Single Indonesian Women

May 19th, 2008, in Opinion, Society, by

Therry Therry says overseas educated Indonesian women are faced with prejudice back at home and poor choices on the men front.

SOB’s, Single Overseas Bachelorettes

Indonesia Dating

For single Indonesian women who

  • are graduates of overseas universities
  • or have spent some time overseas
  • and/or are deeply influenced by the western-ways of thinking

while we’re women who are fortunate enough to have earned an overseas degree and are able to speak in another language, people often assume we are outrageously rich and likely to be snobs, and we are left with the dilemma of finding the right kind of man.


In a country like Indonesia, where everyone seems to get into a state of frenzy if they aren’t a part of a “couple”, it has become almost a sin to be walking around without your so-called other half. No matter how emancipated women have become, they still feel it’s imperative that they are to be wedded off – soon, hopefully, no later than the age of 26. As soon as they hit 30, sirens start to blare off from their ears, forbidding them to enter places like cinemas or cafes with dimmed lights – as if these places have invisible placards on top of the entrances blazing “No singles allowed” blinking on and off in garish purple neons.

At times like these, it is possible lose our belief that it is okay to be single – no it’s definitely fine spending Saturday evenings in front of the telly watching repeats of soap operas, munching on crackers and glugging wine down to the very last drop – but when it comes to the topic of “boyfriend”, we often get into a desperate state where we’d ask each other if there’s any guy – anyone? anyone at all?

But to our despair we have come to a realisation that we know – yes, we know – that it is a tough battle to find the man who could really come anywhere near our expectations – even though we don’t expect that much. Well, so long as he’s presentable, not like someone that even your dog would recoil from, and comes with a decent form of transportation and doesn’t scab money from us – won’t it be alright?

Even so, the choices aren’t great:

  • Typical Indonesian guy, whose ways of thinking repel us so much we shudder at the very thought of him. The mind games, the play-hard-to-get, the sleazy attitude, not to mention the somehow twisted attitude that they think females are only good for cooking, cleaning, bearing children, acting feminine, and being plain submissive – need we explain more?
  • Overseas-veteran bachelors with over-indulgent parents who give them with BMW’s and Mercedes Benzes and do many of the other destructive things that filthy rich people do to their kids, thus unknowingly making these potentially fine young men turn into selfish ignorant brats who suffer from what we like to call “The Little Emperor Syndrome”. Although, because they live in western countries, they are very much influenced by Western ways, they are still very much Asian – unfortunately left with the bad parts.
  • Foreign men, expats – forget it. Most of them are fat and balding with burnt red skin. Anyway, these guys go for the authentic Indonesian looks so there’s no way they’d be interested in women like me who don’t look that way.

So the question – plus the quest itself – remains the same: How on earth are we going to find the man who doesn’t have all those dreadful characteristics? The time left is getting shorter by the day and the numbers of eligible men are definitely getting smaller. I am simply clueless as to think whether we are simply left with no hope or should remain optimistic.

To hell with it. I’m just going to purchase another dog and be done with it.


Being the naive girl that I was, upon returning from my study overseas, I thought getting a job would be an easy task, because an overseas degree must have been more appealing than a local degree, right?

Wrong. It was difficult for me in finding a job. I sent out resumes after resumes only to usually receive zero response, and even if I did manage to score some interviews, they never led anywhere.

I had thought that my resume and the abundant amount of work experience I had was something that would have floored them – but it seems a lot of work experience probably meant I was not loyal enough (even though they were all mostly part-time jobs that I did during college) and carrying the title of an overseas graduate scared most people off because they probably thought I was going to ask for a huge starting salary which was equal to the salary of a person who had worked for ten years.

It was when I was almost totally fed up with all the useless interviews that I finally, finally, got a job. Unfortunately, before I even started working, someone had leaked the fact that I was (gasp!) an overseas graduate, and before I even knew it, I had my very own persona labelled onto me; the snob girl who must have had a very grand life and very loaded parents at that.

That wasn’t the first time it had happened to me. In the brief period of me working as an English teacher in a small institution in Thamrin, I had received the same treatment – the other employees were not keen to be friendly with me, and I couldn’t immediately start chit-chatting away with them for fear of being too friendly aka SKSD (Sok Kenal Sok Deket) and scared them even more; besides, the Indonesian Art of Basa-basi was not one I had mastered yet.

Which was why it was funny that when we finally got to know each other, they were surprised that I wasn’t at all what they thought. As a matter of fact, I was just like everybody else.

I went to work using public transport, instead of a hand-me-down BMW and a personal chauffeur.

