5 Things That May Cause You Culture Shock In Bali
If you are looking forward to visit Bali, whether it be for pleasure or business, be prepared for a slight culture shock, especially if you’re from the western countries. Here are five things about what to expect in Bali. These are presented in no particular order, and are the top five things that came to mind.
1) Indonesians especially Balinese people, enjoy eating with their bare hands. You may see it as crude and uncivilized but honestly for us, eating with bare hands is very often considered as more exciting and delicious. Although the Dutch has generously left us with a habit to use utensils while eating, but some food just needs to be eaten with bare hands. It may look messy but you really should try it out yourselves before you decide against it. You can see this habit in every Padang cuisine restaurants, but don’t worry, it will (almost) never happen in five stars restaurants and hotels!
2) People who you encounter through chance, or people you work with, may ask private questions that you may be uncomfortable with. These are: ‘How old are you?’, ‘Are you married?’, if you are married, ‘How many children do you have?’, if you’re not, ‘Why are you not married yet?’ or ‘Oh are you looking for an Indonesian wife?’. However please note that these questions are not because we do not respect your privacy, it is considered an ice-breaker. In Bali, even in this modern age, there is still a social segregation. How old you are will determine how they will treat you forever after. If you are older they will keep their distance and continue to be polite. If you are younger, they may be more relaxed around you. The same with your marital status. If you’re married, they will be more respectful than if you weren’t. These are standard questions they ask everyone, Indonesian and foreigners alike, because it will help them to determine how to behave around you. I am not saying this is the case everywhere, especially since the generation nowadays is more relaxed and have the ‘ability’ of treating different people with different age and background as peers
3) If you are travelling to Bali (or are already here) and have Indonesian friends or colleagues, prepare to be waiting a long time for them if you are meeting them at a certain place and time for coffee or even for an official meeting. In Indonesia, an appointment at 10 am will not always start at 10 am. The bad traffic will most probably be the main culprit people use here as an excuse of being late. In some cases this would be absolutely true, but in others it may just be another way of getting away with it. I have actually seen some people talking on the phone with their associates or friends, and say, “Yes, sorry I think I am going to be late because I am stuck in traffic now and it looks pretty bad.” while they are actually sitting in a corner of a cafe with a cup of coffee. This is a habit that we, Indonesians themselves consider as annoying (even if they are also guilty of it, and they have a term for it, which is jam karet, or ‘rubber watch’.I am not saying that this is true for all Indonesians because there are also many who appreciate punctuality. But you better be prepared for it. If you’re meeting this person in an official meeting, try setting the meeting 15 minutes earlier than you intend it to be held (at least for the first time), and see if the person is punctual for future reference. If you’re meeting someone informally for coffee, bring a book or magazine and order ahead. Don't worry, we won't be offended :)
4)Never hand out anything with your left hand! In Indonesia especially Bali, the left hand is considered as the ‘dirty hand’ because unlike in the western countries where the use of tissue is more common, we actually wash ourselves with their hands under running water after they have visited the toilet. Needless to say, although they do wash their hands afterwards, they still think of the left hand as the dirty hand. Hence, it is considered impolite to hand things with your left hand. Always use your right hand even while paying for your taxi fare or you'll risk offending someone!
5)Young students may approach you and ask you for a picture while you are enjoying yourself at a tourist destination such as Kuta or Ubud. There are various reasons they do this. Either they think you’re so beautiful or handsome like a certain actress/actor, or they have been assigned to interview a foreigner for their English or culture class. There is also the possibility they simply want to show off to their parents, family or friends, that they have had interactions with a foreigner. See, some Indonesians have this unexplainable attraction for foreigners, perceiving them as being superior, or just attractive (because of the different skin, hair and eye colours). I am sure you will also encounter this phenomenon elsewhere besides Bali and Indonesia.
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