Kampung Girls

Aug 28th, 2007, in Opinion, Society, by

Ross says “kampung” girls are the best.

As Spring, and all other seasons, bring rain in Scotland, so does the advent of Ramadan in Indonesia almost inevitably produce whining articles in the Jakarta Post from spoilt lazy women who can’t look after their own families.

Ignoring the paradox of a communist-sympathising newspaper affording a platform for the worst examples of the “exploiting classes”, I’d like to dwell on the issue of women who have plenty of money to afford cooking and cleaning classes yet go into a paroxysm of despair when their pembantus (housekeepers) escape the endless domestic drudgery for a week or two to pulang kampung (go home to their villages) and enjoy the company of their loved ones.

It is not unusual for these rich women to move their entire families into hotels for the duration of the Holy Month, or disappear out of town to some luxury resort. Not that I begrudge them a vacation, but the reason for abandoning their homes is their sheer uselessness. And when they come back they’re just as slothful as before they went, re-energised only to resume their irresponsible gallivanting while their sons and daughters are washed, dressed and nourished by employees.

Please note I’m not having a go at working wives. If a couple choose to organize their lives to benefit from two incomes, then that is their choice and they need to make arrangements for their children to be looked after, and if you work all day, it is nice to have a meal waiting for you when you’ve waded through Jakarta’s traffic.

No, my target is the idle females who never work at all. Their kiddies are left in the care of “babysisters” while these gilded creatures swan around coffee-shops and engage in endless window-shopping (or the real thing) while over-worked maids mop and dust and bake and fry so the men of the house (and the said idlers) can have a home worth coming home to. What on earth possesses Indonesian men to marry such dead-beats?

Yes, of course they may be beautiful, and charming, and since their mothers were probably as dysfunctional as themselves, they can’t be blamed for their total lack of domestic skills, but surely if they are free all day, they can take some time to learn what they missed out on as they grew up? (And the government took pride in introducing such classes for migrant workers, so don’t tell me there are none available.)

But let’s forget Ramadan and ask why so many Indonesian women are brought up to be parasites, all year round. It’s not part of their genetic structure. You only have to walk around any backstreet to see Jakarta housewives who work their fingers to the bone to ensure all is spick and span on the home front and the children go off to school in good shape. Men who want good wives, spouses just as beautiful and charming as those pampered playthings I’m criticizing, but infinitely superior in that they’re competent at housewifery, need only stroll into the poor people’s neighbourhoods and find hundreds of capable blossoms just waiting to be plucked.

When I was still quite new here, I heard a nice young Indonesian lady who worked in a bank asking another expat, “why do bules (white expats) always prefer kampung girls?” I had no answer then, for I didn’t understand the question, but after almost nine years in the Big Durian, I can begin to see why. Kampung girls usually accept responsibility for their families. If they were transplanted to distant shores, they’d not be surprised at having to break sweat in the kitchen or lift a broom.

On the other hand, if some of these glamour-pusses we see waltzing around Senayan City or Taman Anggrek all day returned to live with their foreign husbands in those foreign lands, how could they adjust to what Western women take for granted – that if you have kids, you have to look after them, that if you aren’t obliged by employment to be out of doors all day, you should devote some of the time spent indoors to carrying out some basic housework. Yes, I know many Western women do go out to work, and good luck to them – I’m talking about the ones who don’t. And I’m not being “sexist” -whatever that means. I’d apply the same critique to house-husbands who shirk their chores too.

Being at home with young ones you love is not a burden but a joy. But many of Jakarta’s rich women as a rule don’t seem to think so. It’s more fun to sip cappuccino in Kemang cafes than change a nappy (diaper, for American readers), I agree, but parental duty should take precedence over the social whirl, benar?

So what is the explanation? For the rich women’s lack of shame at their indolence, and for the men’s utter lack of discrimination when they marry them?

