That’s actually a tricky question. Here’s how it came up: Every thursday there’s always a colloquia and afterwards drinks are always provided. And then the Sterrewachters will have some informal talks about mostly anything. Because the Sterrewacht is a very international community, some of the dudes usually invites comparison. “The french said ‘salut’,” said somebody while the Dutch said “toast” and then they’re curious: What do Indonesians said when they’re toasting?

Okay…here’s my answers: we don’t said anything. We just drink and get drunk. Why so boring an attitude? Well, okay, we toast, we clink our glasses, we salute and congratulates each other, but is it Indonesian (or part of) tradition? I would guess that it is an adaptation from other cultures, presumably the western cultures. I don’t think we appreciate the value of alcoholic drinks because it’s so hot around here. Besides, most Indonesians actually aren’t allowed to drink, so this drinking tradition that we have hundred of years ago has probably diminished gradually.

Okay, I admit that that might not sound like an educated arguments. I was raised in a non-drinking culture, but the curious thing is: There are lots of alcoholic drinks in Indonesia, but I don’t recall people toasting to each other before they drink. Well, we have the term for the a toast which is bersulang, but I never hear any Indonesian dudes said that before they started consuming whatever they have in their glasses. Even if you see in a list of toast words in 50 languages, I swear that I’ve gone to lots of drinking session and never hear any Indonesian said, “Selamat minum.” If we want to toast, we just imitate our caucasian counterpart. Otherwise, we just drink straightaway.

I don’t really know about Indonesian culture of drinking, might be interesting to look at it, though. As far as I know, Indonesians do not have the tradition of social drinking, people drink to get drunk and have fun, but I’m not really sure anyway. Maybe in some areas where the drinking tradition still exist, there might be some words that they said (Indonesia is a big place anyway, and I haven’t traveled to many places there). The more interesting question is: is every culture have the tradition of toasting?

Anybody can illuminate me in this matter?

Written by Tri L. Astraatmadja

After living for 10 years in Europe as a Master's student, PhD researcher, and a postdoc, in 2016 Tri L. Astraatmadja moved on to the United States for a second postdoctoral appointment at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington DC. He is now in his third postdoc at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD.

3 comments

  1. hahahahaha that’s one of the question i encountered the most during my stay in europe. my friend (a romanian) even said, “there’s no way you have no word for that!” when i told him that indonesia doesn’t have the indonesian of “cheers” “prost” “kampai” “chinchin” or whatsoever there is. i never remember saying anything in indonesian before drinking (alcohol). i just say “cheers” in general, “prost” when i go out with my german friends or those who has learned german, or “kanpai” with my otaku friends.
    of course there’s indonesian way to say politely to someone when we gave them something to drink like “mari, silakan diminum” , but in english it would be more like “please drink it”. would it be something like “minum dulu yaaa!!” like what people usually say before they eat “makan dulu ya” which means “i’m going to eat (first)”… but it’s more a way to ask permission, since it’s rather impolite in indonesia if you were the only one eating. nevertheless, they are not the indonesian counterpart of “cheers”.

  2. I once tried, “Bismillah”, but it is not an original Indonesian or Malay word. Sometimes I use “Sukses” if it was celebrating a success or hoping for a success, but then again, it is rooted from “Success”, an English word.

    A friend of mine, a Jogjakartan, uses “Ngombe dab”, which is a slang for, “Drink itu up, bro.”

    Beside a silence with respectful look while we were raising our glass, I’ve heard (or experienced) “Salam”, “Selamat”, “Toss”, “Pis”, “Ashh prek!”, “Demi rakyat!”, “Lontong!”, “Nikmat”, “Alaamaak”, “Tambah”, “Mabuk”, “Gabuk”, “Sampai pagi…” (with a very high pitched tone), “Whhwaah!”, a gargle, and even a punch (from a too drunk police agent) accompanying a toast. Most of them are temporal, spontaneous, or conditional, and not too popular among Indonesian.

    So, culturally, Indonesian does not have toast word deficiency, there are in fact many of them, and you can create new word for it, or make up your own toast word. The problem is which one you want to use to represent Indonesia–such a big word. What Indonesian need is a convention, a pledge if it necessary.

    Hereby, I appeal the fourth Sumpah Pemuda (Youth Pledge):

    Kami, putra dan putri Indonesia berkata sulang satu: write down the chosen and agreed word here.

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