Now that I have lived abroad for a longer period of time, there are some things that I have taken for granted in The Netherlands, that I now see in a new light.

  • Being able to ride your bike everywhere. Isn’t that just great? You are not dependent on public transportation, you won’t get stuck in a traffic jam and you can go wherever you want.
  • Knowing exactly what to get where. I guess this is true for everyone’s hometown or country. You know which stores to go to for certain items and you know about fair prices.
  • There is fresh air in The Netherlands, which allows you to breathe. In Jakarta, there are no parks and smog is everywhere. I mostly noticed this if I got back from being in a natural setting outside of the city, and I felt like I was choking when I got back to Jakarta, but it usually just took me a day to get used to it again. But still, I prefer a place with at least the illusion of oxygen.
  • You don’t have to go far for the actual oxygen. A lot of the Netherlands consists of land, and it is easy to go out of the city to go there, be it by car or even on these amazing bicycles I missed so much (although riding a motorbike was tons of fun too).
  • You can drink water out of the tap. Isn’t that just great? Not having to buy a bottle, drinking some water while in the shower… I’m always drinking water, so this is something I really missed, a lot!
  • Having personal space and room to live. In Jakarta, everything is packed pretty tightly, be it the people on the street or the buildings that are so close together. There are no open spaces except for the roads, and even those are always packed. Sometimes I just want to extend both my arms and spin around. I cannot do that there without hitting an Indonesian.
  • Having all my stuff. Actually, this is weirdly not something that I missed, but I’ve gained a new appreciation for it nonetheless.

This is one of the things I love about travel. It makes you realize what you do and do not have, and most importantly, what you do and do not need. And I’ve come to learn that I don’t need a lot, and that I already have the world.


Things I noticed about Indonesian people

I have been here for a little over two months, and in this time I have gotten to know a bit more about the Indonesian culture, about the people and the way things work around here. Time to review a couple of things that I learned.

Disclaimer: This does not apply to all Indonesians and there are of course exceptions.


They are so very friendly. Yesterday I was at the food court where I could be considered a regular. After my standard order (nasi goreng) I made some Indonesian small talk with the lady who owns the place (which consists of her talking, me nodding/smiling and giving one-word answers). But because of all the smiling the conversations are actually very pleasant! As she was eating, I was wishing her a good dinner (selamat makan ibu!) and she offered me some of what she was eating. After checking there was no meat or fish, I said okay, and she put some in a plastic bag for me to take home. When my food was ready and I asked how much I had to pay, she just told me the amount for the nasi goreng. She owns a place that sells food, yet she gave me some of her home cooked food for free. And did I mention all the smiling? Like I said: friendly.

There is an exception to this (what appears to be a) rule, however. As soon as they get on a motorbike and start participating in the traffic, they become selfish and the friendliness is nowhere to be found. Luckily, you can always use the magical hand, when walking around in the streets. Because nobody would stop at zebra crossings, everyone just crosses anywhere. You get on the street, and put up your hand like you would if you would try to stop a car. Then you just walk. I have done this a lot of times, sometimes without using the magical hand, and I have not been hit. It’s always a bit of a yolo moment, but if you wait until there are no more cars coming before you cross the street, you will be there forever.

IMG_0013 IMG_0017

People in Indonesia can create a job out of anything. There are people on the street, directing the traffic (and trust me, the traffic does not have any use for being directed), they help you find parking spots, they can sell everything on the street.

An example: in the office where I work, there is this guy that comes to visit almost every day to sell us some gorengan (fried stuff). He just goes by the office to sell some of his home made food, and makes a ton of money (and a ton is actually not a lot in Indonesia).


An even better example: there are a few roads in Jakarta that can only be used if there are three or more people (tiga orang atau lebih) in the car (see picture above). This is supposed to make the road less crowded, allowing people who carpool to pass quicker. However, before you reach these roads, along the side of the road you will find a lot of people, who you can pay a few rupiah to hop into your car, and they will get out after the road ends. This way, even if you are just one, you can pay some people to be your fake companions and still use this road!