Watching the numerous sinetron suggests that parents here often interfere intolerably with their offspring’s marital choice, coercing their young to marry within their own ‘social level’ regardless of their wishes. Admittedly, such soap operas are melo-dramatised, but perhaps they do reflect realities. While people mostly marry others from within their own milieu, there should be no parental sticky-beaking into such an important matter. A lot of young men would surely be far better off marrying a cute pembantu with a kind heart and culinary skills rather than being directed into the would-be “social wedding of the year” with a fatuous ding-a-ling who can’t boil an egg.

There is too much snobbery here, reflected on a political level by the indifference of the ruling class to the sufferings of the rest, whether it’s in mud-flow situations, or brutal evictions, or just life’s everyday injustice. The upper strata of society seem to regard the others as a race apart – or beneath.

As readers of my previous posts will be aware, I loathe communism but I can see why Marxist irrationality and class hatred can fester and grow in such circumstances. So my topic has ramifications far beyond the four walls of any household.

I await enlightenment from Indonesians of any class.


76 Comments on “Kampung Girls”

  1. Parvita says:

    Tammy Ho said:

    But not to worry, usually guys who like kampung(an) girls don’t get along with well educated, successful women. Their egos are crushed from miles away and they wouldn’t dare to approach such women for date. So they choose the submissive types

    Spot on. Big grin on my face.

    Interesting post, though I can’t 100% agree. I have to agree that Indonesian women are fortunate because they can have assistants such as maids and babysitters in helping them running the households. But mind you, daycare and dishwashers are not common here. When the maids are gone, usually it’s not because we have to do the work, but because we have to leave the house empty.

    We almost always have to teach these people that applied to be a maid from the kampungs how to work. Interestingly, I find most kampung girls that comes to Jakarta are innocently young and don’t know how to work, ie. cook, dust, iron. They are diligent though. And we, the so-called ‘rich educated women’ have to teach them how to do all that despite of our busy days. Talking about teaching the basics of what humans should be able to do despite of their genders! Not easy, reminding most of them are thick headed, although they are extremely nice girls.

    (Unfortunately, some come to Jakarta and get eaten by the “predators”. And become kampungan.)

    I guess it’s all about how one brings up their kids, not as simple as kampung vs rich girls.

  2. trtskh says:

    Joining in on the conversation a bit late. I can’t help but think there’s some colonial subtext that goes with bules preferring kampung girls. Domination is the name of the game. It’s true, I live in the U.S. and many of the white men who marry Indonesian women marry women who are not well-educated, but who can accomplish their housewifely duties. Which is fine and dandy, of course, because who needs to have a well-educated cerewet wife, who might stand up for herself every now and then, if you can have a quiet, naïve, exotic gadis kampung to keep your stomachs filled, your kids smelling good, and your bed warm–of course, the last is most important.

    Ah, history.

    I don’t think the nyonya-nyonya you mentioned in your post are necessarily the source of the problem, nor do I think the problem is exclusive to Asia and Asians. The diseases of affluence are obviously everywhere. If you think about it, the husbands are probably encouraging the nyonya-nyonya to behave the way they do by: 1.) Providing them with the resources to do it, and 2.) Not talking to them about it. They are probably proud that they make that much money that their wives don’t have to angkat satu jaripun untuk kerja buat rumah tangga. It’s a display of wealth for both the men and the women; you see the women more, but it’s the men who win out of this deal. Wah, suaminya pasti kaya raya tuh!

    I see parallels in the way kids are brought up both in Indonesia and in the U.S. by their affluent parents. Obviously, less people are able to afford iPods in Indonesia than the U.S., but when you see 8 year-olds running around with iPods and portable gaming systems (I stopped paying keeping up with trends in portable gaming gadgets since I was a kid, around the time of the Nintendo GameBoy). If you think it’s ridiculous that sons of wealthy people don’t know how to stop a bus or ride an angkot, think about how silly it is for American suburban kids to be afraid of taking the bus because of the irrational fear that some (black or Latino) thug-gangster-junkie would mug them on the bus!

    As tempting as it is to blame everything on those “glamour-pusses” as you have put it, there is a context which enables them to exist.

