FAQ About Indonesian Names

I often asked by citizens outside Indonesia, how are the system of our names. Is the name “Richard” is only single word and not followed by family name? Why is your family name different than your father? Is he your step-father? Why the phone-book is listed by first name and not the family name?

Is the name “Richard”, “Michael”, “Hendro”, and so on is only single word and does not have family name?

Yes, it is their full name. Single word name in Indonesia is very common. Even our first two president, Sukarno and Suharto only have single word name. Biological father and mother name is listed in the birth certificate (except for some extra-marital children) and not on any other documents. They will be listed as single-word name in their IDs (Citizen card, driving license, and passport).

In some countries like Germany and USA, their first name is often replaced with FNU (First Name Unavailable) or their last name is replaced by LNU (Last Name Unavailable) in legal documents like visa.

What about your name? Doesn’t it consist of two words? Is the last name of yours family name?

No, my name “Ardianto Satriawan” are both given name by my parents. My father name is “Bambang Arnowo”, our last name is different because it is not our family name. This is the most common name style in Indonesia right now, two or more name without familiy name. Indonesians never write separate First and Last names, the column of name is always single line.

This cause some trouble when we go abroad, for example in Japanese visa, it is necessary to write family name first, and we are forced to assume our last name is family name. I’m not comfortable when my name is written “Satriawan Ardianto”.

For women, In daily life, we address a woman with her husband name, for example my mother would called “Bu (Mrs.) Bambang Arnowo”. But nothing changed in legal documents, it still written with maiden name.

So, Indonesians does not have family name?

Not all, some ethnics have tradition about family name. North Sumatran ethnics, Batak, has patrilineal family name called “Marga”. Person with same family name could not marry each other. For example, “Fillino Tampubolon“, the name “Filino” is given name and “Tampubolon” is the family name. Also some ethnics in Celebes and West Sumatra have tradition about family name.

Some Chinese-Indonesian also have family name with some modification of their family name in Chinese to become naturally looks like Indonesian. For example “Huang” (黃) become “Wijaya”. They usually write their family name in the last. Some of them write family name as first name, like “Teo Fenny” and “Teo Fendy”

In legal purposes, family name is also treated like given name, like person with two or more given name. So, there is not any problem when the parents choose to remove the family name.

Is the name always written in roman?

Yes, all legal documents saying name is written in Roman. Chinese-Indonesian usually have two names, the one which written in Chinese and the one who written in Roman with Indonesian name style. This is due to Suharto banned Chinese names during his governance, although the ban has been removed, they keep the tradition.

Why there are a lot of person have “I” when I was in Bali? Is it an abbreviation?

No, it is their name (pronounced ‘e’). It is literally mean “son” in Balinese. Female equivalent is “Ni”, literally mean “daughter”. So “I Putu Risca Pramana Yudha” is complete name, not abbreviation.

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