BATAM HISTORY AND CULTURE
Known Batam history and culture goes back a long time, as early Chinese settled in Batam and some of it’s neighboring islands as early as 231 A.D, due to it’s location along the East-West shipping trade routes. Batam and the surrounding region has been ruled by several different leaders, beginning with the Malacca Kingdom from the 13th century and later, in 1824 the Dutch and the English split the area and ruled it until it came under the power of the Riau Lingga Kingdom.
During the Second World War Batam was occupied by the Japanese, hence the name for Batam’s main city is Nagoya. Several other names of regions in Batam reflect the occupation of the Japanese, such as Muka Kuning (meaning “Yellow Faces”) which was named by locals at the time.
In the 1970s, Batam underwent a major transformation from a largely forested and unpopulated island into a major harbor and industrial zone, when it was set up by the Indonesian government as a trade free zone. The population quickly grew from a few thousand in the 1960s, into hundreds of thousands today. Located close to Singapore and having a much cheaper labour force, several Singaporean companies have established factories in Batam.
Batam is mainly known for its free trade zone area as part of the Sijori Growth Triangle, and being located approx 20 km (12.5 miles) south of Singapore, it attracts a lot of foreign investment The 715 km² (160 miles²) island had a population of approx 915,000 in December 2008, most of whom are Indonesian (85%) and Chinese (14%). The official language on the island is Indonesian, but due to the sizeable Chinese population, several Chinese dialects are spoken.
Now international standard hotels, as well as numerous budget hotels cater to the expanding demand for accommodation created by tourism. Where virgin jungle once stood are now whole new towns, mosques, churches, temples and supermarkets, as well as reservoirs with enough water to supply the growing population, an airport, a telecommunication system, well equipped industrial parks, and the beginnings of a large new urban center.
While all this change has taken place, Batam has retained pockets of rural charm, peaceful spots with quiet beaches. Fishing villages supply delicious fresh seafood to visitors. White sand beaches are fringed with palms and kampung life carries on almost undisturbed.
The native people of Batam are Malay origin, but with the rapid growth and development of the area, various ethnic groups from all over Indonesia have come here in search for jobs and a better life. Traditionally, most of the people live in coastal villages, while the "Orang Laut" (sea people) continues to live on boathouses and generally fish for a living. Some of their catches are sold to Singapore. 'Bahasa Indonesia' is the language used to communicate among the multi-ethnic population here, while many now also understand English, which is commonly used in business communication.
Even if Batam is multi-ethnic it is still the Malayan culture and Islam, which forms the root of the local culture. Both daily life and the ceremonies have religious and mythical elements, expressed in dance, music and other forms of art. Some of the most popular traditional dances are Jogi Dance, unique for Batam, Zapin Dance, which reflects strong Arabic influence, Persembahan Dance, to welcome honored guests and Ronggeng Dance, where the guests can be invited to come up and join the dance and song.The Mak Yong drama is a dance and song performance, which tells the story about a country named "Riuh", commonly believed to be the origin of Riau province name. This country is governed by a wise and popular king, who one day to his surprise and embarrassment is told that his princess have given birth to an animal called "Siput Gondang" (the gondang snail). Upset by this event he orders the newborn to be expelled to the jungle. A couple of years later he is told that the snail has begun to grow, and he asks for the snail to be brought to the Royal Palace where the shell is broken. To his surprise and joy he can see a beautiful princess appear from the broken shell, and he names her Putri Siput Gondang (Princess Siput Gondang), celebrations are then held for seven days and seven nights.
But also other cultures contribute to the Batam community, and in the Padepokan Seni Art Center in Sekupang we can see arts and crafts from all over Indonesia, as well as various kinds of performances, which are staged every day for the visitors and tourists. Another art center in Sekupang is Desa Seni Indonesian Art Village, its main objective is to "maintain, conserve and develop the Indonesian culture", and also to manage the Cultural Institute where qualified instructors conduct various shows and courses
Do’s and Don’ts
When visiting Indonesia, visitors should observe local customs and practices. Some common courtesies and customs are as follows:
Although handshakes are generally acceptable for both men and women, some Muslim ladies may acknowledge introductions to gentlemen by merely nodding and smiling.A handshake should only be initiated by ladies. The traditional greeting or salam resembles a handshake with both hands but without the grasp. The man offers both hands, lightly touches his friends outstretched hands, and then brings his hands to his chest to mean, "I greet you from my heart". The visitor should reciprocate the salam.
It is polite to call before visiting a home.
Shoes must always be removed when entering a home.
Drinks are generally offered to guests. It is polite to accept.
When receiving and giving things, including money, always use the right hand, however inconvenient it can be at times. Use only the right hand to eat food.
When eating with fingers, clean them in the water bowl provided for the purpose.
Wait until everyone has finished eating before you go to wash your hands.
If using a spoon and fork leave them backside up as a sign you have had enough.
Shoes must be removed when entering places of worship such as mosques and temples. Some mosques provide robes and scarves for female visitors.
Taking photographs at places of worship is usually permitted but always ask permission beforehand.
Toasting is not a common practice in Indonesia
The country's large Muslim population does not drink alcohol.
Don’t touch heads of males, females and even children, as it is considered offensive in the country
Placing the hands on the hips, even casually, is a sign of arrogance or anger.
The whole of the right hand is used for gestures to another person.
It is rude to place one's feet in such a way that the soles are facing another person.
Don't point at things with your feet.
Take off your shoes when visiting some one's home.
If you visit someone's house, you may be asked if you have already eaten. "Sudah Makan?" The polite answer is "Sudah" (Already).
But if a meal is spontaneously provided, it is impolite to refuse.
When leaving, it is polite to thank the wife, even if she has spent all evening in the kitchen.
And if a single woman is at home, one is expected to politely turn down an invitation to come in.
Avoid visiting Moslem homes during prayer times.
Men touching men and women touching women is commonplace and completely acceptable, but touching between the sexes is rarely done in public.
Don't throw things to anyone. It is more polite to hand it over, even if it means moving.
"Dress up" when visiting Government Offices. Use shoes, long trousers and shirt with collar. Short sleeves are ok. Women should not show their shoulders.
On the beach, nudity is not in line with religious beliefs. Western style swimsuits are considered outrageous. Please be modest. Use shorts when swimming. Women are better off using a t-shirt.
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