I bought my clothes at places like Matahari and sometimes Mangga Dua, not from Guess or Mango. Although if I had a lot of money I probably would gone to the expensive stores, but clothes have never been an important thing for me – I’d rather spend my money on books, to be completely honest.

I cut my hair at the local Johnny Andrean and experienced bad hair days because it was the wrong style, instead of colouring and rebonding it at LuVaze – I’m not freaking Agnes Monica, for God’s sake. I wasn’t at all as glamorous and snobbish as others assumed by default.

Perhaps it is common to label supposedly rich people as snobs – because they are wealthy, then they are assumed to be arrogant. So it must be weird to see a rich person not being smug about their richness, because many of them are like that.

I remember what this other colleague said about this Javanese girl in the R&D department who drove to work using a Suzuki Katana and just recently changed her car to a Toyota Soluna, (bear in mind we’re talking about Japanese cars as opposed to European);

“Even though she’s rich, she’s a very friendly person.”

Wow. That “even though” bit really got me. As if being wealthy – or living an abundant and sufficient life – was a weakness, something to condemn to, and an excuse to make sense of their judgement.

Which is why whenever I met new people, I dread the very question of,

“Where did you graduate from?”

I’d contemplate lying, but I have never been a very good liar, and if I do lie, it will all just get out of hand in which they probably go,

“Oh, you went to so-and-so university! What year did you graduate? Perhaps you know my friend Budi, he was the manager of the student lounge?”

See? Not a very good idea. So now you would have understood my dilemma – if I’m being honest, I’m definitely going to be judged as a snob as to what has happened before, and if I do lie, I’ll just get myself into more trouble. And all because I spent a few years of my life being overseas.

Hardly a big deal – but not to some people.

145 Comments on “Single Indonesian Women”

  1. Marisa says:

    Not sure if I’ve fulfilled the criteria to comment on this post. 😀
    I’m not an overseas graduate, and my family is more of a universitas negeri-standardized one. We are the proud owners of jaket ITB, UI, USU, at least until my own Atmajaya and Interstudi paraphernalia hanging in the wardrobe. Not exactly what you call the ideal Westernized family, eventhough it has influenced much of the discipline applied in my home. Presently, I am still working my way to having the chance (of being formally re-educated overseas) though, and a scholarship would be the only choice in my case.

    On the subject. In my humble non-academic opinion, perhaps the most urgent issue in our society is how we make use of the education. How education has been a key factor in having a purposeful life, an innovative and visionary thinking, and most importantly, making a positive contribution in the community. Yadda yadda.

    Intellectuality, a life calling, Western-influenced or not, is an independent state of being. You don’t have it, you die. It is not a certificate, a priced property, an accessory, an attribution, or anything that can be associated by a BMW, a LuVaze haircut, or even a conversation over a candle-lit dinner. At least it’s not supposed to be. To be frank and honest, I’ve also seen local grads–and undergrads, brilliant ones, that haven’t been receiving the equal chance in developing their capabilities and intellectuality, only for the reason that they haven’t been educated in top universities and/or overseas ones. And unlike the Western culture as we know it, Indonesia is hardly a place where ideas are thoroughly appreciated for its brilliance, it’s more appreciated for the “interests” it could serve. As to Indonesians who have finally achieved beyond their own academic limitations, their determination and lifetime dedication are simply amazing. Those are the people that, in my opinion, truly own the true value of education.

    Lastly, there are hundreds, even thousands, of those that are less fortunate than we are. It is encouraged that every commenter and author here supports the free education for all, in their own unique ways, wherever they’ve earned their education.

    Good post nonetheless therry! Obviously you’ve reflected the thoughts of many.
    You should definitely check out High/Scope Indonesia, perhaps you’d be interested in their philosophy and methods in teaching.

    All the best. 😀

  2. Achmad Sudarsono says:


    Please remember that Achmad is one of the sexiest Indonesian men and he can teach you how to be sexy too !

    Va Va Voom !

  3. MbakAditya says:

    Achmad, I’m sorry to be confrontational, but even by Khymer standards you aren’t good looking.

  4. PrimaryDrive says:

    Hey, there are still overseas veterans who are simply hard working!! And guess what, we are tolerant to various oddities. We dont mind submisive solo wives, if they can cook well, or more bossy types, as long as they’re not bossy just for the pleasure of it. But sadly we don’t have BMW… and I must say that when it comes to choosing between the beauty of our inner veteran wisdom and a flashy BMW, most educated indonesian women tend to choose the latter 🙁

  5. Rob says:

    I would have thought there would be plenty of men who would be happy to become involved with and eventually marry a well-educated, successful, career-oriented, and high-earning (eventually) woman…

    Let’s face it life could be good lazying about in cafes and playing golf 3 or 4 times a week and relaxing at home for the rest of the time. Perhaps we could do a little bit of daddy day care looking after the kids while the successful wife was at work…

    So, I guess you just need to be a little bit more patient for a little bit longer…the old cliche will kick in sooner or later; all good things come to those who wait!

