Tuesday, September 8, 2009

5 Things That May Cause You Culture Shock In Bali


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.
    So what do you think? Do you have any more reason why you may have a culture shock in Bali? Do comment and inform me about it alright!

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    13 comments:

    torasham said...

    good info, but it is not only in Bali. It's happen in almost Indonesia.

    Anonymous said...

    I agree... i guess the author meant bali and indonesia.. but anyways it's a great and informative article! cheers!

    Historical Travels said...

    This is all very important - there are so many things about your own culture that you take completely for granted, never once imagining that customs might be different somewhere else.

    xunxine said...

    This blog is targeted at Westerners but fellow Asians can also experience culture shock in Bali. For eg, many dishes with babi (pig) especially since their delicacy is babi guling. Another one is the many temples and sculptures everywhere. They are beautiful yes, but can also be too overwhelming for some.

    Bali Travel Holiday Bali Hotel Guide said...

    @Torasham: Yes, it definitely happens in all part of Indonesia.

    @Anonymous: Thanks for the clarification :) Appreciate it.

    @Historical Travels: I agree. Our own cultures may sometime be completely taken for granted and people forget that it's out culture that makes us unique and special.

    @xunxine: Yupps, sorry I don't mean to be racist or bias towards one race I totally agree with you that asians normally Muslims sometimes do get a culture shock because of pork, "babi". Thanks for the comment :)


    Thanks all for the comments. Really appreciate it!

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    dawn yang said...

    hey (:

    i truly agree with your bali article and one that really got me shocked was point 2.. when people i've just met asked me personal questions such as am i married and why am i not yet married. however after awhile i got used to it.

    i found point 3 very true but it really amazed me and it made me feel like a "celebrity". hehe. there was a few kids who asked for pictures with me and found them really cute.

    anyhow, i like your blog and do write such quality articles alright?

    xoxo,
    dawn

    susie said...

    #1 - I agree!

    I love eating with my hands too :D makes the food tastierrrr and yummylicious!

    kumz said...

    I really like the way you explain it.
    and its true..

    like this, "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."

    Awesome..

    Anonymous said...

    that is a real paradise,if i have chance in the future i will be there to visit.After my retirment may be

    Bali Deals said...

    Other thing should be prepare for those who want to travel in Bali is
    - People often touch each other this is consider rude , for balinese this means friendly.
    - I often read that westerner hate to be called "Bule" although this is not mention to mock
    - You may be will be shock to see how Balinese ride in street.

    Hope you understand what I means *_*

    Anonymous said...

    Puts me off going there after i read the no toilet paper part and using your left hand after a trip to the toilet.

    Anonymous said...

    The little boxes with Hindu offerings (flowers, biscuits and whatever else) outside every house and shop.
    They have a new one every day.
    That was weird. Still, fairly interesting.

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