Indonesian Contributions: DID YOU KNOW?

This article focuses on a few of Indonesian American’s contributions to our lifestyle, business, and culture. For example, did you know?


• Regions in the US with significant Indonesian American populations include Southern California, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., Seattle metropolitan areas; San Francisco bay area, Los Angeles, Overland Park; and Greater Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and El Paso.

• Indonesian international students came to the US beginning in the 1950s to pursue a higher education at the University of California, Berkeley.

1. What are some of the Indonesian contributions to business? 

Indonesian products have integrated into the American marketplace. Following are highlights. (Refer to https://www.embassyofindonesia.org/index.php/top-sectors-trade/ for more information.)

• Indonesia is a key US supplier for superior quality seafood, coffee, tea, cocoa, coconut, and spices such as cinammon and vanilla beans.

• Shrimp, tuna, and tilapia are the top three products imported seafood imported to the US in frozen form.

• Single-origin coffee – Sumatra, Bali, Papua, Toraja and Java – are in demand in the coffee market; and the exotic taste of its Luwak coffee commands extra-premium prices.

• Indonesia is the sixth larger producest of tea worldwide with black tea and green tea leading in its worldwide exports.

• Indonesian furniture has a rich history and the US imports its unique furniture made from rattan, bamboo, teak and plywood.

• Indonesian textile and apparel manufacturers have surpassed international standards with ISO 9000 and 9001 certifications. The US imports knit and woven apparel made of cotton and synthetic blends, footwear, and Indonesian batik, which is the trademark of Indonesia’s textile industry.

• In October 2015, Indonesia and the U.S. agreed to expand and enhance its cooperation into a Strategic Partnership which focuses on six areas of cooperation: Maritime Cooperation; Defense Cooperation; Economic Growth and Development; Energy Cooperation; Increasing Cooperation on Global and Regional Issues; and People to People Contacts. (https://www.embassyofindonesia.org/index.php/bilateral-relations/)

2. What are some of the Indonesian contributions to lifestyle in the U.S?

• Tempeh, a fermented soybean cake sold in health food stores, was developed by an Indonesian fermentation technique.

• The Batik of Indonesia based on applying a wax-resist dyeing to the cloth is among the best known batik fashions.

• Shiva-Buddha Temples found in San Antonio, TX and other places in the US, are based on the Hindu-Buddhist religious doctrine developed in ancient Java to promote religious tolerance between Shivaist and Buddhist.

• Bioplastic cassava, a biodegradable plastics made from cassava starch, was invented by Avani Eco startup based in Bali.

• Indonesian Americans predominantly practice Christianity. Some practice Islam, Hindu Dharma.

3. What are some of the Indonesian contributions to American culture?

• A variety of restaurants serving Indonesian cuisine can be found in Houston and other major cities.

• Although many notable Indonesian Americans have made contributions to our entertainment, business, sports and lifestyle, here are a few highlights:

o Julia S. Gouw, President of East West Bancorp

o Sehat Sutardja, CEO of Marvell Technology Group

o Ivan Taslimson, Microsoft executive & Solstice Group co-founder

o Rudy Gunawan, world champion badminton player

o Tony Gunawan, world champion, Olympic gold medalist, and badminton player

o Chris Limahelu, American football player

o Tom Mastny, baseball player, Cleveland Indians and Florida Marlins

o Joey Alexander, jazz pianist and pianist child prodigy

o Michelle Branch, Grammy-winning singer and songwriter

o Mark-Paul Gosselaar, actor who was lead in 1998 film Dead Man on Campus and a variety of television shows

o Tania Gunadi, Indonesian-born Hollywood actress who is best known for her roles in The Jetsons (2017), Scooby Doo (2016), Snow Bride (2015), and other films.

o Karenina Sunny Halim, model, Miss Indonesia at Miss World 2009 who placed in top 5 for Miss Beauty with a purpose.

o Steven Ho, martial artist and actor who is well-known for his stunt work as Donatello in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993), and his role as “Chan” in Mortal Kombat (1995).

o Rory Leidelmeyer, bodybuilder and stuntman who was former Mr. America and appeared in Shaquille O’Neal film Kazaam.


Compiled by: Susanne Rothschild, MBA, PMP  |  President, The Rothschild Corporation

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