Oh I’m confused! Life in Indonesia provides many moments where you just think, “what the…?”. Some interesting situations arrive in a country so steeped in tradition and old world ideals; dealing with modernisation and increased technology. Here are a few early observations of what we’ve noticed and noted so far, perhaps a brief guide if any of you end up in Central Java – lost, confused and bemused.
– It’s perfectly permissible to ride or drive in to incoming traffic provided your indicator is on.
– Motorbikes act as family sedans, work utes and people movers – often loaded with numerous people and goods; think gas canisters, sheets of glass and chickens.
– Distance is somewhat distorted. Indonesians hate walking. Everyone thinks I’m completely mad for walking to the shops (about 1km), that’s becak territory. Anything over 2kms away is a motobike trip. Any place longer that 10kms is a day trip requiring comlpex preparations to a place that is a “long way away”.
– There are meetings for everything. Meetings to arrange meetings to discuss previous meetings. Arguably the meetings amount to very little.
– If you have something arranged with a time, place and date – you can almost guarantee it won’t happen.
– Expect long term plans to change dramatically around one hour beforehand. Often for no reason, with no apparent benefit.
– Food is central to EVERYTHING. Much the same way beer is central to amateur football clubs, a meal or snack is tacked on to the end of everything.
– If you tell a person something, expect the entire village to know about it before dusk. Very effective if you want news spread quickly.
– Sugar is added to everything. Lots of sugar. Heaps of it. Tea, bread, anything. Cheese also pops up in unexpected situations.
– Everyone is on Facebook. Even if they have no internet access.
– Everyone has a business card. Even if they don’t really have a job.
– Someone on the street will try to take you to a “special” last minute batik sale. Until they find out you’re not a tourist.
– Indonesian soap operas are overacted, over simplistic and ridiculously trashy. They are also incredibly addictive – I can tell you what has been happening in “Amirah” despite not understanding what they are saying.
– Kissing is far too rude for television. Gratuitous violence is fine.
– The beggars down Jalan Malioboro look better fed than the stall owners.
– Everyone wants to help you. Not everyone is helpful.
– People adore children. So much so they will wrestle yours from you for a hold and a play. From security guards to pretty shop assistants to taxi drivers. Keep an eye on them, but its been all good so far.
– Wedding rings are worn on your right hand. Your left hand is traditionally only used for, well lets just say your right hand is considered better.