  3. Dragonwall says:

    Quite hilarious looking at this

    Kampung Girl cost only 5 dollars a day including cooking and cleaning
    also sex come along that’s why I like kampung girls

    Sorry to say, no wonder expats got a bad name.

    5 dollars a day and had sex thrown in for dessert! I was wondering where could I get one of that?

  4. Eva says:

    It is now March 2008, I guess I’m too late to reply. I just stumbled this article yesterday when I was searching for Obama’s childhood life in Jakarta. I found your article is wonderful, I don’t detect any chauvinism or double standard on your part. I myself dislike lazy people, especially the ones who don’t look after their children.

    What horrify me about this blog is the replies, which I’m sure came from my fellow Indonesians. These people really think they are so above “Kampung Girls”. One person wrote about how these girls wouldn’t be able to keep the conversation in business dinner, another person pointed at how complicated the situation would be if a middle class man married such girl. It’s all BS! They just can’t stand the fact that poor and ignorant Kampung Girls could marry somebody in their station, perhaps above theirs, thus elevated on their “level”.

    I live in United States, I know a lot of Indonesian women from different background. The rich and educated ones aren’t always smart, intelligent, and cultured. I have met a lot of Indonesian diplomat’s wives who are not only ignorant, but also “deep” as a puddle. Their knowledge in shopping at Outlet Malls is greater than their knowledge in current affairs, let alone politics. Once, I met a diplomat’s wife who was stationed in Italy, I asked her opinion on so many different subjects about the country, started from the ancient history…Cicero, Marcus Aurelius….don’t know. Renaissance? Papal Court, Rafael….don’t know. Okay…where can I find Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge’s lot on Isola San Michele?…still don’t know…and where were you again? Timbuktu? That’s just one example, I have many many stories about these so called educated and high class ladies. As far as conversing to business associates and talking in black-tie events….do wives discuss high finance and politics in places like that? Be real….none of us want to offend anybody at parties and gatherings, my opiniated mother would never, ever quotes Oriana Fallaci and Wafa Sultan in any event where there are people from different backgrounds, we all make polite, nearly bland conversation….how is your family?….. the food is so delicious…..that’s a lovely dress….”Kampung Girls” can talk like that as well.

    To all educated Indonesian women who claimed to be feminists: HELP YOUR “SISTERS”! These “Kampung Girls” have worked from dawn to dusk so you can hang out at cafes with your friends, gossip about God knows what…..why don’t you help them? give them decent wage, a day off, give them a bit of education….whatever you can….sewing course, etc.

    For all “Bules” who want to marry “Kampung Girls”….please go ahead, please marry them properly, please don’t put them down, once you fulfilled their basic needs, don’t deny them an education.

  5. mickey says:

    @Tammy Ho
    I haven’t come accross you so called “well educated, successful women” after years in Indonesia.
    If you are refering to the fair skinned women that are arrogant, treat the ‘darker’ skinned people as trash, waste their time looking in the mirror, snort during meals, spit after meals, have no compassion nor respect, think that by going to church their sins will be washed away, have no desire nor interest in worldly affairs (other than money ones) then yes I have met them.

    They are born, they visit the malls, they die….
    The only problem I have is that they have taken up space, polluted the environment & have not contributed to the well-being of mankind.

    The cliche that pembantus are lazy is a classical one. However I dont see it that way:

    my pembantu is 18, good looks and has brains. I noticed she was saving up the Jakarta Post & flicking through it. When I asked her why, she said she would like to be a teacher. When I asked her why she does not go & study (sorry, I forgot I was in Indonesia of all places), she shyly proposed to me “how”. Ok, I said maybe good to learn english so I gave her dictionarry, pen, paper and all the rest and voila…. 4 months later she speaks basic english. She is more confident AND she goes back to Kampung and suddenly the parents realize that there is maybe another option for her daughter than to be pembantu. It is all about opportunity given & taken. Yes I will loose her one day (it is hard to find good pembantu you can trust!) and am paying for her study to become teacher but hey, I think I caused a bit of a revolution in her village…. kampung girls have abilities beyond pembanuanism!
    Maybe the fairly skinned part of society can try to do something positive for this country instead of only taking money and creating and keeping in tact the “under-class” of this society to keep their status up.

