The Betawi are considered the original inhabitants of Jakarta. They are often called “Jakarta People, Batavi, Batawi, or Jakarte.” They originated from the mixture of peoples who arrived in Batavia (Jakarta’s historical name), and they have occupied the port city since the 15th century. The authentic Betawi people can be found in the outlying areas of Jakarta, such as in Pasar Minggu in South Jakarta, in Condet in East Jakarta, and the area of Kampung Sawah in Bekasi, West Jawa.
Betawi culture is a treasure trove of color, tradition, song, dance, clothing, cuisine, language and dialect. The culture thrives today due to government policy to enhance the cultural identity of the original inhabitants of the city, and prevent their traditions being buried beneath a tide of modernization. There are annual parades and other celebrations in which three-meter tall Betawi mascots (ondel ondel) – are seen delighting the crowds with their large masks and tinsel-sprinkled headdresses.
The language of the Betawi has been adopted by the fashionable younger generation of Jakartans from all ethnic origins, whereas the more formal Betawi Malay is only spoken by the more conservative older generation Orang Betawi.
In the inner city, the Betawi live as traders, civil servants, laborers, craftsmen or private employees. In the outskirts of the city (such as Jagakarsa, Cirasas, Cilangkap) most Betawi have agricultural occupations as fruit growers, rice farmers, or fishermen. Their farmland is gradually decreasing because much of it is sold for housing developments, industry, and other modern uses. Consequently, the farmers are changing jobs for more urban work such as laborers, traders, and motorcycle taxi drivers. It is difficult for the Betawi to be separated from their family. If they are in their hometown and experiencing difficulty, they can request financial assistance from their family members. This situation sometimes gives the impression that they are less industrious in seeking a livelihood compared with outsiders.