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Overseas Indonesians are people of Indonesian origin who live outside Indonesia. This term applies to people of Indonesian birth and descent who are citizens or residents of temporary status of a country outside Indonesia.

Overseas Indonesians
Total population
c. 8 million (2015)[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Malaysiaest 2,500,000 (2014)[2]
 Netherlandsest 1,800,000 (2013)[3]
 Saudi Arabiaest 1,500,000 (2014)[4]
 Singaporeest 200,000 (2010)[5]
 United States187,220 (2017)[6]
 Taiwan161,000 (2010)[7]
 Hong Kong102,100 (2006)[8]
 United Arab Emirates100,000 (2006)[9]
 Australia86,196 (2017)[10]
 Suriname74.000 (2010)[11]
 Japan49,982 (2017)[12][13][14]
 Philippines43,817 (2000)[15]
 Qatar39,000 (2013)[16]
 South Korea33,195 (2017)[17]
 Germany16,738 (2014)[18]
 Russia15,520 (2006)[19]
 Canada12,500 (2016)[19]
 United Kingdom9,624 (2011)[20][21][22][23]
 Macau6,269 (2012)[24]
 New Caledonia3,859 (2014)[25]
 Christmas Island981 (2010)[26]
 Cocos (Keeling) Islands410 (est 2014)[27]
Islam · Christianity · Hinduism · Buddhism · Irreligion
Related ethnic groups
Native Indonesians, Arab Indonesians, Chinese Indonesians


Since ancient times, people from various ethnic groups of Indonesia (then known as the Malay archipelago or "Nusantara") have been leaving their hometowns to various regions around the world. This is done usually for many purposes such as trade, education, labor, travel and many were sent for enslavement by the Dutch East Indies to their colonies in other parts of the world such as to Suriname, New Caledonia, and political dissidents who were against the Dutch colonization were sent to South Africa from Indonesia during the 18th century, and their descendants now are known as Cape Malays.[28] Some parts of the world's citizens also have Indonesian descent in them. Such as the Malagasy people are also known to be descendants from a group of Borneo seafarers who traveled all the way to Madagascar from the Malay Archipelago in the 7th-8th century during the peak of the maritime Srivijaya empire.[29]


The practice for going abroad has been motivated by the Merantau culture of the Indonesian people since ancient times. The merantau culture has been practiced by various ethnic groups of Indonesia such as the Minangkabau, Madura, Bawean, Bugis, Batak, Banjar, Javanese people for pursuing better opportunities abroad, this practice has been particularly done by men, but women are also usually involved. Merantau has been associated deeply with the Minangkabau people as a cultural way of life. A Minangkabau man at the time of young adulthood (20-30 years old) will be encouraged to go abroad according to the Minangkabau culture which the tribe has been adhering to since time in immemorial, it is usually a sign of manhood of the Minang people to accrue wealth, knowledge, and life experience.[30] Usually Minangkabau men who travel abroad develop trade and business. It can be traced since the 7th century, that Minangkabau merchants played a major role in the establishment of the Malay kingdom in Jambi where the region at that time was in a strategic position for trade as the Silk Road route passed through the region.

Other than the Minangkabau people, other Indonesian ethnic groups such as the Bugis, Banjar, Madura, Aceh, Batak, and Javanese also has been traveling overseas to gain opportunities, experience, knowledge, and versatility. Merantau though is not widely practiced by other ethnic groups of Indonesia.

Indonesians WorldwideEdit


Before Dutch and British sailors arrived in Australia, Indonesians from Southern Sulawesi have explored the Australia northern coast. Each year, the Bugis sailors would sail down on the northwestern monsoon in their wooden pinisi. They would stay in Australia for several months to trade and take tripang (or dried sea cucumber) before returning to Makassar on the dry season off shore winds. These trading voyages continued until 1907.[citation needed] Nowadays, mostly Indonesian whose reside in Australia are either foreign students or workers, the main ethnic group mostly are the Chinese from Indonesia. Furthermore, the Cocos Malays are descendants of native Indonesians were brought by the Clunies-Ross family to work in the copra industry in the 19th century.

