It has long been claimed that the facilitation of intercultural communication is one of the more valuable services applied anthropology can offer the layman. Yet in the course of their researches ethnographers often encounter—and put to use—customs, conventions, and rules of etiquette pertaining to communication, but neglect to publish descriptions of them because of their apparent triviality or lack of broader ethnological interest. As a result others are denied a valuable source of information that might enable them to avoid giving offense or otherwise improve communication across cultural boundaries. As an example of the kind of information that might be useful to the layman, I offer the following brief (and somewhat tentative) description of some nonobvious conventions pertaining to the writing of letters in Indonesia. The data presented here were collected from among several welleducated university students in Yogyakarta, Central Java. The informants represented Javanese, Sundanese (West Java), Madurese, and Ngadha (Central Flores) ethnic groups. The data were later checked again with several Bimanese (East Sumbawa) high school students. Some of the conventions described may be assumed to be generally understood throughout literate Indonesia. Others are restricted in use to adolescents and young adults and are subject to regional variation. By and large these conventions may be seen as stemming from a Javanese cultural base, and built on the wider, more complex Javanese system of color symbolism. They are primarily understood and used by those people most engaged in the Javanese-dominated national culture they seek to emulate, that is, those who have attended high school or a university.

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