Gado-gado Londo

(Please, don’t mind my non-academic writing writing style, especially the mixed-gado2-campur2 sentences)

Having the experience to be a foreigner in United States makes me realize that being an open-minded is a prerequisite to a pretty smooth adjustment (maksudnya biar ga terlalu culture shock gitu). It’s going to be tough if we don’t keep an open mind while we are away from home. The meaning of being open-minded doesn’t mean that we have to forcefully adjust the way of life from other culture that doesn’t suit us but it is more to preserving accordingly what we think we can still “make sense” of it and “don’t sweat the small stuff”. However, if you find some things that are NOT you, then you’d prefer to preserve YOUR THINGS just the way they are. Compromising is necessary and good but don’t let it get in the way for being who you are.

Before being a foreigner in someone else’s country, I had never really thought about this thing I call as “compromising culture”. In Indonesia, as I walked across the street and watched foreigners, I thought “Oh, they’re just fine. They’re going to be just fine. They’ll survive”. After having my own-unique experiences being a foreigner myself, my thoughts and perception are different when I come across other foreigners in Indonesia: “Are they doing okay adjusting? Do they find difficulties adjusting? How do they manage adjusting? Will they survive?” in which sometimes I find myself thinking over reactively.

Indonesia…luas banget. Apa yang terjadi di satu daerah, bisa saja tidak pernah terjadi di daerah lainnya walaupun sama-sama di Indonesia. Well, that is understandable, considering the unity-in-diversity-ness of Indonesian people so to speak. Therefore, I’m just going to take an example based on my own experiences and observations in here…the capital city of Indonesia: JAKARTA. What I am going to share here is how foreigners have seen, experienced, felt, and perceived Indonesian people way of living (read: culture) in Jakarta. So before reading this, jangan keburu tersinggung dulu, jangan keburu apatis dulu, jangan keburu defensif dulu, jangan keburu kebakaran jenggot dulu, dan jangan keburu emosi, marah-marah atau naik pitam karena merasa direndahkan atau dijelekkan. Before reading this, you need to PLACE yourself as A FOREIGNER yourself. Imagine yourself being NOT an INDONESIAN. After that, baru deh mulai baca. You might find some stuff rather cliché, cynical, interesting or might be even a little bit offensive but hold that thought…BE OPEN MINDED…that’s the prerequisite to this, remember?

Beforehand, I have skim-read so many articles about it online but later these days, after following an online and offline forum about intercultural understanding, I have found myself kind of “shocked” with my own culture these days (I repeat: these days, which means currently speaking, not long ago). In my case, I have found it interesting and there are some more things a lot to learn from. I never thought before that a trivial habit as in eating, lifestyle, and so on, might be an intriguing thing for our beloved foreigners’ friends…and yes, they are worth paid attention to…for a while. Kadang-kadang jadi suka bicara dengan diri sendiri “Oh, jadi begini tho Jakarta Nowadays? Or even Indonesia Nowadays? (Hihihi, jadi kayak judul program news) 😀

You might find that they are amazed (sampai2 bilang holy cow!)by how motorcycle or even bike is utilized here in Indonesia as in the following pictures below. Mereka juga terkagum-kagum dengan anak-anak muda yang berdiri di genteng atau pohon untuk menyaksikan pertandingan olah raga atau mungkin terbengong-bengong dengan penumpang kereta api yang sampai keatap (mungkin juga sempat terpikir “oh wow, safety second/safety-overconfident) as in the following pictures below.

Ada juga yang membuat list seperti: You can kill cockroaches with your bare feet, the footprints on the toilet seat are your own, you answers the telephone with hello more than 2 times, You look left, right, backwards, forwards, up and down before crossing a one way street dan seterusnya…ada juga yang merasa terlalu spoilt (manja) dikarenakan segala keperluan domestik mereka dilakukan oleh pembantu, baby sitter dan supir sehingga sewaktu ditinggal pembantu mudik, banyak juga yg kelabakan karena tidak terbiasa mengerjakan semuanya sendiri. Bahkan some of my friends in the States said that most Indonesian people are so rich because they all have “house takers” or pembantu, considering that biaya jasa di US sana is so pricy, apalagi buat house takers atau baby sitters.

