Non-visiting Friends & Relatives

May 27th, 2009, in News, Opinion, Travel, by

Chris wonders if expats don't get (m)any visitors from home.

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder"

or

"Out of sight, out of mind" ?

Expats who have been in Indonesia long-term can get homesick - not unlike Indonesian students studying overseas - and having a friend or relative visit on occasion can be rewarding for both parties; the visitor gets e.g. a free tour guide, while the visited gets a break from cultural differences, a chance to catch up with local news, etc.

Fast Track on BBC World

Indeed, BBC World's travel program "Fast Track" recently reported that VFRs (people visiting friends and relatives) was one of the largest proportions of tourists, and - unlike almost all other sectors, e.g. business travel, holidaymakers - was almost unaffected by the current global financial crisis.

However, in my time in Indonesia I remember only a couple of my international colleagues having visitors. And in my case, the only time anyone other than my parents or best friends visited me was for my wedding... over four years ago. This makes me wonder how common this is for Indonesia's expats.

Perhaps unlike some, my friends and family generally:

  • - Keep in regular or irregular contact, either via email, instant messaging, the free video call service Skype or "snail mail", i.e. cards and letters. (It seems I am one of the few Indonesian residents not yet on Facebook - but that's a privacy thing, not related to the fatwa).

  • A better Indonesian travel warning

  • - Are (to the best of my knowledge) financially capable of making such a trip, especially in light of the relatively low cost of accommodation, an even lower cost of living, and recent large-scale airfare discounting. Or, to put it another way, lots of my friends and relatives have flown over Indonesia on their way to/from Australia, another South-East Asian country, Europe or the Middle East, yet haven't stopped here on the way.
  • - Are open-minded enough to overlook questionable travel warnings, subjective ratings of Jakarta, regular disasters, fatwa and some wacko imam's or politician's latest anti-Western vitriol.

However, while a few of my friends have made promises to come and visit - none of them actually have.

Bastard Picture
It ain't me

While it is possible, I don't think it's because I am a bastard. As well as the first dot point above, I would also point out in my defence my friends and relatives are all still keen to see my family and I (especially since my beautiful baby girl was born) on my approximately annual trips home.

So, could other expats please share the following:

  1. How long you have lived in Indonesia.
  2. How many visitors from your home country you have had in that time, not double-counting repeat offenders.
  3. Whether this number is greater or less than the number of times you have returned to your home country for a holiday (not business trips, family emergencies, etc).
  4. Any other feelings on this subject.

16 Comments on “Non-visiting Friends & Relatives”

  1. avatar David says:

    1. How long you have lived in Indonesia.

    About 10 years.

    2. How many visitors from your home country you have had in that time, not double-counting repeat offenders.

    Four, just family, parents, sisters, nieces, etc. In one case I had to stump up the airfare for my niece…

    3. Whether this number is greater or less than the number of times you have returned to your home country for a holiday (not business trips, family emergencies, etc).

    Lesser. I’ve been back, it’s hard to count it, but maybe 10 times.

    4. Any other feelings on this subject.

    My other sister who has never come did plan to come to Bali at some point but the bombings there put her off, or it might be just that we don’t get on that well…

    If you’re trying to encourage friends/family to come and visit might be an idea to prepare a sort of theoretical itinerary for their visit, where you would take them etc and why, to get them interested, etc., at least I knew someone who used to do that.

  2. avatar Oigal says:

    1. How long you have lived in Indonesia.

    10 Years (ish) could be longer or shorter depending on how you qaulify full time

    2. How many visitors from your home country you have had in that time, not double-counting repeat offenders.

    Non work ..three

    3. Whether this number is greater or less than the number of times you have returned to your home country for a holiday (not business trips, family emergencies, etc).

    Much less and also we tend to meet in other countries for holidays, Indonesia just doesn’t get the how to welcome tourist thing (bali perhaps..but well over bali). So if I cannot be there to meet them, who would suggest a first time visitor come into Jakarta on their own???

    4. Any other feelings on this subject.

    Clean up and regulate the major international arrival centers..Jakarta, Sby etc. So at least tourists can arrive and be directed to safe, clean transport to their hotel without a million and one touts crowding and jousling them. Really easy and basic, cheap stuff to do. Ban or put a deposit on every plastic bottle and then maybe just one beach may appear clean? Sack the current tourist department!

  3. avatar Berlian Biru says:

    About five years, in that time I have only had two visits from my home country, one from my brother and his wife passing through on the way to Australia and another from the daughter of an old friend who wanted to see me, but like Patung’s niece I had to pay for her (and her friend).

