How to be "extra" in Indonesia, and other slang terms

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Learning a language in a classroom is one thing. Using that language in day-to-day life in your host country, however, will likely teach you all sorts of terminology that you’d never find in a textbook. From speaking with new friends and classmates to watching local movies and listening to music chances are you are going to come across slang that will help improve your fluency and ability to connect with people.

Remember that as you learn slang, it’s important to understand that the words you use with your friends might not be the same ones you use with professors, your host family, or figures of authority.

It’s important to note that while the primary language of business, government, and education is Indonesian, also referred to as bahasa Indonesia, the country is home to more than 700 local languages. You will likely hear a variety of other languages depending on where you happen to be. The slang described here is specific to bahasa Indonesia. It might even be specific to the capital of Jakarta and different from the slang used on the islands of Java or Bali. The ease of access to music, videos, and social media has most likely made slang terms more familiar across the country, but keep in mind that a word or phrase that you learn on one island might not be one used on another!

Here we highlight some words you might hear from your classmates or friends. Because so many languages are spoken across Indonesia, chances are a slang term is based on another word in another language, either mixed up or shortened. Take "woles," derived from the English word for "slow," and sabi, from another Indonesian word for "good" or "can"—"bisa."

  • "Lebay": exaggerated or over the top. What kids these days might refer to as “extra.”
  • "Mager": "too lazy to move." This might be used to tell your friends you don’t want to meet up. According to the website Culture Trip, “instead of wasting brain power meticulously crafting lies or excuses, simply say "mager"; they will understand.” (This could be a great one to know for days when you are experiencing culture shock and need time to be alone.)
  • "Nongkrong": hanging out with friends with no plan in mind. This is a great one to know for meeting up with new friends.
  • "Yuk, kuy, cabs": let's go. It’s important to know that there are multiple words or phrases that may mean the same thing—that way you aren’t thrown off when you hear different ones used.
  • "Woles": slow down, calm down, take it easy. What you might say to someone if you want them to “chill out.” Other similar words include nyantai, kalem, sans, or santuy.
  • "Sabi": This would be the same as saying “cool” in response to something.
  • "Balik": leaving. This one is also good to know for social interactions!

Are you familiar with any Indonesian slang? What are some terms you think are important to know? Tell us over on Facebook or Twitter!