Hong KongEdit

Indonesians are the second largest foreigner group after Filipinos, mainly working as female domestic helpers from Java Island. There are also several Chinese Indonesians families and students that reside in Hong Kong. Central and Wan Chai are the main districts that most Indonesians live in.


In 2013, approximately 20,000 Indonesians lived in Japan, including about 3,000 illegal Indonesians. These numbers dropped from the previous years for various reasons, including the high cost of living in Japan and the difficulty of finding jobs in Japan. Most of them are in Japan for short term and deportation remains high for Indonesian residents.


Malaysia shares a land border with Indonesia and both countries share many aspects of their culture, including mutually intelligible national languages. Populations have long moved between the areas which make up the modern-day states. Since the distinction between thre two regions emerged in the early 19th century, many people from Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra, and Sulawesi, which are located in modern-day Indonesia, migrated and settled in the Malay Peninsula and in Malaysian Borneo. These earlier populations have mostly effectively or partially assimilated with the larger Malaysian-Malay community due to religious, social and cultural similarities. Currently, it is also estimated that there are around 2 million Indonesian citizens in Malaysia at any given time, ranging from all types of background with a significant majority of them consisting of labour migrants, with a considerable number of professionals and students.


Indonesia was a colony of the Netherlands from 1605 until 1945. In the early 20th century, many Indonesian students studied in the Netherlands. Most of them lived in Leiden and were active in the Perhimpoenan Indonesia (Indonesian Association). During and after the Indonesian National Revolution, many Moluccans and Indo people, people of mixed Dutch and Indonesian ancestry migrated to the Netherlands. Most of them were ex-KNIL army. In this way around 360,000 Indo people (Indo's)and Totok's (white people) and 12,500 persons from Maluke ancestry were settled in the Netherlands. Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Denny Landzaat, Roy Makaay, Mia Audina, and Daniel Sahuleka are notable people of Indonesian ancestry from the Netherlands. These 372,500 first generation people and their 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation offspring account for some 1.6 million Dutch passport-holders. This is as much as about 10% of the overall population of the Netherlands.


Indonesians in the Philippines number anywhere from 43,871 to 101,720. They reside mostly in the island of Mindanao, in the Muslim parts with a noticeable community in Davao City that has an international school for the overseas community. They tend to be protective of their separate ethnic identity. Most are Muslims, while many others are also Christian, coming from Minahasan-speaking ancestry.


There are about 39,000 Indonesian citizens in the State of Qatar according to the Indonesian Embassy.[31]

Saudi ArabiaEdit

Islamic teachers from Indonesia in Mecca, 1955

Indonesian pilgrims have long lived in Hejaz, a region along the west coast of Saudi Arabia. Among them was Shaykh Ahmad Khatib Al-Minangkabawi who was from Minangkabau origin in Sumatra. He served as the Imam and taught at the Shafi'i school at the Grand Mosque in Mecca during the late 19th century.[32]

Many Indonesians in Saudi Arabia are domestic workers, with a minority of other types of labour migrants and students. Most of the santris (Islamic boarding school pupils) from Indonesia also have continued to pursue their education in Saudi, such as in the Islamic University of Madinah and the Umm al-Qura University in Mecca. A number of Indonesian expatriates in Saudi Arabia work in diplomatic sectors and local private and foreign companies, such as in the Saudi Aramco, banking companies, Saudia Airlines, SABIC, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Indomie, etc. Most Indonesians in Saudi Arabia reside in Riyadh, Jeddah, and all around the Dammam area.

