World’s Friendliest People

Nov 10th, 2011, in Featured, Society, by

Flying over remote areas east has a local journalist questioning the supposed friendliness of Indonesians.

Lambertus HurekYour scribe’s favourite local journalist, Lambertus Hurek of the Jawa Pos Group, recently reflected on a trip he took with small regional airline Susi Air, which flies in the nether regions of the east, like West Timor, among other isolated areas around the country.

Susi Air, founded by Pangandaran, West Java tycoon Bu Susi, employs some western pilots and co-pilots, and Lambertus says these fellows are jolly friendly towards passengers; they always smile and regard people well. They not only fly the tiny planes, but also take on various other roles informally, and in good spirit, like as technicians/ground crew, ‘hostesses’, and even tour guides.

Our flying commentator then goes on to make a comparison of these hulking white men with their yinni ren counterparts, saying that Indonesian pilots keep themselves haughtily separate from their passengers.

Even air hostesses on the major domestic airlines, whose family homes can likely be found down the narrow alleyways of the kampungs of Java, suddenly act as if they own the airline when in uniform, and often treat passengers with stuck up disdain; even when they smile, it seems forced, says our hero.

He asks:

So who says Indonesians, in particular Javanese, are really friendly?

Indonesians have a lot to learn from how westerners treat ordinary folks, he

That is one man’s impression of his countrymen, seeking other views we look at Forbes’ 2011 rankings for World’s Friendliest Countries (for expats), which is not exactly a measure of people friendliness, but uses these criteria:

  • ability to befriend locals
  • success in learning the local language
  • capacity for integrating themselves into the community
  • ease in which they fit into the new culture

The results were: forbes

  1. Canada
  2. Bermuda
  3. South Africa
  4. USA
  5. Australia
  6. Spain
  7. France
  8. UK
  9. Malaysia
  10. Germany

Turning to another source, what is a more strictly ‘friendliest people’ thing, we find a Lonely Planet list which gives some impression of having been generated by a computer program but is nevertheless food for thought; Indonesia does manage to feature here: lonelyplanet

  1. Ireland
  2. USA
  3. Malawi
  4. Fiji
  5. Thailand
  6. Samoa
  7. Vietnam
  8. Indonesia
  9. Scotland
  10. Turkey

Of course the above two lists are measuring friendliness towards foreigners/tourists, which is a different thing from Lambertus Hurek’s focus on one’s own countrymen, particularly those who are low down on the socio-economic scale.

13 Comments on “World’s Friendliest People”

  1. Oigal says:

    From a Expat’s point of view I would disagree with most of the article. There is no doubt in virtually every situation the expat is treated to an an almost overwhelming array of smiles and greetings way and beyond what your standard visitor to the West would receive. Although that is more than just Indonesia rather a whole Asia thing. Try comparing QANTAS with virtually any Asian airline , QANTAS or BA for that matter come off a very poor second.

    As for Garuda staff treating Indonesians poorly on flights? I would suggest the opposite, I think they deserve a medal. Let’s be honest, Indonesians are not good air travelers but you can have a good time.

    It starts at the gate, where we all have to rush, jostle push to be first through the gate never mind the aged, children or anyone else. Then ram our ticket into the hand of the person at the gate and push in front as far as you can. We then take our 5 five pieces of over-sized luggage and jam that into the overhead locker, who cares if anyone else might need some space (For fun, I suggest taking great joy in unloading the locker above your head dumping it in the isle and placing your normal size carry on inside, normally makes for great theatre).

    Once we land and before the plane has even stopped, watch the lemmings jump up and start pulling the said luggage out on top of peoples heads (sorry “excuse me” does not cut it). Switch on the handphone because SBY might have been trying to contact us during the flight and then rush to the front of the plane and force ourselves out of the door.

    Once again for fun and distraction, I strongly recommend jumping out of your seat and ensure you block the isle. Elbows out and brace to resist the mass as the lemmings rush to the door (For the really pushing ones, lean back and step down hard on their toes), use the phrase “Sorry no I don’t excuse you, you can bl**dy well wait to get your over sized luggage down and you can certainly wait until the people in front of us have disembarked in a civilized fashion”.

    Keeping on with Oigal’s fun tips for air travel.

    Do try and get the transit counter experience. Best if you arrive first as people thrust their tickets around you and in front of you. Grab a couple from different people and throw them to one side and watch the theatre again.

    The last fun tip, in any semblance of a orderly line, stand back a few inches from the person in front and look mildly distracted (handphone or book is a good ploy). Sure as the sun rises in the East, some ignorant, arrogant moron will try and push in. This is the time when you firmly gasp the should and indicate where the line ends and what the term “Antri” means. This is a good time killer, in the right conditions you can bag a swag of the ignorant and it makes waiting time much more fun.

    Personally with all of the above I am amazed the staff have not traded the smiles for cattle prods.

  2. Lairedion says:

    The writer of this article is making a fuss out of nothing. Today flying is basically getting from A to B in a timely and orderly fashion, nothing more.

    The uniform fetish is indeed true. Even orange “tukang parkir” and security guards of private property behave like mini Mussolini’s sometimes.


    Your travel stories are almost universal. Only this summer I pushed back some bastard trying to sneak in. The standard reply: “I wasn’t aware you were queuing also? My rebuttal: “Of course you weren’t, you f**kin’ prick. Now get back in line!”

