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name Indonesia comes from the Greek words: Indos, meaning "Indian"
and nesos, which means "islands."
WARNING: Terrorist threats
continue in Indonesia, please read this
travel warning before going!
Although ethnically and culturally similar, the people of Indonesia only have one
true unifying factor, which is that their way of life is and always has been based
on geography. As a nation consisting of thousands of islands the people are and
have been divided over time, leaving each island to establish its own culture, way
of life, foods, and linguistic dialects. Among the similarities across the country,
ethnicity and religion are the most important as majority of the people today are
The islands of Indonesia vary in size, population, and geography as some are quite
fertile, others somewhat dry, and others nothing but volcanic rock. Each also has
differing plants and animals as well as nearby sea conditions and currents. All
of these factors have made each island fairly unique and some islands, such as Borneo
and Sumatra are so large they have dozens of cultures on each. These differences
are what make Indonesia the country it is today.
Today the people on most of the islands continue to live in a manner similar to
the way they have in the past: living off of the land and the sea. However, there
are growing changes in the country; for example, on some of the larger islands cities
have arisen and urbanization is occurring at a fairly rapid pace. This urbanization
and changes in technology, communication, and transportation have made cities in
Indonesia the new immigration centers as this is where the jobs are being created.
While life now is similar to what it was in the past for many people, urbanization
is slowly changing, and driving changes in the culture. Today all the diversity
is becoming slowly muted as technology is creating a more unified and homogenous
culture. Through this process many people are abandoning their past way of life
for economic opportunities or are forgetting cultural aspects of their island in
exchange for a more uniform culture throughout the islands. Many aspects of the
local cultures and linguistic dialects are being abandoned for the comfort and ease
of life in the modern age, which is giving the country a much more unifying culture,
but is also a country losing much of its rural past.
Although the people are becoming more similar culturally and linguistically, from
an occupational viewpoint, there is only a shift in percentages as more people are
working in cities to take industrial or business jobs, leaving life farming or fishing
behind. However, these villages and farms are still occupied and the working population
continues to survive in many rural areas. While in some ways the culture is becoming
more uniform, in other ways the lifestyle and economic opportunities are growing
further and further apart from rural to urban setting.
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