Awas!!! Polisi Tidur!!!

Have you ever been at a loss of words or thoughts when locals shouted out the above? Did you actually think a policeman is lying down on the road? If yes, then this article is for you.

The Indonesian culture, heritage and its history has helped shape new scripts and hilarious idioms which have been handed down from generation to generation. If you want to converse like a local and learn a few phrases to gain a sense of belonging, here you go:

Polisi Tidur

Can you guess what this phrase means? Literally, it’s ‘sleeping police’, but it’s actually Indonesian for speed bumps! Perhaps it’s because the inclined part of the road resembles a policeman sleeping and slowing down people from driving too fast.

Cuci Mata

You might think it means literally washing your eyes, but it doesn’t! ‘Cuci mata’ is what you do when you refresh yourself by looking at things you like, going to recreational or fun places or window shopping, or even checking out an attractive person. The act is compared to washing one’s eyes as it is refreshing and awakes you.

Hangat-hangat Tai Ayam

(Warm like chicken poo) Indonesians use this phrase to describe a person who’s only excited to do something at the beginning or when it’s just starting, and quickly lose interest and heart. It’s believed that chicken poo is only warm at the beginning and quickly becomes cold, hence the phrase.

Malu-malu Kucing

Malu-malu kucing, or literally ‘shy-shy cat’, is a phrase used to describe being shy or coy, usually in front of a crush or an attractive person.

Anak buah, kaki tangan

(literal translation- Fruit children, hands and feet.) They aren’t food nor body parts, these two phrases actually mean the same thing, which is an employee or assistant.

Masuk angin

This is arguably the most famous Indonesian phrase used to describe a condition when someone is not feeling well! They’ll mostly just jump to the conclusion that they are suffering from ‘masuk angin’ or ‘enter wind’ in its literal translation. Indonesians believe they’ll easily suffer this kind of sickness as a result of sleeping or being too close to a fan or air-con, or being caught in the rain. To relieve the symptoms (such as having a cold), they usually do massages or drink warm jamus

Telur mata sapi

How do you like your eggs? Omelets, scrambled, or sunny side up? If you’re staying in an Indonesian hotel and would like to request sunny side up for breakfast, the phrase is actually ‘telur mata sapi’. It literally means nothing close to sunny side up, it actually translates to ‘cow’s eye egg’. Nothing like what it actually is!

Babi buta

Babi buta means blind pig if you translate it directly. Actually, it’s a phrase used to describe a person lashing out in rage with no control.

Lapar mata

“Hungry eyes”, it means you easily crave for a certain food just by looking at it, or looking at another person enjoying it, then as soon as you buy it, you regret it because it turns out your stomach is not as hungry as your eyes.

Pedagang kaki lima

Despite a mistranslation, this phrase that means five-legged vendor came about during the Dutch colonial era. The pavement for roads during the time had to be 5 feet. Side vendors were called vendors of the five-foot paths. Somehow the words got mixed up and Pedangang kaki lima is what is the street vendors are called today.

Buah Bibir

Literally meaning lip fruit, this term means juicy information coming out of one’s month. Gossip and rumors surrounding a topic – be it about a celebrity, or exchanges about the community around.

Have a go at these words yourself and enjoy conversing in the local Bahasa Indonesia language!

Also, read EMC’s tips on getting settled in Jakarta

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