The phrase written in the title is a common phrase mentioned by Indonesian when their family,friends, relatives, even neighbors go for a trip or for a visit to another city. Oleh-oleh means souvenir or gift. So the phrase jangan lupa oleh-olehnya means don’t forget to bring me some souvenirs/gift. Instead of saying, “have a great journey” or “I hope you’ll have great time there” it’s common for Indonesian to say “Jangan lupa oleh-olehnya”
It is common in Indonesia to bring or buy in this case souvenir or gift when they visit a place. For a short journey out of town, someone can buy souvenirs for their family which is almost a must; close relative; or say neighbor. Say I leave my city to have a trip to nearby city. My landlady knows where I’ll go and also my sister of course, I will buy some snacks for the landlady and snacks and maybe T-shirt for my sister. I will also buy some snacks or cheap souvenir for friends at the office and maybe a bit fancy souvenir for my boyfriend. It’s not a surprising thing that when I arrive home the landlady will ask me, “Where have you been?” or “You just arrived? Where’s the souvenir?” It’s not rude or impolite but asking for souvenir is considered normal here. It is considered impolite if you don’t give people around you (even if they’re not close relatives) souvenirs.
I remember my last journey to the capital city, Jakarta with my father 3 years ago for a scholarship interview at the Indian Embassy. We went by train in the afternoon. During our stops there were many sellers offer local food, snacks, and other souvenirs from Batik shirt, calligraphy, to hat. We didn’t react and especially for me I was too busy with the book and material I’ve prepared for the interview. We arrived the following day in the morning. In the afternoon we took a train again to got back to Surabaya, the city where I live. I was so sleepy so that I slept during the journey. I woke up at about 4:30 am in the morning just few hours before we reached the destination train station.
To my surprise I found some plastic bags next to father’s seat. He bought many things for himself, for my grandma and aunts, and for the neighbors. He bought 4 shirts, 1 shorts, and many snacks for grandma and the neighbors. Those shirts weren’t for him, but for the neighbors too. He didn’t buy me anything. He offered me snacks but I didn’t like it. So though the neighbors didn’t ask him to bring them some souvenirs (coz my father is an old adult, and for sure the neighbors respect him and they didn’t ask for souvenirs) still my father bought them some souvenirs. It would be uneasy for him to get home without brought some things for the neighbors.
In fact, a few hours ago a friend of mine, who’s visited his parents in another island called me and he said he’s at the airport ready to return to Surabaya, where we live. I didn’t say or ask him anything but he said that he bought me something. And still, as Indonesian and being his close friend I asked him to bring me a t-shirt. Well, that’s our custom.
So don’t be surprised if you say you’re going to leave to another city for a trip and your fellow Indonesians will say, ”Really? Wow that’s great. Don’t forget to bring us some souvenirs”