For me Indonesia is an unfamiliar home zone and just like everything else in this world, there’s the good and the bad side of it. Below I list the ups and downs of being in Indonesia. I guess people who live or have ever live in Indonesia — and vice versa, Indonesian who live and have ever lived aboard — would understand the humor of it.
Funny Things and Everything I Don’t Understand or Am Not Used-To
depends on the perspective 😉
- The very humid air. Every time I got off the plane, I always think how do I breathe here again? Miraculously, I know how to after the first 5 minutes passed.
- Everything is with whitening. I shall never forget to bring enough skin care for my stay, because it’s like a mission impossible to find skin products that do not contain whitening chemicals. Even the western brands sold in Indonesia include whitening agent in their products. Everyone wants to have fair skin here — while in my humble opinion, all they should care is having a healthy skin and avoiding skin cancer.
- Bule hunters are not fiction characters from a book. Bule is originally means a skin condition when people or animal have very little to none pigments. But nowadays, it’s the nickname for the light-skinned Caucasians. Chinese and Korean with light skin don’t fall into this category. Bule hunters are those who blindly and desperately hunt Caucasians to be their spouse, hoping that their foreign currencies will allow them to live a lavish lifestyle in Indonesia and to eventually live aboard (which they think will be a glamorous life). I met one my self while I visited Goethe Haus in Jakarta, she said she was already married to her German guy she met at Skype and applying visa to relocate to Germany, but was intrigued to find a French husband instead because she prefered to live in Paris. Absurd much? There are blog posts about this matter, and they are all just too funny. To name a few: Dear Bule Hunter, Bule Hunter, and Minta bule dong. The stories are inevitable and funny, but unfortunately, they are written in Indonesian only.
- White skin means being privileged. I really don’t know where this seemed-to-be common opinion comes from. Maybe because having lighter skin means you’re not a field labor and thus means you’re not on the lowest rank of bias and false concept of hierarchy. Maybe because the Netherlands had ever colonized Indonesia and the taste of white privilege is burned in their mind.
- Exaggerating politeness to the elders vs. casual rudeness to everyone else. Lately, I came across a new trend in Indonesian youth to greet the elder by bowing a little, grab the elder’s hand, then touch it to their forehead. I observed that those youth are rather from middle and upper class family and are in their late teenage or early twenties, is this now a new way to show their family social status? Or is it the influence of the overly dramatic sinetron (Indonesian soap opera) that skyrocketed during 1990s-2000s, where stepmoms/mother-in-laws/aunties are fierce and vicious? This very enthusiastic gesture is such a contrast compared to their behavior with everyone else, including their own parents. Sadly though, not only the young adult but also the real adults don’t have a healthy and fair concept of manners — cleaning ladies, waiters, or even their office employees are treated like they owe their life to them. Well, if you are Caucasian employer, you are treated like a king — see point 4.
- Pedestrians are on the lowest hierarchy on the streets. Firstly, sidewalks are non-existence. Secondly, if they somehow exist somewhere in the city, it is already beaten up by I really don’t know what, maybe by the weather, maybe by the reckless drivers, maybe by the corrupted fund for public infrastructure. Anyway, despite of zebra cross, it’s hard to cross the streets in Indonesia — sometimes you just have to put your chin up and walk (ideally while starring angrily at the ignorant and arrogant car drivers) 😛
- Personal space vs. ruthlessness. Most people just don’t mind to bump and cut the line. I really love my personal space while walking or riding public transportation, but mostly they don’t care about that personal bubble surround you. They also tend to forget their proud of the so-called Indonesian manners and politeness, and easily cut just about anyone while standing in line.
- How to treat a rude waitress while you want to stick to your manners? While people with money, style, and thirst for validation become rude customers to the waiters, suppressed waiters become rude to polite and civilized customers. Believe me I don’t really get this either, it’s just so ridiculous. But through my observance, I got the impression, that they become trained to profile their customers — but sadly, “good-natured” and “civilized” are categorized as weak and can’t have money. LOL.
- People actually asked me to cook an authentic German and European dishes, and when they tried the original pasta sauce I made from scratch they can not appreciate it. I made my sauce with fresh tomatoes, garlic, oregano and basil while they are used to the adapted Indonesian style, made from tomato ketchup, flavor enhancer, chicken broth and salt. I also made Rinderroulade (German beef roulade) and they didn’t touch it for it seems like an Indonesian dish (?). Fortunately, other time, people with more original western food experience can appreciate the originality and the freshness of the food I make. I know that people have different taste but please don’t waste my time and money for such an act. FYI, the ingredients are imported and expensive and only found in certain places.
Fun Facts and Everything I Love in Indonesia
- The food. The many spices, herbs, veggies and fruits allow Indonesians to create a wide variety of culinary delights. You have really missed something if you visit Indonesia and all you ate was nasi goreng. Well, I have to admit my stomach has to adapt to the new food and environment first but after a week or two I’m good.
- The Indonesian pine forests. The Indonesian hills and highland are just not the same like the European encounters, here you really have to go rather far from the city to find nature. But nothing can beat the scent of fresh air after the rain in the forest. It is where I wanna sleep and wait for the stars to shine.
- I love rain forests. For the same fresh scent after the rain reason and also because rain forest doesn’t exist in Germany nor Europe. I love the many varieties of plants and trees, the wide leaves and the vivid nuances of green.
- The beaches. I love being able to run into the water and swim away then watch sunset in the evening while eating off banana leaf. Bali is such a sweet childhood memory.
- The Indonesian humor. The German humor is rather dark and dry, which I like. But I also like the easy and light Indonesian humor. People love to joke around all the time. In the right place with the right peers, you can easily engage in conversations and jokes.
- Eating out day and night, anytime I like. Unlike Germany, eating out in Indonesia is very affordable and there is always street vendors, or some bistro and café open after midnight in big cities. I think a lot of Indonesians never learn to cook because they have the convenience to buy their meals easily and cheaply. Even in residential area you can find vendors walking with the carts selling food.
- Movie tickets are cheap compared to Germany. The movies are shown in the original language with Indonesian subtitle, isn’t it cool! I also love the popcorn. I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I just love a good American caramel popcorn. I don’t like going to a certain cinema though, the staffs are wrapped like flight attendants and they put a good old advertising fake smile while bowing their head to you. My experiences are, they are the rudest employees in the industry (well, don’t forget: except to white people.)
- Escaping winter. November in Europe is rainy and gloomy but busy, December has the charm of Christmas, the first week of January people still get hangover from the many Christmas and New Year’s parties, from that point on to springtime is just long and rainy — or if it’s still snowing I’m already tired of cold, wet, white winter. So tropical countries like Indonesia is a good escape in February or March, plus it’s not yet a peak season!
- The many kinds of Sambal (Indonesian chili sauce). I know, I wrote The Food at point 1, but Sambal got to have a specially dedicated place in this list. It goes by the name Sambal Oelek in Germany, while it’s a general name for stone-ground chili sauce, they have a lot of variants in Indonesia. Sambal Hijau, Sambal Teri, Sambal Goreng, Sambal Bajak, Sambal Oncom. I couldn’t eat spicy food but someone trained me so well, I’m just addicted to it now.
So there goes my first batch of my funny little list. I tried to be fair and wrote even numbers for each list. However, I still have a lot of points written somewhere in my diary, so stay tune for the next post if this one entertained you 😀
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