    @ parvita
    your statement only proves the above…..!

  6. dewaratugedeanom says:

    @mickey

    Acung jempol – thumbs up.

  7. Lairedion says:

    @mickey,

    Touching story. Thanks for sharing and thanks for teaching these money-obsessed ladies and all of us a lesson in humane behaviour.

  8. Tammy Ho says:

    Mickey:

    I haven’t come across you so called “well educated, successful women” after years in Indonesia.

    You’re circulating in the wrong crowd then, man.

    And how come this become “fair skin vs. dark skin”? That’s quite racist, don’t you think? You think only fair skin people can afford pembantu, or dark skin family treats their pembantu better than fair skin ones? FYI I never treat pembantu differently, my parents would smack my head if I yell or shout at them. I have at least 3 pembantu who have achieved their dreams: one has opened a clothing store (factory outlet), one had finished her high school, and one is married to a local council man.

    They are born, they visit the malls, they die….
    The only problem I have is that they have taken up space, polluted the environment & have not contributed to the well-being of mankind.

    That’s utterly rubbish, try to make us feel guilty because we have money to splurge. Lots of us are capable of taking care of ourselves and master the art of cooking. Lots of us have money because we work hard, so why is it shameful if we visit the mall to have coffee with friends after a long day at work? And some of us choose to go for holiday when it’s Ramadhan Holiday not because we can’t take care of our house when the maids are gone, but because it’s holiday time! Most offices and factories are closed. Even shopping malls are empty. Nobody wants to work. So what else to do rather than going somewhere else?

  9. Nadya says:

    What the different kampung girl and rich women? Just like my own life now…I was be domestic worker for 6 yrs and now I be success women can do travel around the world though all people will look down on maids!!! But event the are kampung girl no education they also human being…..so I guest kampung girls is nice too….

  10. Rob says:

    Always fascinated with the stereotypes 😀

    Mickey it is a nice story. Indonesia is a land of opportunity in many ways and not so in others. Your pembantu has lucked out if you are paying for her education.

    There are plenty of stories of smart kampung girls who have made good!

    Yet, I have to agree with Tammy here…maybe you are not circulating in the right places. There are so many successful women here. If you cannot circulate then read about them in the papers and mags or watch them on the tele.

    My Indonesian experience has been a different one from yours that is for sure.

  11. Andy says:

    It is true that many middle class women are generally obsessed with the mall. I taught hundreds of students over nearly 4 years and surprise surprise 95 % said they liked shopping. That includes the guys. Now can we blame them? Not when they have little if any sports facilities and for most of the year it is too hot and humid to venture outdoors. Malls are being built as we speak and it is the heartbeat of Jakarta. Even their museums are crumbling relics which have seen better days. I used to get sneers and giggles when I suggested more educational pursuits for the weekend. “not cool” I bet they were thinking. The ‘in crowd’ loves the mall, particularly the new glossy ones. Blok M, for example, was empty when I was last there but packed everyday when I first arrived. Ponkok Indah 2 and the flashy one near Mid Plaza have taken over.

    Look it doesn’t matter whether they are good or bad women, Indonesians (who can afford to) love shopping. So much so they save their pennies to go to Singapore just to visit malls which look almost the same as the ones they go to every other weekend.

  12. Mets says:

    Is this thread for real ….place this synopsis in anypart of the world city girl versus village girl or poor girl versus rich girl you have the same argument…admittedly in countries such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, UAE you have to bring the domestic help into the equation, but in Europe they are known as au-pairs, mothers helps, house keepers, nannies etc…..

  13. Andy says:

    One thing that used to stick in my craw was the need to parade one’s domestic helpers around the mall as if to show off how many they had. Kind of made me think they are of the same mindset as the good ol’ deep south of the USA back in the Gone with the Wind era. That folks was pre 1865. They used to do that with their slaves.