    In that time I have made about a dozen visits to my family for holidays, funerals, meetings, birthday parties etc.

    There are several reasons of course, first and foremost is that Indonesia just isn’t on the way to anywhere, you usually have to make a specific detour to come here. In the early days I used to get messages from mates in Thailand or other parts of Asia telling me to come up and visit them when they were there, but I got a little bit fed up with that and suggested instead that they come down and visit me, none did, so eff ’em!

    One thing however that is worth noting is that I get a regular stream of “business” related visits from colleagues in Singapore. It’s odd, I have a rather modest sum invested with a firm in Singapore, my nest egg must be minuscule compared to other investors but regular as clockwork I get blokes from that firm asking whether it would be ok for them to come to Jakarta to discuss my account. Strange thing is there’s never anything to discuss but we always end up having three day benders in the bars and clubs of Jakarta. I must be the most popular customer in that firm.

    Indonesia, it’s a big secret known only to a select and very happy few.

  4. avatar Chris says:

    I thought I better answer too, although perhaps you may have worked some of the answers already.

    1. I have lived in Indonesia (since March 2004) a bit over 5 years.

    2. I have had 3 visitors in that time, not double-counting repeat offenders and excluding 8 others who came for my wedding.

    3. I have returned home five times, usually for Christmas/New Year.

    4. I do not have any other feelings on this subject, at least not at this stage.

    Patung, thanks for your idea. I have tried something similar: I left my old Lonely Planet guide, some of the better brochures,postcards, a couple of Indonesian tourist videos, etc., back home for my parents to pass on to any interested parties, but it hasn’t had any noticeable impact yet (even though some have borrowed the materials).

  5. avatar Brother Mouzone says:

    How long you have lived in Indonesia.

    Just under 10 years

    How many visitors from your home country you have had in that time, not double-counting repeat offenders.

    Three brothers with spouses and kids, parents, two friends – one with spouse and kids; twelve.

    Whether this number is greater or less than the number of times you have returned to your home country for a holiday (not business trips, family emergencies, etc).

    I’ve only been back to Baltimore twice.

    Any other feelings on this subject

    I had more visitors after I just arrived when I was still raving about how nice it was here. Although I still love Indonesia, I probably don’t guff on about it so much any more so friends back home are less intrigued and less likely to come…

  6. avatar madrotter says:

    How long you have lived in Indonesia.

    almost 13 years now…

    How many visitors from your home country you have had in that time, not double-counting repeat offenders

    ehrr my pops was here years ago, my brother too and i had a bunch of customers from the cafe where i worked visiting, around 8 of ’em…

    Whether this number is greater or less than the number of times you have returned to your home country for a holiday (not business trips, family emergencies, etc).

    been back around 8 times…

    Any other feelings on this subject

    same thing as brother mouzone says…

  7. avatar diego says:

    This backs the opinion of some of the members of my extended family: bules working in indonesia == left-over bules, which nobody want to recognize, hence no visit :D.

    Sorry to be mean, but this kind of opinion is worth bringing up, this always cracks me up knowing how unfairly judgmental some people are.

  8. avatar Chris says:

    A friend allowed me to pass on his answers:

    1. How long you have lived in Indonesia.

    Been here 20 years.

    2. How many visitors from your home country you have had in that time, not double-counting repeat offenders.

    one visitor from home on one occasion (but he’s something of a globetrotter)

    3. Whether this number is greater or less than the number of times you have returned to your home country for a holiday (not business trips, family emergencies, etc).

    I’ve been back 7 or 8 times.

    4. Any other feelings on this subject.

    My parents think it’s too far and too hot for their advanced years, my siblings wouldn’t want to come without their families, means the airfares mount up very quickly if you’re coming from the UK. However, one of my nieces is thinking of doing some TEFLing towards the end of this year and was asking about jobs over here the other day.

  9. avatar Mas Bas says:

    Been in Indonesia for : 16 years

    Visitors : 0

    Got back home : every year, 2 years at max.

    I like it that way. I don’t want my friends or relative know how really is Indonesia. Also, I don’t want to look like a fool, waisting my life in such a country.

  10. avatar Andy says:

    Mas Bas- Also, I don’t want to look like a fool, waisting my life in such a country.

    Why Mas Bas do you wish to waste your life at all. The fact that you just made this statement suggests you know it but aren’t prepared to change anything. Can you elaborate please?

    Oh btw I was in Jakarta for 4 years but have been home for over 1 now, but had my folks visit me for my wedding and to see my son born and my sister visited me once. I gave them the sanitised and not so sanitised tour. ie They saw Monas but also Blok M and Jaksa. Seemed to find it interesting for a short stay.

