It’s no secret that the millions of foreigners who visit Indonesia or retire to Bali fall in love with the country, but many also find love with local citizens.
While those in the throes of passionate love may think ‘love is all you need,’ the reality of partnering up with a local man or woman is much different. Marrying a local partner requires foreigners to take part in several legal procedures and observe cultural norms.
Here are just a few important things expats and foreigners must know before picking up an Indonesian partner.
1. Marriage in Indonesia
All marriages in Indonesia are overseen by Indonesian law via the Ministry of Religion and all couples are required to submit all necessary documents.
While Indonesia does not have strict regulations on wedding venues, many Muslim couples prefer to have their ceremonies conducted at the Office of Religious Affairs. Non-Muslim couples are required to submit a ‘Notice of Intentions to Marry’ to the Civil Registration for the marriage to be legalized.
Expats and foreigners who marry local partners should also keep in mind that Indonesian social norms require couples to hold wedding receptions and pre-ceremony photo sessions in addition to the ceremony itself.
On average, and Indonesian wedding reception ranges from Rp.150 million (US$11,200) to Rp.300 million (US$22,500), with at least 500 attendees.
2. Not everyone has the same privileges
For same-sex couples, the relationship can bring more headaches. While homosexuality is not strictly illegal, such as in Singapore and Malaysia, the province of Banda Aceh has recently sentenced two young gay men to public caning and a series of raids across the country has seen hundreds of men arrested.
Phelim Kine, Deputy Asia Division Director of Human Rights Watch, noted that Banda Aceh has been gradually adopting Sharia-inspired ordinances which criminalize same-sex relations, leading to the recent verdict.
Same sex marriage is not recognised by Indonesian law.
3. Legal agreements in Indonesia
Although marriage may seem an important goal for many Indonesians, expats and foreigners who marry in Indonesia are bound by certain legal agreements.
Prenuptial agreements which decide what happens should the marriage dissolve are a necessary step for protection of assets.
Expats should also keep in mind Indonesian law currently does not allow foreigners to own freehold property. In the event a local partner was to die, foreign partners are required to sell the property to another Indonesian citizen within 12 months.
4. Family is everything
Data shows that 43 percent of Indonesian women between the age of 18 years old to 34 years old still live with their parents and many will tell you how important family is in their lives.
Unlike in the West, an invitation to meet the family of a local partner can mean more than a casual family dinner. Likewise, the approval — or lack of it — from family can make or break a relationship.
Foreigners and expats should also keep in mind that Indonesians value loyalty to family and that loyalty shapes reputations. Family units are likely to make big decisions together and respect the advice of older members.
5. Premarital sex is taboo
Premarital sex in the West is now considered the norm, but the same cannot be said of Indonesians. While engaging in sexual activity is not uncommon, it is likely partners would want to keep it hidden.
When dating Indonesians, foreigners should keep in mind that a sexual rejection does not necessarily mean they are not into the relationship. With most families still fairly traditional, premarital sex can often be viewed as disgraceful and damaging to the family’s reputation.
6. Be aware of Indonesia’s rhesus
With most Indonesians possessing rhesus-positive blood type, those looking to have children together best conduct medical research as rhesus plays a significant role in the safety of babies.
If a mother with rhesus-negative blood — most commonly a Westerner — is pregnant with a rhesus-positive baby, the mother’s immune system develops an antibody to deflect rhesus-positive. So, for first-time pregnancies, rhesus incompatibility does not affect the child.
Later pregnancies can prove a problem with the mother’s antibody possibly attacking the child’s red blood cells. It is recommended couples seek medical advice.