culture be known widely? I thought that perhaps the right way to introduce the diversity of the Indonesian culture to the world is through social media, especially now when almost every society in the world uses advanced technology with just one simple click. With social media, we usually could gain a lot of information or ‘leaks’ about beautiful places and unique cultural expressions in Indonesia. These leaks could come from, let’s say bloggers, Instagram celebrities or even our friends and relatives who post their holiday pictures. This way, we are made curious and we would be eager to see those unique cultural expressions with our own eyes.


There are a lot of places that are rich with their cultural strength, but have not yet gained public recognition. The Cinta island (the Love island) is just one of them. Who would have known that in North Sulawesi lies a beautiful island in the shape of a heart. The man-made island became sensational due to a post made by an Instagram celebrity. And in an instant people are now making this island as a holiday destination in their wish lists. The impact was not only felt nationally, it also made a lot of influence to international netizens. Another example is when I was travelling to Magelang, touring the village with a bicycle and posted it on my Instagram account. I also posted the unique tradition initiated by the villagers: ceramic making, as well as the traditional bean curd and tempeh making. All of the sudden my foreign friends asked me about the activity and they in turn wanted to visit Magelang themselves.



I believe that efforts to promote the diversity of Indonesian culture need to be done even more. The website has become one significant means in spreading those kinds of information. We need a website dedicated to record the diversity of the Indonesian culture.

Susan Bachtiar
Seorang presenter, model, guru bahasa Inggris, bintang iklan dan bintang film layar lebar Indonesia.

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