Just a couple of days after my 5 months anniversary of my Indonesian experience. These months have been really, really intense!
I was eager to start my Asian adventure and I was expecting a huge cultural shock, which actually happened (it always does when traveling)! On one hand, landing in the airport in Jakarta, I felt immediately extremely familiar to these people here, on the other hand, their behavior and reactions are different…
Indonesia is a fascinating destination and I wasn’t ready for it, at all! Well, I believe it is hard to be totally prepared for another culture, there will always be things that will get you out of the comfort zone …
Which is actually good! It is great to be out of your comfort zone because this is when u grow! And that is what I am experiencing: I am growing and I am becoming stronger! I am transforming and I get to know myself better and better… And you go through this especially when you don’t speak the language, so you get to spend a lot of time by yourself and you just observe yourself… It is a must! And this is why I love traveling and I believe that everybody should travel! You realize that, despite the cultural differences, you are not so different from the others… and as a side note, what I mean by traveling as a way to inner enrichment is not going to all-inclusive places or going to the spa 24/7, but mingling with the locals and observing their way of living without judgments. For sure you will be uncomfortable at times and that’s the perfect time to start reflecting upon your own lifestyle and eventually, you’d realize that there is no good or bad approach to life and that life just is and it’s perfect.
After 5 months of observing Indonesia and mingling with the locals, these are some insights, in a nutshell:
- Indonesia is not “poor”. Before coming here, some of my friends asked me about my choice of going to a poor, un-developed country (yes, this is the stereotype – face palm). Now that I got to know this geography better, Indonesia is an amazingly rich tropical country with a rich soil (just as a note, there are two crops of rice produced per year) and a wide range of other natural resources, with a sum of unique cultures. Therefore, it’s always been a magnet for invaders and colonists… The problem of today is of course, the big inequalities in the distribution of wealth among people. The proportions are met again, here: 20% of the people control 80% of the resources of Indonesia. The takeaway from this: do your own field trip research, have your own first-hand experience, instead of just labeling.
- Being considered undeveloped in the Western standards of today, can be quite a good thing! When most people lack material things, they turn their focus to spirituality.When there is no concept of social security, living in the NOW becomes the predominant lifestyle. Therefore, death is approached differently here: with much ease and lack of attachment to a body, to a status or to worldly things that are just meant to decay.
- Indonesian are the MOST friendly people on Earth! They are very warm, open and kind. They really want to help you! Such as this guy to whom I asked some directions and he just offered to drive me there … They are really noisy and they laugh a lot! I mean they express themselves freely and it feels like they are enjoying their life to the maximum.
- Being a collective society, they don’t have the notion of private space: they start talking to you at any moment, they look into the monitor of your computer, they ask you if you have a boyfriend (and if you say you don’t, they offer to hook u up with somebody haha), they would even read your diary if they could… They just have different perception over the public/private space dichotomy. What I like about this collective type of society is the importance they give to the family: Family is everything!
To end it on a funny note, ever since I arrived here I have a different identity: I am a “bule”. “Bule” is the name given to white people. For most of them, Bule= white, rich, with beautiful long noses … and famous!! … This bule label comes with advantages and disadvantages, it depends on how the Indonesians look at it. Therefore, if you are white, you are a kind of superstar here: a lot of people want to take photos with you, sometimes they invite you to get in front of the queue, sometimes you receive free food and drinks at some events where you are the special guest. Now everybody looks kindly to bule, but overall it is kind of prestige to have bule friends… and why is this like this, a look at their history and their socio-economic demographics today would reveal a lot of insights. But about this, in some other article!
Photo credits: my sister Daniela who has taken a beautiful photo above Jakarta