White Men

Dec 31st, 2007, in Opinion, Society, by

White Men in Indonesia: A Guide By Achmad.

Achmad Sudarsono

White Men in Indonesia: A Guide By Achmad

Bule (white expat) wipes the slobbering beer-froth from his jowls, as he stumbles, drunk, onto the pre-dawn dark of the bar-district in Jakarta, Jl. Felatehan, Blok M.

Thirty Bir Bintangs before, Bule had started the night wondering how it had come to this. Now, through the beer-fuelled haze, Bule, a miner in his 50s, could only feel a vague sense of gratitude he still had a place in the world.

He tramples the feet of a rag-clad six-year old child. He collides with a 60-year old beggar squatting amidst the rats.

The bar girls loved him. He was a regular, so drunk and careless he was never capable of using the services he paid for. Snoring his way into a perpetual daily hangover, he never noticed when they ripped off a few hundred thousand extra, distributed to the children of Blok M, some of them his own progeny.

Bule here is fictional. But his story could be that of 90 percent of Bules in Indonesia. Bule Gembel, Bule Kere, Bule Miskin, we Indonesians have many names for them.

In this article, I, Achmad Sudarsono, Ukuele player, poet, dangdut singer, will bust the stereotypes about Bules and Tell It Like It Is. Here is a typology of Bules in Indonesia.

Lifers and Long-Timers

These are the kind of names you’d see on the roll of honour, a wooden shield at “D Bar” in Jl. Felatehan carrying the inscription, “They’ve Done Their Time”, either 10 or 20 years. Like flotsam and jetsam at sea, the scum at the bottom of the pond, they’ve somehow arrived on our shores. By day, the work in a variety of jobs. They’re usually over 50 years old, ageless in their decreptitude.

Haunts: JakChat, Jl. Felatehan.
Dwells: Jl. Jaksa, Kos, random houses in Tangerang or Bekasih.
Sayings: * Vomit * c’mere, darlin’ * vomit *, * vomit *, the problem with these Indons is they don’t know how to work.


20-something NGO workers and journalists. Indonesia’s been good to them. It offers a steady stream of natural disasters, crises, and problems (mostly created by the Bule himself), to justify their existences. The exchange rate means they can live the country-club lifestyle they pretend to despise, or at least did on campuses doing their arts degrees that they found out were useless in the real world.

They share with foreign journalists the mentality of a parasite. Poverty, refugees, and general human misery are viagra for their careers. They stay in a country just long enough to whip up a set of prejudices before leaving to the next troublespot.

Haunts: Jl. Jaksa, FaceBar.
Dwells: Taman Rasuna, Apartemen Casablanca, Kos, rented houses in Menteng or Kemang (on the taxpayer’s dime), Aceh, anywhere there’s marketable human misery.
Sayings: Whining about corruption whilst bitching about the “lazy” Indonesian office staff.

English Teachers and Backpackers

The less said about this motley crew, the better. Scandinavian backpackers are probably the world’s most annoying people. That naive, let-them-wear-burkenstocks attitude, the idiotic belief everyone else is nice and likes them; give a shotgun. (That’s the men, the women can call Achmad for some special lovin’). What the guys need is a few nights wearing crotchless leather chaps in a maximum-security prison. That’d teach them about reality.

The English teachers do nothing but talk about drugs and swap notes with the lifers about bar girls.

Haunts: Jl. Jaksa, Bali, a nation-wide chain of cockroach-infested Losmen that cost less than Rp.20,000 a night.
Dwells: As Above.
Sayings: Generally competitive bidding wars with other backpackers about who got the best deal on the cockroach infected mattress.

The Truth

Friend, such is Achmad’s small contribution to The Truth. Deep down all of you, including the English teachers, know I speak The Truth.

I toast you all for 2008 with my Teh Poci here in the hills of West Java, looking out at the sunset. My quaint rustic brothers and sisters from the village are returning from another day of toil.

