Forms Of Address - Part One
"BAPAK/PAK" and "IBU/BU"
Indonesians have a very strong sense of social hierarchy - particularly as it relates to 'age.'
Westerners frequently use "forms of address" only to denote the 'social status' of the person they are dealing with (often placing little importance on the person's 'age.') If 'Sam Smith' is a clerk in the office, then he will generally be referred to as "Sam" (regardless of his age). If he is the company CEO, then he will generally be referred to as "Mr Smith."
Like Westerners, Indonesians use "respectful" forms of address when dealing with someone of a higher social position. But, they also use these same respectful forms of address when dealing with ANY PERSON of an older age.
In Indonesian culture, younger persons are always expected to pay deference to those who are older than themselves, whether those older persons be high-ranking executives or vendors on the street!
Bapak or Pak is the most common way of addressing an adult male in Indonesian. It is used very much like "Mr" or "Sir" in English. It is appropriate for addressing all men 35 years of age or older . . . and is ESSENTIAL when addressing any man you perceive to be older than yourself.
Ibu or Bu is the equivalent of 'Bapak' or 'Pak' when dealing with women.
In Indonesia, it is considered quite offensive to address someone older than yourself without a proper form of address. So, if you really want to fit into Indonesian culture, never forget the importance of 'AGE' in all your interactions.
Always use 'Bapak' or 'Pak' when dealing with men you perceive to be older than yourself. Always use 'Ibu' or 'Bu' for older women. (e.g. "Halo Pak," "Halo Bu," "Halo Pak Joko, "Halo Bu Rita.") Use these respectful terms liberally, sprinkling them throughout your conversations, and you will make older Indonesians very happy.
In Indonesian, 'Bapak/Pak' and 'Ibu/Bu' are used before one's first name (not his/her last name). If a man introduces himself simply as "Joko," then he may be referred to as "Bapak Joko" or (more commonly) "Pak Joko". A woman named "Rita" would be "Ibu Rita" or (more commonly) "Bu Rita."
If you do not know or forget someone's name, just address him/her as "Pak" or "Bu"(or "Bapak" or "Ibu".)
In professional or business environments, 'Bapak/Pak' and 'Ibu/Bu' are generally used to address all colleagues (whether they be younger persons, contemporaries and older persons).
'Bapak/Pak 'and 'Ibu/Bu' are also the Indonesian terms for "Father" and "Mother."