In general, the culture in Bengkulu province is largely influenced by Islam, but each ethnic group in the region has a unique cultural identity shaped by the ancient myths, the Malay heritages, the physical landscape, and the European colonialists. Islam was introduced to Bengkulu in the 12th century and gradually Islamic values blended with the traditional cultural practices.
Ikan sejerek – bereh secupak (lit. a bunch of fishes – a quart of rice), a popular Bengkulu-Malay expression which roughly means be thankful for what you have today and live a simple, peaceful, and content life. This expression reflects that there is a slower pace of life in every corner of Bengkulu province. Even the provincial capital city moves at a more relaxed speed then many western cultures. The people always seem not to be in a big rush to get things done. It is very common for the locals to take the opportunity to greet and talk to foreign travelers. Life in Bengkulu tends to be much less stressful, where drinking strong black coffee and smoking are popular pastimes for the people.
In Bengkulu province, especially in the rural areas, the kepala desa (village head) and the tetua adat (the traditional leaders and the elders) are still highly respected and valued for their cultural knowledge and leadership. They are frequently asked by the local communities to supervise, to make important decisions, and to give written or oral approval when needed. The old tradition of gotong-royong (mutual co-operation) and musyawarah (consensus) are still strongly retained and demonstrated by the people throughout Bengkulu. These values inspire the people to cooperate and work together to meet their community needs and interests.