Well, to me personally, paling tidak diantara semrawutnya ibu kota dengan kemacetan, banjir, dan crime issuenya termasuk terrorism and bombing, hopefully, knowing this insight reflexively, masih bisa memberikan kesan yang manis terhadap kita dan saudara-saudara kita di tanah air. Agar kita tidak salah menafsirkan kata-kata dan pengalaman orang lain ada baiknya kita berempati dan melihat dari sudut pandang mereka yang menulisnya.

Again…reading this would require us being a foreigner ourselves. So…yes, enjoy us from THE FOREIGNER’S GLASSES”J *Mohon maaf sebelumnya jika tersebut merek-merek tertentu karena konteks disini, merk adalah identitas yang SESUATU BANGET and sometimes our beloved foreigner friends find themselves easy to ask the brand then the name of the product itself , so, hopefully, ga papa ya dicantum merk? Hehe.

(For foreigners): Several indications why you are in Indonesia too long or way too long:

1. Your stomach growls when you don’t eat rice for a day.

2. You believe kecap ABC could turn bad cooking to gourmet food.

3. You know more than 10 acronyms/abbreviations.

4. You talk during a movie.

5. You use a dipper instead of toilet paper in the bathroom.

6. You eat fried rice in the morning.

7. You prefer Versace or Moschino jeans over Gap or Levi’s.

8. You carry a 16 oz. jar of sambal to where ever you travel.

9. Driving a car that is cheaper than $15,000 embarrasses you.

10. You are willing to travel 25 miles to buy tahu and tempe.

11. You are very good at avoiding potholes and other road hazards.

12. Your local McDonald’s serves rice and sambal.

13. You think Super Mie (or Indo Mie) is a staple food.

14. You have ever tried passing a Rp 50 coin as a quarter in a US vending machine or pay phone.

15. You have ever successfully bribed a police officer.

16. You have ever successfully bribed a customs officer.

17. When watching TV you regularly find that all the channels broadcast the same thing.

18. You do your shopping in Singapore.

19. Your drivers license claims you are 5 years older then you really are.

20. You have ever legally bought pirated software or VCDs and have the privilege to watch Hollywood blockbusters before their premiere.