Indonesian people could be described as a little lazy. They walk slowly, at least, compared to my western tempo. They go everywhere by motor bike, taxi or bus, as long as there is no walking involved. But I also realized that this creates a lot of jobs, which is very necessary in a country with so many inhabitants. People who don’t want to walk create a need for drivers. Being too lazy to cook creates work for people such as the gorengan guy. In the foodcourts of malls, people don’t clear their own table (which is how we would do it in Europe), but they leave it there. Someone else will come and clean the table and voilà, another job is created. They don’t have machines to sell tickets for the bus. We tend to try to replace everything that used to involve human contact with a machin
e, because it is supposed to be cost-effective. Here, they need the jobs. And I am guessing the wages aren’t that high, so possibly it is even cheaper.12074757_1685263878377337_4912718028118543686_n

Indonesian people are very proud of their country, even though there is also usually something to complain about. They want to tell me everything and most of them know all about their own history and the current events. As a person who chooses not to read the news paper, I noticed this immediately. They know where everything comes from. They have so many provinces and every place has their own signature dish, a dance (or several), songs, clothes, houses… It almost seems too much to remember, and yet… they all know.

Another thing… even though they can at times be more polite than direct, often I find them very honest. If you ask them what they are doing this weekend, it is not uncommon to hear someone shamelessly admit that they will sleep all weekend. While in Europe, if you don’t have exciting plans, parties to visit or people to meet, well… let’s just say you are not the definition of cool.

The people I have met also sing. Just because they are happy, or because they can. I have looked up with some confusion when I would hear somebody singing out loud in The Netherlands, but here it is very common. And not just when under influence. And it doesn’t matter what you sing, either. I have heard somebody sing “I like big butts” with a straight face and an angelic voice.


Most of the people living here don’t seem to have an environmental bone in their body. When driving on the street, if there is something in the car that you don’t need anymore… No worries. Just throw it out the window! But also, if you are not in a car and just walking around, you can also still toss it. There is a lot of trash IMG_8200everywhere. Plastic is used for everything. I have a huge collection of plastic bags in my drawer which I try to re-use as trash bags, but even I have had to throw some away (not on the street, mind you).

Finally, I noticed that nobody does organized chaos better than Indonesians. The traffic jams look like they will never ever get solved, but somehow they do. In the foodcourts everybody is shouting at each other, ordering from different people… And yet it works. You get your food, there is hardly any trouble and the hardworking peoIMG_8187ple get payed.

This seems to be the way things work here. From the outside, it looks like chaos. But there is certainly a system in place. Just because we don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

I thought it would be harder

It’s been a month now. And I really – really – really – like it here. I heard a lot of stories from people going abroad, that they would have moments where they would get homesick, they missed Dutch food, and most of all they experience culture shock.

I am not homesick. I’m sorry to all my friends back home, but I am just not. I don’t miss The Netherlands at all. I do miss my friends but we still keep in touch and Skype whenever I can. Maybe I don’t miss it because I prepared for this for so long, I was ready to leave it all behind and start over.

I can write a whole post (and maybe I will some time) about the food. But here, suffice it to say… I love it. I am in love with it. Everything I eat is so good and it is all so cheap. You can buy it everywhere and anywhere and it never fails to amaze me. I tried to discover why it was that I loved it so much and I came to a conclusion. It’s because everything they use is pure. It’s just vegetables, herbs, rice… Okay, sometimes they add some oil (or a lot of oil), which is the only downside, but still. The ingredients are not processed and that really improves the taste. I have to say it again, I really love the food. Really.

I have not experienced any culture shock. But I think that is because I came very well prepared. I had already seen a little bit of the world and I actually made everything way more scary and different in my mind than it really was.
I also have a theory that the culture shock will be bigger if you try to hold on to your Western beliefs and ideas. I like to think I am a very open-minded person and so when I got here, I just let everything happen and I literally went with the flow. I wanted to eat what the locals ate, travel the way they travel and learn as much about the culture as possible.

I imagine if you intend to find the Western food and culture here and you don’t find it… that might be a shock. But I immersed myself in everything Indonesian and that made it really easy. I was looking forward to all the cheap fruit, the rice and the joy of not having to cook. I wasn’t looking forward to going around on the back of a motorbike, but I gave in to that experience too and now I love it.

And I discovered something very important along the way.
I love Indonesia…Honestly, I didn’t think I would and I don’t know why. I figured I would miss the comfort of home, having people around you who you can count on and knowing your way around. But a new place is only new for so long until it becomes something else…
It becomes home too.