    Friends, nobody at all but my feeling is, as much as some may think I bag Indo excessively they have a more communal spirit and genuinely miss their family and friends when they are gone. Indonesians (and other asians too ) need people more so and have closer relationships. Bules are about work, money etc and can sometimes lose that human touch which is sad because if that was so with the generally better standard of living they would probably have little or few social problems if only they got on better and looked after one another.

  11. avatar Rob says:

    I don’t know whether I can comment any longer as I have now done the pulang kampung thing and have been “home” for a month or so.

    1. How long you have lived in Indonesia.

    Since 1993 on and off. More on than off. I guess about 15 years or thereabouts.

    2. How many visitors from your home country you have had in that time, not double-counting repeat offenders.

    15 or so (not including work-related visitors)

    3. Whether this number is greater or less than the number of times you have returned to your home country for a holiday (not business trips, family emergencies, etc).

    Much greater.

    4. Any other feelings on this subject.

    Plenty. It was part of my job to have views on all things Indonesian. I could rattle on for pages, but I won’t…

  12. avatar Nils says:

    I’ll skip the usual format.
    I myself have been living in Indonesia for about 1,5 years but spent around another 1,5 years total there over the course of the last 10 years that my dad has lived there.
    In all that time I was pretty much the only visitor from Germany for him, apart from my sister once and another friend of his once.
    I moved to Bangkok about 4 months ago, work related, and the initial reaction of most of my friends back in Europe was: “Great, now we can come to visit you!” – not that everyone has so far, but three of them already made arrangements to come here next month.
    So yeah, obviously people from back home don’t wanna visit Jakarta. Might be due to the “100 years of national awakening” campaign or the reasons listed in your original post but hey, what do I care, as long as I know how f’ing great that city is!

  13. avatar Bismarck says:

    I remember I was in London meeting an accounting manager in an advertising company a couple years back. He was in his late twenties, when I mentioned that I worked in Indonesia before. He started talking about his visit to his uncle who worked in Indonesia. He talked excitedly about all the places he went in Indonesia. The interesting thing he never mentioned much about Bali, but went on talking about Surabaya particularly Dolly.

  14. avatar Berlian Biru says:

    Diego above reckons the no show of visitors is due the fact that us expats in Indonesia really are a bunch of “Nobby No-Mates”, in my defence can I publish the email I received yesterday from my cousin, a 25 year old university student currently touring Asia.

    She writes (names changed to protect the guilty):

    Hi BB!!

    Your wee cousin Molly here! I hope you don’t mind that I got your
    email address off Pat. I’m travelling around Asia at the mo and
    thought maybe we might be able to meet up!

    I had thought that you were in Kuala Lumpar[sic]which is a stop on our way
    to Singapore but Mick says you’re in Jakarta?? Unfortunately, Indonesia
    isn’t a place we’re going to be but I just thought I’d email and see
    anyways.

    Hopefully we will get a chance to
    meet up but it may have to wait!

    Love to the rest of the family!
    Molly

    You see that? She’s in Singapore, she thought I was in KL, she’s touring Asia and she is looking forward to visiting us, but when she discovers I’m actually in Jakarta, Indonesia, a mere hour and a half flying time from Singapore she writes to tell me she won’t be visiting after all.

    Amazing.

  15. avatar Chris says:

    Another friend, this time a lady from Romania:

    1.How long you have lived in Indonesia.

    13 years.

    2.How many visitors from your home country you have had in that time, not double-counting repeat offenders.

    Two, mum and niece.

    3.Whether this number is greater or less than the number of times you have returned to your home country for a holiday (not business trips, family emergencies, etc).

    About six times.

    4.Any other feelings on this subject.

    My relatives cannot afford to fly to Jakarta.

  16. avatar Rob says:

    1. How long you have lived in Indonesia.

    Don’t live there now – only did so for 14 months or so.

    2. How many visitors from your home country you have had in that time, not double-counting repeat offenders.

    Two – a mate and one of my sisters. Another mate said he’d come, but it was all talk. I think one or two others would have come if I’d stayed longer.

    3. Whether this number is greater or less than the number of times you have returned to your home country for a holiday (not business trips, family emergencies, etc).

    I went home once in that time for a funeral.

    4. Any other feelings on this subject.

    A lot of people seem too scared to go to Indonesia, apart from maybe Bali. The average person likes to go to easy places, like there or Thailand. Indonesia’s not an easy place to travel in.

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