If they knew about Bule (in the first paragraph), they’d wonder how anyone could spend so much money on making themselves sick and not give the money to them. I simply sigh and twang a haunting tune on my Ukuele.

100 Comments on “White Men”

  1. Aluang Anak Bayang says:

    Toma, having spent a day scrolling back on what I missed out for the past weeks, it only came to my attention that your spouse is a Bule. Nothing wrong with that; but I had been wondering why another pri would attack his fellowmen and belittling our country. Now it explained everything, doesn’t it? . 🙂

  2. tomaculum says:

    Ah, Aluang,
    your so called ironism is boring.
    If you are able to read my comments and interpret it correct, you will find out that I never attack any fellowman and never belittling your country.
    What I critisize is the situation up there and the behaving of some of Indonesians including some writers in this blog.
    You are so busy to cope with your role as Aluang Anak Bayang that you don’t (or don’t want to) note this.
    What a bummer.
    But I still don’t understand, why the fact, that my wife is white (not bule), explains everything? Dingy, hm? 🙂

  3. tomaculum says:

    And Aluang,
    and why shouldn’t I critisize Indonesian circumstances and misdeeds of some Indonesians?
    This country is still important for me.
    At the other side I am proud of my success in the white man world based on my hard work and my achievement.
    Let me tell you, that achievement is in the white man world more important than connection.
    Yes, I live in a western country. Yes, I am integrated there. Yes, I have an other view about Indonesia than wannabe Indonesian patriots. So what?

  4. Aluang Anak Bayang says:

    Don’t know which Bule country you reside, but if you are in Oz land, you wouldn’t be so lucky. Besides Melbourne and Sydney which are not as racist as the rest of the Oz cities because of their large Greeks and Italians population, Neo Nazis and White Power are still alive and kicking. Good luck.

    Speaking of patriotic, have you ever serve your country?

  5. tomaculum says:

    I’m not in Australia.
    What do you mean with serving my country?
    What about working in Indonesia for years get payed a pittance and giving away my savings to help poors?
    What about staying firm and waiting some years not to pay any “sogokan” to get my work allowance (as a small contribution against corruption)?
    No, Aluang, I am not a patriot, I am just a man still in love with Indonesia. 🙂

  6. Shtarka says:

    Dear Achmad,

    You certainly highlight some of the less than admirable traits of “bules”, but attributing these people as a major source of Indonesia’s troubles is not very smart. How many “bules” live in Indonesia? What percentage is this in a country of over 235 million people?

    You imply that only “bules” drink Bintangs excessively and exploit poor village girls for sex. I’ve been to similar places full of Indonesian men with not a “bule” in sight. They seemed to be drinking quite a bit and enjoying the poor village girls with abandon. Am I missing something here?

    Funny, but from talking to Indonesian women, quite a few, both educated and uneducated state that “bule” men seem to treat them much better than Indonesian men. They are respected and not taken for granted. And with sex, some of the “Bule” men actually car about the woman’s sexual pleasure. This is often not the case with Indonesian men, at least according to Indonesian women. Sure, you can find anecdotal examples to support your case for making out “bules” to be a vulgar and/or parasitic group intent on undermining the integrity of Indonesian society by stealing resources from the people, but what is the point? Of the many serious problems facing Indonesia, are the “bules” crawling around M Blok a major one? Or the young idealistic NGO’s, or English teachers?

    You enjoy displaying your knowledge, but, my friend, when has knowledge been a substitute for wisdom?




    Maybe we are being a little too hard on Achmed. I mean, judging from his picture, I doubt he could feel too many emotions other than jealousy and bitterness. Just to translate so you can understand my point, Achmed…..you are one creepy looking chap, and most likely feel as weak as you look.

  8. JMC2013 says:

    If you can say that 90% of bules in Indonesia are stumbling drunks, why not also point out the fact that 99% of Indonesian’s are lazy and proudly live in their own filth?

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