Saudis of Indonesian descentEdit

There are Saudi citizens who reside in Mecca and Jeddah that are of Indonesian descent. Their forefathers came from Indonesia by sea during the late 19th century til the mid 20th century for pilgrimage, trade, and Islamic education purposes. Many of them did not return back to their homeland thus they decided to stay in Saudi and their descendants have become Saudi citizens ever since. Many of them also married with local Arab women and stayed permanently in Saudi. Their descendants today are recognizable with their family name originating from their forefathers' origins back in Indonesia, such as "Bugis", "Banjar", "Batawi" (Betawi), "Al-Felemban" (Palembang), "Faden" (Padang), "Al-Bantani" (Banten), "Al-Minangkabawi" (Minangkabau), "Bawayan" (Bawean), and many more. One of them is Muhammad Saleh Benten, a Saudi politician appointed by King Salman as the Minister of Hajj and Umrah.[33]

The former Indonesian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Gatot Abdullah Mansyur stated that 50% of Mecca residents are of Indonesian descent. This has been possible because of trade between the two nations, since the era of the Rashidun Caliphate with the Malay archipelago in the old times.[34]


The Malays in Singapore (Malay: Orang Melayu Singapura) make up about 14% of the country's population. Most of them came from what we know today as Indonesia and southern Malaysia. In the 19th century, Singapore was part of Johor-Riau Sultanate. Many Indonesian people, mainly Bugis and Minangkabau settled in Singapore. From 1886 till 1890, as many as 21,000 Javanese became bonded labourers with the Singapore Chinese Protectorate, an organisation formed by the British in 1877 to monitor the Chinese population. They performed manual labour in the rubber plantations. After their bond ended, they continued to open up the land and stayed on in Johore. Famous Singaporeans of Indonesian descent are the first president of Singapore Yusof bin Ishak, and Zubir Said who composed the national anthem of Singapore Majulah Singapura.

According to the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore, as of 2010 there are 180,000 Indonesian citizens in Singapore. As much as 80,000 work as domestic helpers/TKI, 10,000 as sailors, and the rest are either students or professionals. But the number can be higher as registering one's residence is not compulsory for Indonesians, putting the number to around 200,000 people.

South AfricaEdit

South KoreaEdit


People of Indonesian descent, mainly Javanese, make up 15% of the population of Suriname. In the 19th century, the Dutch sent the Javanese to Suriname as contract workers in plantations. The most famous person of Indonesian descent is Paul Somohardjo as the speaker of the National Assembly of Suriname.[35]


United Arab EmiratesEdit

United KingdomEdit

United StatesEdit

In the United States, most Indonesians are students and professionals. Boston University and Harvard University are examples of favourite universities for Indonesians. In the Silicon Valley region of Northern California, there are many professional Indonesian-American engineers in the high-tech industry that are employed in companies such as Cisco Systems, KLA Tencor, Google, Yahoo, Sun Microsystems, and IBM. Sehat Sutardja, CEO of Marvell Technology Group, is one of the successful Indonesian professional in the USA.[36]

In April 2011 the Special English service of Voice of America reported on a push for American universities to get more Indonesians to study in America as part of reaching out fast-growing economies like Indonesia in order to compete with students' preferred universities in Australia, Singapore, and Malaysia.[37]

See alsoEdit


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  8. ^ Media Indonesia Online 30 November 2006
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  12. ^ Sakurai 2003: 33
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  14. ^ Archived copy (PDF). Ministry of Justice. 13 April 2018. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-03-27. Retrieved 13 April 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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  19. ^ a b Census 2006
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  27. ^ CIA The World Factbook Retrieved 30 September 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
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  30. ^ "The Wanderers of Nusantara". Retrieved 29 September 2019. External link in |website= (help)
  31. ^ Snoj, Jure (18 December 2013). "Population of Qatar". Archived from the original on 22 December 2013.
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  35. ^ "English Not On Menu For Wednesday's Press Briefing". Malaysian National News Agency. 22 September 2005. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  36. ^ "Meet Marvell" (PDF). Forbes Magazine. 14 August 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 October 2006.
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