Ethnics and Culture
West Sumatra is inhabited by the Minangkabau ethnic from predominant Malaysian origin with significant Indian and Chinese influences.
The Minangkabau are one of the last populations to live in a matrilineal organisation, in strong contrast with the dominant religion Islam.
Other significant religions are also numerically consistent: Christian (30%) and Buddhist (8%).
The official language is Indonesian, while people actually speak Bahasa Minang, the local dialect. English is practically unknown and used only by the educated classes. The cultural influence of the colonisers, Portugal and Holland is hardly felt.
The traditional Minang architecture is characterised by impressive roofs, the opposite ends of which raise to the skies in memory of the victorious buffaloes battle that once opposed Minangkabau and a neighbouring prince.
Sadly to Western eyes, such architecture is progressively vanishing and reserved to official or religious monuments.
Beautiful specimen can still be seen, in particular in Bukittinggi area up in the hills.
While Islam here is a very moderate one, it is recommended to ladies visiting villages or traditional markets to wear a shirt covering the shoulders and pants or shorts covering knees. More on Minangkabau culture and history : Wiki Minangkabau