Mittwoch, 12. September 2012

Weird facts about Indonesia

Some of the facts, habits, traditions I discovered about Indonesia that made my jaw literally drop:
  • There are no rubbish all! In Padang you can see collected garbage on the street, and regularly some people burning them. Imagine the smell.
  • Smoking is permitted and common almost everywhere. Inside public transportation, public places, restaurants and generally everywhere.
  • Young people are literally addicted to their phones. 99% have Blackberry, and they stop texting their friends only when they sleep. It’s common to see people hang out in a café together, and all of them melt their fingers on their phones instead of talking. 
  • Reaction to foreign people. If you are white and want to feel like a celebrity, just go to Indonesia. I have encountered various reactions: people shouting “bule” (white person), “hello mister” (even if you are a girl!), or just any sound to get your attention, people following me, taking pictures of me, cars stop in front of me, the most extreme were some boys on motorbikes following me and my friend for more than 10 minutes trying to show off with their non-exsisting english be famous can be really hard...and annoying sometimes.
  • Traffic. Crazy, it seems like there are no traffic rules. motorbikes in every direction, a few traffic lights and zebra lines. honking the horn is kind of the national sport. Everybody honks constantly, the taxis for attracting people to get into the car, the cars to announce that they're going to overtake another car or just for fun.
    almost impossible to cross the street if you don’t have guts.
  • It’s totally normal for boys to spit in public.
  • Indonesian English. The few people who CAN speak English, are sometimes hard to be understood because bahasa Indonesia doesn’t have verb tenses, just present, so in English they use simple present to talk about past, present and future. Also they don’t have genders, so they usually use he instead of she and the opposite. Quite confusing!
  • The Indonesian way to celebrate birthday: friends gather, cake, candles and… eggs on the head of the birthday boy/girl! (luckily I will not be here during my birthday!)
  • Most of the people believe in ghosts, and for that reason they never turn off the lights, even when they sleep!
  • Animals inside the house are totally ok, especially cats can be found inside every household (and shop and hospital), but also you can find pets like fish, turtles, birds, monkeys, lizards. You can commonly find other kinds of “pets”: ants, mosquitoes, cockroaches, weird bugs and rats!
  • Food. It’s normal to eat fruit salad with mayonnaise and banana with chili or cheese! Rice and noodles are used for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Everything is spicy and the dishes are combination of rice/ noodles/ chicken/ beef/ veg. Nothing more, nothing less.
  • It’s impolite to eat, shake hands, give money to someone with your left hand. Challenging as I’m left-handed;) This habit is based on the fact that people here don't use toilet paper, instead they rinse it with water using the left hand. The left hand is concidered to be unpurified hand.
  • Toilet. 99% of houses and restaurants have “primitive” toilets, just a hole in the ground with no flush. They never use toilet paper.Only the bucket with water or fancy style: kind of small shower head
  • Shower. 99% of houses don’t have normal showers or bathtubs, just big buckets with water and smaller ones with which you can throw water on yourself and bath. The water is always cold. Perfect after a typical hot Indonesian day.
  • Indonesian time. Indonesians have a more “take it easy” perspective about time and punctuality. When you say for example you will meet your Indonesian friend at 4 pm, be ready to wait from 30-120 minutes (sometimes more).
  • Indonesian (and Asian in general) people want to be as white-skinned as possible(opposite to Europe),so they avoid the sun in every way they can (umbrella, jackets during summer). You can even find “NIVEA whitening” in pharmacy.
  • It’s not respectful if you touch the head of someone who is older than you.
  • to greet a older person you take their hand and put in against your forehead. 
  • Typical Indonesian families have at least 3 children. Everyone is surprised when I tell I only got one brother.
  • Family and freedom. The parents have huge influence on the children lives, like choice of studies, husband/ wife, religion. Most of the families are (extremely) conservative in matter of clothing, prayer etc.
  • muslims pray 5 times a day
  • you are advised to be home no later than 9pm. The sun sets at 7pm.
  • The culture of “what the society will say” is very wide spread. So the fear of doing or behaving the wrong way, in class, in student organisation or even among friends is great
  • Food is extremely cheap compared to Europe, you can buy full dinner with soup, main dish, juice for 3 euros or even less. And it's always really tasty.
  • Local transportation. Ankots are small buses with fancy decoration ( stuffed animals, lcd tv, hi-hi systems), super loud music (you can hear everthing from Indian music to house and electro music, and traditional Indonesian to Celine Dion and Backstreet Boys), you don’t wanna know how they manage to move and u pray for your life everytime, crazy drivers, and the ridiculous fee of 2.000 rp (less than 1/6 euro) for regular distance. 
  • In West Sumatra when a couple is married, the property goes directly to the wife. The groom has to move to the wife’s house and not the opposite.
  • Traditional medicine is very common, suggested even by medical doctors. (traditional massage, herbs etc)
  • It’s cheaper here to buy land and build your own house, than live in an apartment. In fact, apartments are considered the most fancy and prestigious place to live!
  • It’s illegal for man and woman to kiss in public, it’s also illegal for not married man and woman to rent a hotel room together. Boys are not allowed to enter girl’s room without permission.
  • No privacy. People want to be around others all the time. Even when they sleep they prefer sleeping together (up to 5 people) in one bed. The night is also not considered a time you should respect the slep of other person, so it’s common to chat loudly or listen to music in the room, while others are trying to get some precious sleep.
Just a few discoveries...
I did not believe it in the first place, but you get used to (almost) everything :)


  1. For the 4th point (not include some boys on motorcycle and cars stop in front of you , i hate that too) if we doing that, thats mean we just want to be friendly, and about the people who greet you with saying "hello mister" even you're a girl thats because they don't know the difference and the meaning between mr and msr or lady, English education here unrealized well

  2. Wow, you're the second person I know in Indonesia about taking pics, people staring at you, etc. My 1st grade teacher also too, she was at the zoo, and people took pics of her, and a woman gave her a baby to carry, and my teacher carried, and she took pictures with the baby. She likes it.