    Why may I ask can’t the pembantu wear her own clothes to the mall? Is that too big a crime? She does at home but must wear her uniform while out. Makes more sense for me to wear it while you are working ie in the home.

  14. Purba Negoro says:

    Andy,
    I am not sure why this idiotic trend started- but it seem to be a fascination of the nouveau riche.

    Even 5-7 years ago it never happen. I only see some housewife ladies in supermarket with maid to teach them what to buy or help with the heavy bags (as some are getting quite old and frail- remember our diet is low on milk product).
    OR maybe to push old person about in wheel chair- or assist them.

    For the uniform- some allow them to wear whatever- some to wear uniform. For some maids it is more practical- so it ‘saves’ their own clothes (and their own expense) from being worn out.
    I think maybe for some- they want to show this is the maid not my friend- so are nt embarassed- I do not know.

    In some malls you will see some who are dressed like they just got out of bed- these commonly are the ones with so much money it needs to be hidden- unless uncomfortable questions asked.

    For most I know the maid usually only come along to help older people- otherwise for heavy or bulky item- the store staff are more than willing to help for a tip.

    I do not have a real answer.
    Where is Mid Plaza? Maybe the name has changed.
    There is Semanggih- which is beside RS Veteran.
    OR maybe Taman Anggrek?
    There is many in Kelapa Gading- including the new Kelapa Gading 3 (I was actually involved in their construction- very interesting constructions)?

    Do you mean Plaza Senayan (has the annex behind which has Red Square bar etc?) or the new one opposite?
    Or that other one I forget the name just now- basically behind the sports area and Senayan?
    Or the new extension to Plaza Indonesia?
    Or the new Gran Indonesia behind the former Hotel Indonesia (opposite Hotel Nikko and the statues)?

    The issue in Asia is: land= lots of money.
    We do not have the huge open areas of land like the US or Australia or Canada
    So Land for sport is seen as money wasted.
    Land is very finite and there is huge demand- this is why most colonial racecourse and cricket ground etc used for buildings. It is too valuable to be empty.
    The current DPRD-DKI Jakarta and Sutiyoso and now Bowo are trying to change this mentality for more green and park areas- but still very tough to change.

  15. Andy says:

    http://www.cityloftssudirman.com/homeretail.html

    Purba, this is the one I mean. Check out the music.

    How many guys here agree with me that those pampered women who spend countless hours and dollars (millions in rupiah) are more often than not less attractvie than their nannies / maids / helpers etc.

  16. cinnamongirl says:

    How about if you meet a single well educated lady, has got a good job (successful woman), smart, totally independent, lives alone without depend to bule bf or man or rich parents to take care her expenses, able to cook and she thinks that relax is staying at home and do home works as her job makes her so busy, works on the weekend also and travel around Indonesia also abroad by her own income.

    Will you still compare this lady to the ” kampung (an) girl ” ( who makes you send money monthly to her family in the village ) ??

  17. Rob says:

    cinnamongirl…

    are kampung(an) girls who receive monthly stipends any less worthy than the types of girls/women you describe in your first paragraph?

    As I said, the stereotypes always fascinate me 😉

  18. cinnamongirl says:

    Refer to your 1st words on your blog

    ” Ross says “kampung” girls are the best. “

    It is not less worthy as for me people are the same as the most important is the inner beauty.

    But I am sure when you meet a lady the same as I describe in my 1st paragraph you will like her alot 🙂 and perhaps will try to get her ^.^
    Trust me !

    All the best getting your kampung(an) girl(s)

  19. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    Halo all my Seksi Friend,

    I love to make good lovin’ with the Pembantu because she is the true Indonesian Woman. My Idol Sukarno had the right idea when he hovered over Balinese women bathing in the rice fields.

    Va Va Voom !

  20. Farah says:

    @ Cinnamon

    …i think its like.. “why you pick sausage while you cold eat the whole pork?” or the most famous among guys “why you choose carton of milk while you could get the whole cow your self?”

    well not really sound like that but i ever heard it.

