|map of Indonesia|
- Switch off our brain from time to time. This is important not only to preserve our energy, youth and beauty, but also our sanity. In this big country with no rule or regulation whatsoever, this is the only way to keep afloat. And stop asking why. Only God and the spirit of our ancestors know (if you happen to find out how to contact them). We are happy and well alive because we have no idea how our country works (or if it does). Be seriously ignorant, we'll survive.
PS. If you're extremely good at doing this, you'll have a promising future as an Indonesian politician.
An example of conversation with a normal Indonesian goes as follow:
My curious foreign friend: in your country, at what age limit we can legally employ someone without being charged with child abuse?
Me: Is it not allowed?
- smile and nod when we don't understand. We don't mean to lie, it's just our nature of being super friendly: we say that we hear you, but what you imply is the mystery of life.
- walk slow but type fast. There's no point of walking fast, you'll end up waiting anyway. While waiting, we kill time by playing with our mobile phone. No wonder we can type in messengers at a speed of a bullet.
- eat at all times. Unlike France, our restaurants and street vendors open 24 hours per day. We eat not because we're starving (how come if you do it at all times?) but just to keep us busy. Indonesian sweats not when working but when eating (thanks to our spicy foods).
- not greet friends "how are you?" because that what tourists do. They learn to say "apa kabar?" which means 'how are you' in Indonesian according to Lonely planet phrase book. But the real Indonesians greet friends by saying, "kamu gemukan ya?" which means 'you're getting fat'. This is the beauty of our country, we can always tell people they're fat and still be very friendly (don't forget to smile and nod).
- put everyone in labelled boxes. We don't discriminate people, we are just well-organised about who belongs to which group. We believe that all people come from Sumatra are lawyers or 'Padang food' sellers. People from Madura are barbers or satay hawkers. All middle-aged potbellied men are government employees, e.g. politicians, tax officials, public university lecturers, etc. All skinny pretty girls are secretaries, soap-opera stars or second/third/fourth wives of potbellied men. Chinese people are annoying and filthy rich. Young, long-haired, shabby, lanky guys are unemployed. Scrawny men who go to work everyday on old bicycles are elementary school teachers in the villages, etc. It seems quite abrupt but it's more often true. It's because, admit it, we always try to meet the expectation.
- pick a religion. To say that Indonesians are religious is an understatement. It's completely understandable: amidst the chaos and shambles (which mean our normal daily life), we can only count on divine intervention. We also have to put a religion on our ID card. It doesn't matter if your name is just a number, but your religion must be one of 5 beliefs recognised by our government. Of course we are a free, democratic country, no question about that. Otherwise we wouldn't be able to use facebook, twitter, picasa, youtube, blogspot, google, google map, wikipedia, etc like in mainland China.
- be good at multitasking. A bus driver in Indonesia can simultaneously drive, smoke, take on and drop off passengers, type a text message, answer a call and talk on the phone while overtake a truck, without loosing a beat. A chief of one department can be a head of another office, a president of another organisation, a manager of another company as well as a chairperson of a politic party. And why not, his/her job is simply to sign letters (and to be photographed, occasionally). Whether they ever read these letters or not isn't an issue. After all, most of them are illiterate.
- know everything in our neighbourhood. We may not know that there's a new country named South Sudan (it's too far from us and 99.99% of us will never visit it anyway) but we know precisely who's the wife of our next-door, where she comes from, how old she is, what school she went, what she does for a living, what she wears and what she recently bought and how much it costs. We know which neighbour has financial problem and which has marriage problem. At the workplace, colleagues must know every one's backgrounds and their far-flung relatives' backgrounds. We are bigger than 'big brother' and although not well-equipped with CCTVs, we even manage surprisingly better than that.
- think of 'shopping mall' as our centre of culture and civilisation. It's where people spend their time when they're not working to eat, to shop and to be entertained, to meet friends and drink, to watch shows and exhibitions, to do sports, to visit beauty parlour or to go to movies. While in other countries people talk about number of inhabitants to decide the size of a city, in Indonesia it's the number of shopping malls. The bigger a city, the more shopping malls it has.
- take a motorbike to go anywhere. You may well just go two houses around the corner, but a really good Indonesian will take a motorbike ride. Walking isn't an option because the pavement is blocked by street-food sellers, barbers, other merchants and broken sewers. Not to mention a risk of being hit by a car or the hazard of unidentified falling objects. Indonesians also have an astounding ability to take their motorbike in the inaccessible hinterlands. Once I saw a motorbike parked in the depths of a forest up the hill. Only the driver and the parking guy (if he exists. Sometimes he suddenly pops up out of the blue) know how it got there.
- understand your priority when communicating by text. In Indonesia, it's important when you give a long answer and when you don't. Example:
- My mobile got stolen but I am alright. Please don't worry and ignore if there's a random text from me. Answer: ati2gbu.cu. (it looks like a confirmation code for online shopping but it means 'take care. God bless you. See you.' It was a real message from my parents for me, actually)
- Can you send me some money soon? I'm desperate and nearly dying of hunger. Answer: Y (means ya or yes in Indonesian)
- Will you marry me? Answer: N (means nggak or no in Indonesian)
- Look at this monkey!
- You're so funny. Answer: huahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Hihihihihi. Xixixixixixixixi (also laughing, Indonesian style)
- It's too funny. Answer: Huahaha :-) huahaha :-) huahaha:-) huahaha :-) wakakakakakakakak :-D:-D:-D (also laughing, Indonesian style with emoticons)
- consider that time and other measures as relative and therefore they're neither precise nor countable. When we mention 'about 12 o'clock', it can mean midday today or midnight the day after tomorrow. Or if we tell you it's 1 km it means 'in a distance not so far away for a motorbike but honestly we never measure it since the era of European settlements in south east asia.' I always bear this in my mind since I consider being fat is definitely relative. When I see an old friend, I know that I'm still skinnier than a hippo.
There you go, my fellow Indonesians, feel free to add or to cut. I'm sure there're a lot more which I can't recall at the moment. Thing is, it doesn't feel weird until you see that not everyone are used to the same things. I still have to eat rice for breakfast once in a while and I love to wet my bottom with running water than just wipe it with toilet paper. And I strongly believe that my ancestors came from the sea (where else?) as great sailors who discovered delicious stuffs like sweet soya sauce.