  3. Oigal says:

    Indeed..”L” I simply despise flying in Australia..You want to see out of control, arrogant nobodies in Uniform try it there.

  4. Chris says:

    One of my favourite flying experiences was 8 years ago in Australia.

    I was flying from Melbourne to Mt Gambier, via Portland on a small airline called Rex (short for Regional Express).

    The plane had 19 seats, and every seat – except the middle one in the back row – was an aisle seat and a window seat.

    The co-pilot could just turn around and say what he needed to say,
    not needing to use the intercom.

    But this is where it gets relevant to this discussion: the co-pilot also doubled as the stewardess, handing out snacks and drinks from a small esky to the passengers before take-off.

    That would NEVER happen in Indonesia.

  5. Lairedion says:

    I fly quite regularly but I never have had any significant confrontations with airliners’ crew. Guess it’s just me getting seated and shielding myself from what’s happening around me. Surely missed quite a number of hot air hostesses (other thread) because of that. Have had many altercations with fellow travelers though, for those very reasons you described here Oigal.


    But this is where it gets relevant to this discussion: the co-pilot also doubled as the stewardess, handing out snacks and drinks from a small esky to the passengers before take-off.

    That’s what I call real service. A pilot doubling as a stewardess. A stretch too far I guess for the more conservative travelers. 😉

  6. Chris says:

    Interestingly, a few years ago there was another IM post reporting Australian research that contradicts Australia’s high position for being foreigner/expat-friendly:

    In particular:

    A study by Monash and Melbourne Universities claims that Asian students studying abroad at Australian universities suffer very high levels of isolation and loneliness.

    200 students from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, China, and India were surveyed with 67% of female and 62% of male respondents saying they often felt totally lost in Australia and found it difficult to make friends with local, Australian students.

    The Singaporeans were the most lonely, with 100% saying they felt “in a very strange place” and “lost in a jungle”, or similar sentiments, followed by Malaysians, Indonesians and Chinese.

  7. David says:

    His general point was, even if the example wasn’t that good:

    Indonesians’ friendliness is not all its cracked up to be, especially when considering how they deal with other Indonesians esp. those of lower social status.

    A lot of the examples of rudeness given here, would seem to bear that out….

    Secondly, that people from modest backgrounds have a tendency to get a bit haughty when put in uniform or some situational position of authority. This can happen anywhere of course.

    I often post opinions which I disagree with, or aren’t bothered about either way, in this case I thoroughly agree with him on both counts. I will mention Danes though, once shared a house with a bunch of Danes and Indonesians have it all over them for friendliness…

  8. Oigal says:

    David, I was sort of alluding to your point by suggesting that the cabin crew deserve medals. It never seems to amaze me that some people find a simple thank you is beyond them when dealing with someone they deem beneath them.

    ‘L’ if it was Melbourne, no wonder an Asian feels out of place, if you don’t follow football then you really do not exist. You have religion and then you have a Victorian AFL fan.

  9. berlian biru says:

    And the award for understatement of the year goes to…Oigal for

    Let’s be honest, Indonesians are not good air travelers

    A very funny and extremely accurate account of air travel in Indonesia.

    Although you left out the check-in procedure at smaller provincial airports were a single harassed check in girl doesn’t so much handle a queue but rather a mob surrounding her desk shoving tickets at her while she conducts a conversation with her colleague at the next desk who’s having some difficulty with the passenger who doesn’t want to place her newly purchased pizza oven/fridge/truck engine in the luggage hold but wants to take it aboard as hand carry.

    Happy to discover that it’s the urgent sms’s from SBY that cause the cacophony of handphone bleeping that instantly surrounds the aircraft’s landing gear making contact with the runway, I often wondered about that.

  10. ET says:

    This lack of discipline described here is not limited to air travel. Go and have a look in a Balinese temple during an odalan when worshippers are gathering outside to attend a praying session and then have to enter though the kori agung (typical very narrow gate) into the inner sanctum. It’s like an invisible whip driving spruced up cattle into an abattoir. Next time I will videotape it.

  11. bonni says:

    I hate to admit that most of indonesian people DON’T QUEUE.

    Even when I was queueing in front of hotel reception desk… It’s like they didn’t notice I was queueing there. I mean what did they expect? Me standing ‘right’ in the back of the person who was talking to the reception? They also don’t realise that when queueing they have to keep distance, because it is none of their business.

    Agree with oigal.

    I hate to admit that some of indonesian people are NOT GOOD AIR TRAVELLERS.

    The plane hasn’t even landed well in the ground yet, they already turned on their cellphones. SBY didn’t even notice they were flying…

    It happens all the time. Pissed me off all the time.

    So, for being the world’s friendliest people? Indonesian… Not yet.

  12. berlian biru says:

    They also don’t realise that when queueing they have to keep distance, because it is none of their business.

    Which also applies to the vitamin sellers in pharmacies,

    “No, not only do I not want to buy your vitamins I also wish to discuss my need for ointments for my embarrassing skin complaints privately with the pharmacist and not with you, your SPG colleagues and the cashier.”

  13. ET says:

    Sometimes they really go over the top. Once I was eating in a restaurant with friends and suddenly a local guy comes behind me and without asking starts massaging my neck and shoulders. Then I have said something in my nativel language and I think he understood.

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