    Indonesians are no different from anyone else in the sense that they might judge you based on your education or what car you drive or whatever; I think that is human nature…and in many ways we cannot help ourselves. I teach an advocacy class and one of the sessions deals with our prejudices and biases, specifically in recognizing them. Many exist on a subconscious level and until you point them out on the conscious level most people would claim to be unequivocally not biased or prejudiced.

    This is not something that is unique to Indonesia or to men or women, it is universal…the point here is that this is life and ultimately you reach the “Rima point” where you just say bugger it and let fly with all your achievements and some almost achievements and then get on with doing what needs to be done!

    I enjoyed reading your post (this does not mean that I agree with “all” your points thoush)!

  6. Achmad Sudarsono says:


    Do you also teach people how to be sexy ?

  7. Lex dePraxis says:

    But to our despair we have come to a realisation that we know – yes, we know – that it is a tough battle to find the man who could really come anywhere near our expectations – even though we don’t expect that much. Well, so long as he’s presentable, not like someone that even your dog would recoil from, and comes with a decent form of transportation and doesn’t scab money from us – won’t it be alright?

    Presentable, decent transport, doesn’t scab money. The later two are okay, but the first one are pretty much tricky and subjective, eh?

  8. Rob says:


    As much as I would like to think that I can, I know that I cannot! Check out my ugly mug and you will see why 😀

    You on the other hand being the master of many skills, I am sure you could teach many about how to be sexy! So, I will leave the teaching to you on this one 🙂


  9. GJ says:

    It would be no good asking me, I couldn’t teach a dead dog to lie down!!!!!!!!!!

    Up to you alone Achmad!!!!!

  10. Achmad Sudarsono says:


    Soon I will share with you the secrets on how to be sexy.

  11. Marisa says:


    @ Achmad Sutrisno

    Also, Friend, what about Facebook ?

    You have a Facebook, Achmad? 😯

    Hey how about a game of scramble? Add it here.
    Anita McKay, if you read this, I’m playing on your board: #623! Haha, wonderful way to procrastinate my future.

    Yuk mari..

  12. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    Mbak Aditya,

    Sexy is all about the Mojo. Yeah !

    Va Va Voom ! Merdeka !

  13. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    P.S. Marisa — yes, Facebook — everyone — I invite you all to add me — Achmad Sudarsono on Facebook !

  14. Haven’t been to IM for a while and found this. Patung certainly knows how to stir *wink.

    As my comment in Therry’s blog, what she faces is not what I faced upon my return and worked back in Jakarta. Studying overseas is not a badge that people in my previous offices to brag, simply because most of them are overseas graduates. Such company like Boston Consulting Group Jakarta, for example, employs lots of overseas graduates, half or more of them got their degrees through scholarships rather than daddy’s money.

    Those snobbish attitudes from rich young spoiled brats are their characters, whether they are overseas graduates or not. They behave like that when they’re studying abroad, and they’d do the same thing when they’re back in Indonesia. Usually they are the ones who hardly study and spend more time partying.

    Beside, studying overseas doesn’t guarantee people to be more successful than the local graduates. Half of my bosses are from local (Indonesian) universities and they’re extremely talented, sharp, and have no problem writing and presenting in English.

    In this world where boundaries are so blur, lots of my colleagues have even worked overseas and can speak more than just English, and no one actually has time to brag about it, simply because we have more important things to do! But again, those who have studied or worked overseas are no different from those who don’t. I have worked with those both types and it’s back to their character, experience and their own brains. Graduate certificate is a piece of paper and wouldn’t mean anything if they’re lack of IQ and EQ.

    Westernized or not, it’s back to each individual. When I studied overseas, lots of my friends lived in a very tight community. Speaking in Indonesian on a daily basis, eating Indonesian food all the time, hang out with Indonesians, and didn’t give a damn with what happened on their outside world. Westernized? Definitely not. Well, maybe in some way when they realize when they had to make an appointment with the doctor and turned up 30 minutes late and got a hard time from a receptionist…

    Therry’s expectations about men is not because she’s overseas graduate, but because she’s a damn smart woman who knows what she wants!! Lots of Indonesian ladies who don’t study abroad share the same feeling.