I think a big part of me loving it here is the food and the other part is the people. Because making friends is not that hard. Great people are everywhere and the Indonesian people are just so nice. It is impossible to not feel good here, when everywhere you look you can expect to find a smile on someones face. Where in The Netherlands something would be too much effort for someone, here they do it for you without complaining. They even offer!

I do have to admit that another part of my love for Indonesia has to do with the prices. Everything is so cheap here. You can take a taxi or ride on the back of a motorbike to go to places, food is super cheap and the rent is cheap.
I feel like I get such a good deal every time I buy something and really… It all adds to the happy feelings!

So, if you were wondering how I am doing here, the answer is great! I’s been a month and even though I still have four months left, I am already dreading the moment I have to get on a plane to leave it behind (but then again, it will be to travel, so maybe excitement will overrule my dread).
Regardless, I already know I will definitely come back to Indonesia after I leave it this time.


First impressions

So I have arrived in Jakarta. I am settled in my room (and my bed) and after a quick update for all of you who are interested to know how I am adjusting so far, I will sleep. I left Tuesday morning, very early. The night before I got almost no sleep and when I got to the plane, I had these wild plans of sleeping the entire 13 hours I was on the flight… I am sad to report that I failed. And not because I had stimulating conversations with my neighbors. Oh no. I was next to a row of Dutch students who wanted nothing to do with me, the guy in the seat in front of me flashed the entire airplane every time he got up and by the time an old lady in a seat on my other side decided to strike up conversation (in broken Dutch) I was already a walking zombie who herself wasn’t capable of coherent sentences.

So, no sleep. A lot of reading, watching tv-shows and listening to music. To my delight the in-flight entertainment provided a little language course, so I taught myself some Bahasa Indonesia while I was flying across the world. I now know how to recognize most of the numbers (mind you, I cannot actually count. But if I see a number I will know what it is). This skill proved exceptionally useful when I got here and everybody seems to write the way people write numbers. In numbers, not in letters.

Anyway, on my connecting flight from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta, I did manage to get some shut-eye. I slept for an entire hour. I was okay, I figured that after my contact picked me up from the airport, he would bring me to my residence and I would sleep until I couldn’t sleep anymore (and I didn’t care if that was the middle of the night). But after an hour long car ride (not because it is far, but because of the traffic) he was so helpful and after we got money for the rent and he translated the entire contract for me, he took me to get an Indonesian number, showed me the way around my neighborhood, took me to the nearby mall. It was so very useful and I was so very tired. I don’t know how I stayed functioning but I did.

So when I had all the necessities and I was left alone in my room, I slept. No, let me correct that. I went on the wi-fi, texted my brother some of those before-mentioned incoherent sentences, let my mother know I was safe and liked practically everything on Facebook. And then I slept.

I did set an alarm however, because the bed I slept on had no pillows or covers and I had no food, if I were to wake up in the middle of the night. So I limited myself to three hours of sleep and when I got up, I went back to the mall. It was very strange, walking around here by myself. I felt a little uncomfortable and people were looking at me (and not because I looked like I hadn’t slept in two days, although I’m sure that was part of it). But because I am a Bule. It makes me a bit self conscious, but we’ll see how I manage in the next couple of days.

One more thing to add before I go to bed. I have really been dreading the rainy season that is coming up in Jakarta, usually starting from October. But this year, it seems, they predicted it will be dry until January. And when I say dry, I mean dry! There will not be rain. And although I realize this is bad for the crops and perhaps the economy, I am secretly (well, not so much now anymore) happy about this. No rain. Until January. Amazeballs.

So, to sum up:

  • So happy to have cheap fruit.
  • Relieved that the traffic is not as bad as I imagined, although it’s still pretty chaotic.
  • Glad that my temporary home looks good and my bed is comfy.
  • Looking forward to meet people and to not walk the streets alone.
  • I feel like (and in fact, am) a freaking millionaire.

I think I will be able to absorb it all more after I have gotten some sleep (I know, in this post I seem obsessed with sleep. I’m sorry. But hey, if a crack addict is not getting his next fix, crack is all they will be able to talk about. So actually, we should all be content that I didn’t just write about sleep).

So proud of myself for all of these legible sentences I just produced. Goodnight.

p.s. if you haven’t clicked on the link of the mall, you are seriously missing out on my funny side.