Sangat Pedas

My Life in Indonesia #1: Locals & Expats


Blue Point Beach - BaliI’ve been living in Indonesia now for nearly 3 years but never have I written a post about life in Indonesia. Even though I have an even longer relationship of a bit more than 6 years with Indonesia I guess I had the feeling I hadn’t quite figured out life in Indonesia yet. Frankly, I’m quite sure I still haven’t figured it out but that makes it all the more fun to write about it.

The reason I moved to Indonesia is obviously because 6 years ago Arno and me started a website called and at one point it became too successful to manage from abroad. Anyway, this story tells about the start of my life in Indonesia and why from the start I made some unusual decisions.

6 years ago I started working with Arno and though we had some extremely tough times for years, I just loved his choice of location: Bali. Obviously in the time before I moved to Indonesia I spend lots of time in Bali so moving to Bali should be a breeze in the park, at least so I thought when I visited a real estate agent in december 2008.

At the real estate office: “So, where would you like to live mister? Canggu? Kuta? Sanur? There are some really nice bule/expats neighborhoods there where you will surely enjoy living.” I paused for a sec and replied I definitely don’t want to life in an expat neighborhood, actually it’s my plan to stay as far aways from that “community” as possible. Now the real estate agent was a nice half Indonesian - half western lady who mostly dealt with western people. Probably she thought my english was bad and I must be mistaking but after telling her again she looked at me like she wanted to say “What’s wrong with you?” and basically I had to find another agent or way to find my house.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning bule’s, after all I’m one myself but I had some reasons I felt pretty strong about.

1. Learning Bahasa

I’m a strong believer that you need to speak the language of the country you live in. Go to any Western country and you will find almost everyone feels the same. Weird though that when Westerners come live in Indonesia a large part of them expects people here to speak English. Anyway, I thought that if I wanted to learn Bahasa quickly I shouldn’t waste my time speaking english with other “local tourists“.

2. The Bule reputation

In the four years prior to my move to Indonesia I got to know a little about life in Bali and how people look at Bule. Please allow me some extreme exaggeration. Bule come to Bali with high hopes and dreams. They walk around like they are 3 times smarter, better and more important than the local people. The men indulge themselves almost every night with ayam (working girls), party and alcohol. Now everybody knows I like party, girls and alcohol but that’s exactly why I was scared to get sucked into that. Bule act big but ALWAYS need to borrow money to maintain their status and life style but fail to pay back. Not for nothing the locals call western immigrants “local tourists” because 9 out of 10 times it ends with the money being finished, dreams shattered and a one-way ticket back.

3. The complaining

Again, in general, most Bule complain, a lot, especially about Indonesian people. I’m not sure whether it’s from a feeling of being superior or frustration but not much good is said about Indonesians. Now I certainly had my frustrations and complaining about things going slow (especially in Bali), things being broke or things going broke and I ran into that imaginary wall many times. But I don’t believe in ANY race or people being superior or better and I definitely didn’t want to spend my days hearing fellow bule complain. My mind was clear, I’m here for the long run and if I want to survive I need to get “into the flow” of Indonesia.

So, in the end I found my first house in Bali, which was way to big but truly gave me that “living in paradise” feeling. And then the big day arrived, I packed up my clothes, locked the door in Holland and arrived in my new house in Bali. Arno was kind enough to pick me up from the airport and drop me off. He introduced me to my “staff”, which was a lady for keeping the house clean, someone for the garden and a security guy.

When Arno left all three were sitting outside on the porch waiting for me to say something. The problem was, they literally didn’t speak a word of english and my Indonesian vocabulary was limited to “Terima Kasih”, “Apa kabar” and some Dutch words which are the same in Bahasa.

  • kuda hijau

    Although through no fault of your own, I find it annoying that non native Indonesian speakers refer to our language as “Bahasa”. After all, we say “English” & not “language”, so why on earth do foreigners refer to ours as “language” is mind boggling and irritating. Just say “Indonesian” or if you want to be respectful then say it in its full form, “Bahasa Indonesia”. End of rant.

    • remco

      Ok, point taken, obviously no offense meant and won’t make the mistake again. Thx for the rant ;)

    • Tommy

      It could because when we watch movies on a DVD with our Indonesian friends, we look for their language. We go past French, German, Spanish and they stop…press on Bahasa. At least we are trying…………….many people murder the English language everyday ………. Bule are always wrong and terrible for the Indonesian economy, culture etc!!!!

  • shirley

    If you don’t mind me asking, which part of Bali did you finally end up with? I ve been to Bali way long time ago, never been to Netherland but would love to someday.

    • remco

      I used to live close to Sanur for 2.5 years, now I live in Jakarta for little more than 1 year.