    Maybe that’s why there are lots of single women now, especially in Jakarta?

    PS: FYI – Therry is NOT single 😀

  15. Marisa, let’s play Scramble then!!

  16. MbakAditya says:

    Achmad Sudarsono Says:

    May 21st, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Soon I will share with you the secrets on how to be sexy.

    If only they knew – a face like two warts on a carbuncle.

    You should never have dumped me like that.

  17. Rob says:


    I just haveta know where you learned put downs like the one above?

    I wanna go and learn and improve my skills!

  18. MbakAditya says:

    Rob, the man is a monster, about 2’6″ tall, but with a very overinflated opinion of himself. Horrible little man.

    If only you knew the truth, how he cheated and he schemed, and how he left me just because I complained about the tofu chunks in his Chili.

    I had began to like him again until he started showing off, my opinion of him had risen to almost zero, but now?

    I’m going to rip the lapel’s off of his cheap shirts and stand on his hushpuppies.

    Achmad, move on.

    Get over it.


  19. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    Sorry, Aditya, Sayang, you should have learned how to share. Many, many women need Achmad’s lovin’…

  20. MbakAditya says:

    Achmad Sudarsono Says:

    May 21st, 2008 at 6:43 pm
    Sorry, Aditya, Sayang, you should have learned how to share. Many, many women need Achmad’s lovin’…

    Don’t you sayang me, you little tai lalat. I’ve had enough of the way to treat women.

    These people don’t know you like I do, they don’t know your filthy little habits, the things you do when you think no one else is watching, they don’t know what you and General Wiranto used to get up to – don’t make me post the photographic evidence.

    I may be just a little Javanese girl to you, but I’ll stamp on your dakon if you carry on joking with me.

  21. Achmad Sudarsono says:


    Wiranto came to me for advice on “how to be sexy” — Achmad turns away no man who comes seeking help. Seksiness can only be good for Indonesia’s nascent democracy.

    Oh, yes, go ahead, call me tai lalat now, just as you used to do…back then — but I have the scratchmarks on my back to prove that you loved it !

    Sorry, sweetness, everything comes to an end….

  22. MbakAditya says:

    I wonder what your current wife would think of you? I bet she doesn’t know does she? The french wife, the spanish wife, the khymer wife, and then me, the javanese wife.

    Too much Gengsi, Achmad.

  23. Marisa says:

    @ Anita

    Yak, siyap!
    Actually that’s what confused me when I first read this article, knowing therry’s not single in her real life, on contrary she’s already engaged. Tapi ngga enak ngomongnya, afraid that there’s a personal issue going on behind the scene gitu. Better avoid the men subject just to be safe. Huhu..

    @ therry! Dimane lo?

    @ Achmad

    Sorry to interrupt your argument with MbakAditya.
    But there’s this person who could use a little lovin’ from you, just approve the Friendster friend request here, kay? Thanks, Achmad. 😀

  24. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    Just approved it, Marisa.

  25. Westernized or not, it’s back to each individual. When I studied overseas, lots of my friends lived in a very tight community. Speaking in Indonesian on a daily basis, eating Indonesian food all the time, hang out with Indonesians, and didn’t give a damn with what happened on their outside world. Westernized? Definitely not. Well, maybe in some way when they realize when they had to make an appointment with the doctor and turned up 30 minutes late and got a hard time from a receptionist…

    I agree with this one, I found it a lot here in the UK. I guess I can’t blame them, it’s like the saying ‘Birds of the the feather flock together’. This actually not just happens to Indonesian, it happens to ‘any’ foreign people that study and live in this country.

    They think ‘wong cuman bakal sekolah 3-4 tahun, ngapain susah-susah ngenal sama orang lain, bentar lagi juga pulang’. They just don’t care, and in all honesty, the don’t really need to.

    Maybe I was lucky to study in a town where there were only two Indonesians around including me, where all my housemates are ‘bule’ 🙂 Maybe if I had been studying in a bigger city, I would had become this ‘spoiled brat’ as well. Thanks God for that.

    In short, you don’t get Westernised only because you happen to study or stay overseas, you’ve get to ‘live’ it in full, change your attitude and perceptions on things, like this ‘jam karet’ for example.

    One funny story when I came back home for holiday after a few years living here and so accustomed with ‘Ngantri mentality’. I went to renew my ‘KTP’ in my local ‘Kelurahan’ office, and as I normally do when I go anywhere here, I ‘foolishly’ queued in front of a counter ! And of course as you can imagine it was a rather ‘futile’ attempt, as people kept jumping in front of me with no problem 😀 I had to change attitude immediately to match them 🙂

    Sorry, kebanyakan nulis nih kayaknya.