21. You have ever been forced to memorize UUD’45.

22. You have bought something from a barefooted street peddler.

23. You know exactly how many islands Indonesia has.

24. You have ever eaten something sold off a cart on wheels.

25. You realized that money is everything before you were six.

26. The first thing that comes to mind when hearing the word “Jakarta” is “macet”.

27. Someone you know has ever ridden on top of a train.

28. Your daily commute includes thinking up new ways to ride the city bus for free.

29. You don’t mind people being late.

30. You think standing in line is a waste of time.

31. You have tried every Monday of your youth trying to avoid upacara bendera.

32. You have used a mosquito repellent that looks like a coil and is lit on one end.

33. You use the terms “Ni yee”, “cai-lah” and “Ih, jijay” on daily basis.

34. You know what Pancasila is, what it means and know it by heart.

35. You complain that movies in America don’t have sub-titles.

36. Your daily conversation may include enactments of TV commercials.

37. You have ever consulted a dukun.

38. Your whole class has ever cheated on a test, and gotten away with it.

39. You have ever spent the night before an exam looking for someone who sells the questions.

40. You like the smell of terasi.

41. You think the Thomas Cup is equal to the Super Bowl.

42. You have a 16′ satellite dish hidden in your back yard.

43. You have ever ridden in a motor vehicle with three wheels.

44. You miss your maid on laundry day.

45. Your clothing has brand names printed on it that are visible from 50′ away.

46. You attend weddings only until you are done eating.

47. You have attended weddings that you are not invited to.

48. You go to McDonald’s to get your weekly supply of ketchup, salt, pepper and napkins.

49. You know more than one music group that stole the tune of Cranberries’ “Zombie”.

50. You have a can of Baygon on your kitchen table.

51. You make major decisions based on gengsi.

52. You have paid more then $1,000 to get your name on your license plate (mungkin sekarang tarifnya naik)

53. You carry your hand phone always, even to a ‘no service’ area.

54. You think bribery as a ‘tip in advance’.

55. You think of the road as a place to park.

56. You fly Garuda just to get to know the stewardesses.

57. You send your kids to US & Australia just so they can go to school.

58. You go to a park and drink ‘teh botol’.

59.You travel to L.A or Sydney from Jakarta more than 3 times a year.

60. You mix soccer and boxing at the same time.

61. You consume more cloves in your cigarettes than in your food..

62. You have more credit cards than your wallet can hold.

63. You have a car with 20′ wheel.

64. Your friends in the US & Australia refer to you as their ‘Indonesian connection.’

65. You have been to a motel that can ‘hide’ your car.

66. You give guests a roll of toilet paper or a box of facial tissues to wipe their hands after eating.

*And the list could go on and on and on….:)

Now in reverse, you are probably an American who is just spending a little time (very short time) in Indonesia if:

1. You think the lines painted on the roadways mean something.

2. You think 5-6-97 is actually May 6th.

3. Your Bahasa Indonesia vocabulary consists of four words, “Mas, mas! Satu lagi”, which you learned

in a bar at Blok M.

4. Your two best Indonesian friends are your driver and your housemaid.

5. You wonder if it is possible to boil the air.

6. You think all the security guards in Jakarta work for the same company.

7. You inquire about a tanning booth before your first trip to Bali.

8. You make wise cracks about the pictures on the Rp 500 and Rp 50,000 bills.

9. You tell the boss what you really think.

10. At lunch you ask for a knife.

11. Your favourite place to go for Indonesian food is Planet Hollywood.

12. Your breast pocket contains a small yellow book.

13. You think the small hose in the bathroom is for cleaning the floor.

14. You tip waiters at restaurants.

15. You wake up at 4:30 a.m. thinking you left the television on.

16. You notice footprints on your toilet seat after your guests leave your home.

17. You keep your shoes on when you are in the office.

18. The translation you are given for hari nahas is ‘a bad hair day’.

19. In an emergency you go to dial 911 but here you don’t know the number.

20. You show up for meetings on time.

21. You tuck the tail of your batik shirt into your pants.

22. You walk close to little old ladies when crossing Jl. Gatot Subroto.

23. You go to a magazine store and ask for the latest copy of Playboy.

24. You enjoy going to China, especially Singapore.

25. You wait for everyone to get off the elevator before getting on.

26. You use the last name when looking up a friend’s telephone number.

And, this is how “macet” (traffic jam) is expressed by our dear beloved foreigner friends (which we probably find it amusing):

Here I sit within the macet.

Pelan-pelan no use to fret.

Cannot read, sakit perut,

Cannot watch, pusing kepala.

Kanan, kiri, terus, putar,

I steal a peek, haven’t gone far.

Bajaj, sepeda, kaki, mobil,

Beam me up Scotty, this can’t be real.

I try to relax and close my eyes,

I dream of places far and away,

And remember faces that brightened my way.

I think, life is good, yes very good.

Honk! Honk! Beep! Beep!

The moment rusak

Lest I forget to curse this macet.

(by. Ellie-New Zealand)


Wini, Jakarta, 2011


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Robin Basua says:

    Good blog, thanks for share this article with us

    1. wini says:

      Thanks for blogwalking, Robin 🙂 the pleasure is mine 🙂

  2. Sung Ruether says:

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    1. wini says:

      Thank you so much for the info, Sung. Will definitely going deeper into that soon 🙂

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