Some things they don’t tell you about Indonesia

Before I got to Jakarta I did some research, because even though I like to just go somewhere without preparation, I also wanted to know what to expect of the next five months of my life.

So I googled, like any good college student learned how to do. I found a lot of different things that people either warn about or are very excited about. I will list some examples:

  • They tell you people will rip you off. And even though that may be true a little, everything is still so cheap that it doesn’t really matter. Let the nice man with a smile that charges you 30 cents above the rate for the locals have his extra money and eat for two days.
  • They warn you about the different toilets. You will do a lot of squatting and you better bring tissues with you everywhere! Well, this is probably true in the more rural part of Indonesia, but in Jakarta there are a lot of western toilets and a lot of times they even have toilet paper. However, the tip to keep tissues at hand all time should never be disregarded.
  • I’ve read about the friendly Indonesian people, but even though I was a little prepared, I never could have braced myself for the heartwarming smiles I receive everywhere and the offer to help me when I need it from everyone around. It is just something you have to experience, because even if I would tell you now, you would not be able to imagine it to the full extent.
  • A lot of sites mention that the food is so good, but because I mostly eat vegan, I was still a little worried about that. But now I found all the good dishes and there are a lot of vegan options here too.
  • Although, there are also a lot of warnings about the streetfood. It could make you sick and puking all day would seriously ruin your trip.
  • You learn online that a bule is something of an attraction here and so when walking around, you can feel like a famous person. Also, this is something you really need to experience to understand. It can make you really self-conscious, but no worries. Immunity will soon kick in. I guess they never heard of the resistance you can get to certain things when you get too much of it.

So with all this information, I was a little prepared. But here are some of my own findings, that I would not have expected here. Things that people don’t tell you about Indonesia.

  • There are ants everywhere. I was afraid to find a lot of gekko’s and/or cockroaches and even though I did also see some cockroaches, in the city there are no gekko’s (that I have seen). BUT: So. Many. Ants. Everywhere. So many.
  • People will call you mister, with no regard for your gender. In Indonesia people are very polite and they often use the words ibu (f) and bapak (m) to address each other. So I get that they want to address me as something in English too, but why they cannot learn to leave out the -ter for females is beyond me.
  • Indonesian people have magic. They can make things just appear out of thin air. In the food court, for example, you can ask for anything and they will get it for you. You don’t know where it comes from, you don’t know how it was prepared (if it is food). But it is just there. And when I needed a doctor to take a look at my foot, all of a sudden a medical care center magically appeared on the 27th floor of my office building, just by asking one of my colleagues.
  • You can get people to do anything if you give them some money. Sure, I heard about bribing being more common here, but it doesn’t just stop at bribes. In most western countries, if something isn’t part of the services a business offers, you cannot get it done. For example, if you want a hotel to do your laundry but they have no laundry service, you will just have to figure out how to do it somewhere else. But here, if they don’t offer it, you can just pay them a little extra and they will get it done. No questions asked.
  • You are not the only one who will have a culture shock when visiting Indonesia. Indonesian people will experience the same thing by talking to you. Telling them about daylight saving time blows their mind and they are very confused by the fact that in the summer, it is light out until late in the evening. Here, during the entire year the sun rises at 6AM and sets at 6PM.

At this moment I cannot think of any other things that really surprised me and I am a little bummed that my initial wonder for all things Indonesian faded. I walk around the streets that used to be so strange to me now and feel at home. A friend of mine told me to take many pictures in the first days here because after a while the things just wouldn’t seem special to me anymore and I am sorry to not have listened to her. But on the other hand, it makes me feel really comfortable to know that you can adjust to any place and make it feel like home.

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