    Btwy, if anybody has Twitter account, you can follow me at We have a nice Indonesians community here, it’s quite cool actually.

  26. timdog says:

    Hah! Achmad, I almost added you on facebook – mainly because I like your profile pic, but then I thought better of it, suspecting you of nefarious purposes… mother always told me not to talk to strangers with ukuleles…

    So if Therry isn’t really single, what sort of criteria does Mr Therry-to-be meet? Is he a suitable match for an “SOB”?

  27. billitone says:

    I used to think that God was unfair when I met such a woman.

    She’s overseas educated, smart, pretty, rich. Single Overseas bachelorettes (SOB) , you call it.
    There I was, barely managed to get into the university, not smart at all, far from typical soup opera actor, wished I was rich. A real SOB.

    I’d say there are also many Indonesian guys, who doesn’t think that females are only good for cooking, cleaning, bearing children, acting feminine, and being plain submissive.

    The key is stereotyping, prejudice and over-generalisation. By women(SOB) and the men (SOB).

  28. Marisa says:

    I feel you, billitone.
    No matter how diplomatic people may react to such situation, some would still have to strive harder in reality.

    Hope you’ve found your reason to do so in life, as I have in mine. 🙂

  29. melly says:

    Totally agree with billitone’s last sentence. I really don’t mind at all of being SOB. I know the types you mentioned do exist, but i’m quite grateful to have people who just seem don’t care from where a person graduate, how much many do they make and whether they’re single or not.

    I met a jerk who drolling even with my ability to be able to install a software (!), but met men who adore that same ability (and some other unimportant abilities). I still buy 5,000 rupiahs jewelery but also like pampering myself with nice-a-bit-pricey shoes. What can I say, everybody has its own weakness.

    Nevertheless, intrigued post but hopefully it’s not to make things over-generalized.

  30. therry says:


    I’m here! I’ve been enjoying the long weekend much more than I should.

    Yes, I’m engaged to a 100% Indonesian with the mind that matches mine! It’s true what Rob said, “Good things come to those who wait”!

    The article was originally a combination of two postings in my blog that I wrote a while ago whilst I was an SOB, and out of curiosity I was wondering whether there were people out there who felt the same like I did.

    I’ve done a variety of jobs that didn’t seem to suit an overseas grad but I always thought of it all as experiences that would enrich my life so even if it was being an English teacher at a small institution in Thamrin, I did it because I believed I would learn something from it.


    I would prefer to have stayed overseas but my degree was not on demand – they needed more practical and hands-on people like hairdressers and plumbers, and Australia’s (the country where I did my studies) unemployment rates just kept on increasing – I knew I should have studied to become a plumber instead!

    Because of being an overseas grad people automatically labelled me as rich, even when I was employed my fellow colleagues was wondering why I would work for someone else when I could be bumming around all day and do nothing because obviously I have a warehouse stacked with coins like Uncle Gober, right? He3x. I don’t think of myself as rich, but I’m definitely fortunate. Most of the things I have (apart from my education) I’ve bought with my own money and I’m proud of it.

    I’m sure there are plenty other overseas grads who’ve had it tough and didn’t get all spoilt rotten upon returning overseas, but they must have kept such low profiles to themselves because the ones that I met were mostly the spoilt overseas grad who didn’t have a clue about how difficult it was getting a job on their own effort (instead of their parents putting in the good word for them to their business partners).

    Whilst most of them thought there was nothing wrong of being laden with all the facilities that made their life to be more comfortable as ever, I personally think that in everyone’s life there has to be a stage where they have to stop depending on their parents and try to earn all those things through their own efforts.

    Believe it or not, there were plenty of them who have never been on a traditional Indonesian angkot – ever. With such upbringing, there sure was a huge gap between my thinking and theirs, despite the fact that we have been educated overseas in which we’re supposed to be more open-minded and independent.

    But I don’t blame them thoroughly since everyone’s brought up differently, although I’ve received a few raised eyebrows from the fellow overseas grads when they found out I went to to work with angkot (as if I was talking about an episode from Fear Factor!) and when I talked about my experience, they were finding difficulties to relate.

    I do too, judge those who are judging me. And even if I say “They’re the ones who judge me first! I’m just sitting here minding my own business!”, I admit I have my own biased perceptions and this is the thing I have to work on – and I must say …

    my dog is a perfect teacher for it – he doesn’t judge people. He just loves people, period. Especially when they have food in their pockets!

    Thank you again everyone for the comments, critics and suggestions. I enjoy reading them all.

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