    And i understand what you’re trying to say here 🙂

  21. Kinch says:

    @ Farah: you are my favourite cow 🙂

  22. Kinch says:

    ^—-totally not going to mention pork at all.

  23. fullmoonflower says:

    wah.. pakde Achmad!

    where were you?

    welcome back to the jungle… 😛

  24. Aluang Anak Bayang says:

    @ all

    Cewek Kampungan is the best because they are innocent, afraid of Bule, most know how to cook and don’t have sharp tongue. At least their moral value is higher than some resident trolls we have here. My 2 rupiah.

  25. diego says:

    @Eva

    Acung jempol. I hate pinches fresas mamonas like some resident (girl) trolls here.

  26. Burung Koel says:

    I had a bule friend who was romancing two women in Jakarta. He has to decide which one he would marry.

    The first was a highly educated career woman, a lawyer, very stylish and attractive. She was well travelled, good in conversation and had ambitions to run and operate her own business some day. They seemed to get on well, sharing evenings out at restaurants, playing tennis and travelling.

    The other woman was a cewek kampungan. She was pretty (but not in a glamorous way). She was loyal, hardworking and a great cook. My friend spent a lot of time meeting her family, who were honest, responsible people, although not well off. I think he really loved this woman.

    So, which one did he marry?

    Being a man, of course the one with the biggest t@ts.

  27. Aluang Anak Bayang says:

    As a full-blooded man, I have to agree with Burung Koel. I have a best friend who was once arranged by both side of the families to be married. She was from a Malaysian royal family. He had not met her but was very excited. I was also expecting wedding invitation but after a month when I next saw him, he was running away from both side of the families. He told me he was expecting a cute looking girl; someone whom he can take out and show off to the world, not someone with a face of an auntie. He is now happily married with a kampunganan bombshell.

  28. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    All My Seksi Friend,

    I follow the example of my idol Soekarno, who used to hover over rice fields in Bali watching the women mandi. Vrrrrrr !

    All Indonesian woman is Seksi, Friend, even Dorce. (She make the very strong mouth Sek). Kampung woman is Seksi ! City woman is Seksi !

    Kampung woman is like a hearty Nasi Goreng, smothered in saus sambal.

    City woman is like a refined Sushi dish.

    Variety is good, that way make the strongest Sek, Friend.

  29. ET says:

    I prefer kampung girls and even would marry my pembantu because I would be able to cut her salary.

    I once proposed to an educated city woman – I believe she was a tax manager – but she turned me down and said that she was only interested to become my tax consultant. For a fee of course.

    This was a valuable lesson for me.

    – Kampung girls give help and save money
    – City girls give advice and take money

  30. Oigal says:

    Laugh… One would assume that this post was way too easy for another..yawn..bule bashing by the terminally insecure but with comments like these

    “I find most kampung girls that comes to Jakarta are innocently young and don’t know how to work”

    “we, the so-called ‘rich educated women’ have to teach them how to do all that despite of our busy days”

    “Talking about teaching the basics of what humans should be able to do despite of their genders! Not easy, reminding most of them are thick headed, although they are extremely nice girls. ”

    Gotta love the KB (Kaya Baru) mentality..

    Eva, you hit the nail right on the head

    “What horrify me about this blog is the replies, which I’m sure came from my fellow Indonesians. These people really think they are so above “Kampung Girls”. One person wrote about how these girls wouldn’t be able to keep the conversation in business dinner, another person pointed at how complicated the situation would be if a middle class man married such girl. It’s all BS! They just can’t stand the fact that poor and ignorant Kampung Girls could marry somebody in their station, perhaps above theirs, thus elevated on their “level”. ”

    It’s sheer snobbery and arrogance so often demonstrated by the arrogant “easy come” rich to the have nots. Got some really bad news for some of the empty headed, newly rich mall rats living on daddies misbegotten gains. A lot of these Kampung Girls have more inate intelligence and class than you could possibly imagine.

    Still some of the posts just prove the ol trueism Education doesn’t equal class!

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