Indonesia at a Glance
Living in IndonesiaiStockphoto
Indonesia's rich cultural tradition reaches back thousands of years.
With a population of over 251 million, Indonesia is the 4th largest country in the world. Bet you didn’t know that if you are planning on relocating to Indonesia, you will be living on the world’s largest archipelago, consisting of 17,500 islands.
Only 2/3 of the islands are inhabited, and scientists predict that about one to five hundred of them are threatening to disappear. Because of their multitude, these islands have much to offer in the way of diversity to those who spend their life in Indonesia. This diversity does not only concern local flora and fauna, but also includes Indonesia’s fascinating cultural history.
Indonesia: A Brief History
The first human being living in Indonesia was Homo erectus or “Java Man”, as he was coined. This fact places the origins of human life on the archipelago at about half a million years ago. As you can imagine, lots has happened and changed since the first known man living in Indonesia was found.
Life in Indonesia is characterized by a very turbulent colonial history. It became popular among European colonialists during the 16th century, when the desire for spices was strongest. At that time, the native people of Indonesia met the onslaught of Portuguese rule and, following close behind in the 17th century, the Dutch came.
The Dutch briefly lost the colony to the British, but regained their “possession” in 1816 and held on to it for quite a while. The Indonesians had quite a difficult time, as their colonial masters exploited them rather brutally. In the 20th century, the Indonesians began to tactically fight for their independence and fully gained it in the late 1940s.
In order to unify the ethnic mixture that Indonesia has become, the founding fathers of the modern state created a republic government. A brief attempt was made at a federal republic, but in 1949 it was decided that Indonesia was to be known as “The Unified Republic of Indonesia”. There are 34 provinces, which are each headed by a governor. The provinces are further subdivided into regencies and cities. The current president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has been in office since 2004.
Living in Indonesia will give you the feeling of being in a sort of melting pot. The official language is Bahasa Indonesian, modified from Malay, yet a multitude of other languages and dialects can be heard, as well. Other languages you might come across in Indonesia are English and, to a lesser extent, Dutch.
The Indonesian archipelago is home to hundreds of local languages and dialects. The most widely spoken of these is Javanese, which is also the name of the largest ethnic group in the country. The majority of Indonesians are Muslim (86%), with a small number of Protestants (5%), Catholics (3%), Hindus (2%) and others joining in the ranks.
As mentioned previously, there are over 251 million people living in Indonesia on an area of over 1.9 million square kilometers. The largest city is also its capital, Jakarta, with 10.1 million inhabitants in the official 2011 census. Indonesia’s largest island also contains the second largest city, Surabaya, and has 3.1 million people, while Bandung and Bekasi follow close behind, with 2.39 and 2.38 million respectively.