Can Love Transcend Cultural Barriers?

Feb 22nd, 2012, in Society, by

Having inherited multiethnic bloodstream from my parents, I grew up fascinated by culture, languages and existing diversity in humanity. I have always thought of cultural differences as the spices of the world; however I’m quite aware that often the lack of understanding of these differences is often the root of conflict. I have lived in around three countries, with different cultures and gained a lot of experience when it comes to adapting and interacting with other cultural groups. Since childhood, perhaps influenced by my parents, I developed a great sense of respect for life and a great awareness of cultural and social context. I believe in the good side of people and I’m often confused with being naïve or unaware when I interact with others. I have a strong believe in the ability of true love to transcend cultural barriers.

Not long time ago, I had to unique experience of visiting Indonesia and experiencing the beauty of the nature there and its saturated culture. I was fascinated and my interest in Indonesian culture increased a lot. Before visiting Indonesia, I had read books and watched documentaries about it, to be somehow prepared for the cultural experiences; as the trip objective was to get to know the culture well enough. My friends and I tried to avoid as much as possible places saturated with tourists, however this was often practically impossible, especially in Bali. Nonetheless our experience was gratifying and we met many good people and enjoy the greatest hospitality. My fascination for Indonesia reached its pinnacle after meeting a girl. She was kind, simple and so easy to talk to, despite language limitations. It did not take long for me to develop feelings for her and my departure from Indonesia was sad. Today, I communicate with her about every day and I would like for us to be together.

However, I’m aware that at the moment my feelings could be blinding me and I’m willingly dismissing the cultural barriers that exist between us. I have no interest in volatile affairs, as by experience they don’t often end so well. I am and will always be an admirer of true love and will avoid by all means a relationship that lacks it. Few days ago I accidentally stumbled into this site, while looking for information about Indonesia courtship culture. I was a bit surprised about how many of the posts here depicted foreigners as low class individuals searching for wives in poor countries and that many Indonesian did not view foreigners with good eyes. I’m aware to some extent of this issue, but what surprised me was the facility of many of the people commenting to make generalizations. I would please, love very so much to get some help to understand, through your comments, the way Indonesians view foreigners and to get a sense of how big of a problem can the cultural barriers be when it comes to forming a couple, or marital life, with Indonesians. If it helps I’m 28 years old, university student (not anthropology), lived most of my life in South America; however I have also lived in Eastern and Western Europe. I do not belong to any religion, as my parents decided that I needed to make that decision by myself as an adult and I don’t think I need to adhere myself to any religion. I do however believe in what some people might call God, so I’m not an atheist. I’m strongly influenced by Hindu mystics, and their view of reality; however as I said before, I do not practice any religion. I do not smoke, do not drink and I’m vegetarian. Please, I would really appreciate all comments. Thank you beforehand. Romi.

89 Comments on “Can Love Transcend Cultural Barriers?”

  1. bluemoejoe says:

    indeed… that’s the typical stereotype ’bout democracy…. oh, i’m sorry…that’s would be a new concept to you apparently.

    seriously… the guy already made the decision and i respect that. who am i judge what’s best for him… and obviously somebody couldn’t accept it so went some to vent some…

    @apollo : go for it dude… do what you think is best for you… god speed you’ll find your own true happiness unlike somebody else does around here.

    ps : within every society… there’s always rules, obligation and rights to cope, see the pattern there . if you couldn’t comprehends the concepts then all the further talks would be meaningless

  2. Oigal says:

    I do confess a certain confusion in working out what B-moejoe is trying to say. However

    sure money ease things up but not everythings could be bought up

    The cynic in me can think of nothing that cannot be bought..

    Let’s Principles…PKS walking hand in hand with imported meat and porn scandals.

    Religion – Government handled Haj funds, FPI besides being a bunch thugs who are compromised by the targets they don’t attack rather the ones they do

    Nationalism – Bought n paid for..

    Sorry….nope can’t think of thing..

  3. Oigal says:

    indeed… that’s the typical stereotype ’bout democracy…. oh, i’m sorry…that’s would be a new concept to you apparently.

    Indeed, it is the stereotype (sic) taught (Or blurted) in any number Mosque’s or Pesantren normally by people who have about as much understanding of a true democracy as I do about quantum physics.

    Of course, it is a fundamentally flawed theory as democracy is where a constitution guarantees basic personal and political rights, fair and free elections, and independent courts of law.

    That also means the the majority do have the right to to impose restrictions on the minority if impinges on their basic rights to worship (or not) as they please, to whatever they please nor subvert their access to a free and just legal system.

    Essentially the rule of the majority stops the moment you cross into my front yard.

  4. bluemoejoe says:

    well you have to forgive my poor english grammar oigall. since i’m not as well educated as most the members around here

    but, you’re points out some good stuff there

    -PKS : simply waiting for their dooms, in which i believe 2014 would be their starting downfalls

    -FPI : between idiots and retards…. i say they’re a fanatic dumbfucks at best

    – Nationality. ……well, what could you expect from a legislator that barely pass the elementary schooll

    we’re still working things out around here dude … it ain’t a pretty sight but it is a reality. so i don’t need anymore smarts asses trying to lecture me ’bout what i had to do

  5. Oigal says:

    I was being serious, I did have trouble of grasping what you were trying to say. Its not a matter of being educated as fluency in English is certainly not an indicator of “Smarts” .

    Curiously perhaps I would disagree on your assessment of the FPI, at the base level certainly fanatical, ignorant numb-nuts but as a organization just another bunch of “thugs for hire”

    However, your last paragraph is still way to cryptic for me.

  6. Oigal says:

    oops an obvious correction

    That also means the the majority do NOT have the right to to impose restrictions on the minority if impinges on their basic rights to worship (or not) as they please, to whatever they please nor subvert their access to a free and just legal system.

  7. pattimahal says:

    These days, the only thing that really still causes hassles, and always has, is remittances to her family. How much, what for etc.

    Nice theory, but she uses her own money, not mine or ours!

  8. ET says:

    @ bmoejoe

    so i don’t need anymore smarts asses trying to lecture me ’bout what i had to do

    You wrote

    there’s a saying in indonesia …. ” dimana langit di junjung di situ bumi di pijak ” … go googling the mean’s it self

    I wrote

    If you want to be enlightened try google

    – What happened to the smiling face of Indonesian Islam? Muslim intellectualism and the conservative turn in post-Suharto Indonesia

    – Martin Van Bruinessen: Arabisering van de Indonesische islam? (Arabisation of Indonesian Islam) (only available in Dutch)

    – Pesantren & Kitab Kuning

    Now who started lecturing here about what to do? Short on memory?

  9. bluemoejoe says:

    well…. mostly FPI member also a member of FBR kind of groups… do you see the pattern there.. yes they’re a fanatic die hard but being a fanatic doesn’t always support the family right?? surely the act will piss off their upper echellons but being a losely organization there is not much they can do about it. from the bad it goes to crooks as it is

    we are still in transformation mode oighal…. searching a national identity that please everybody is a pain to through to but it’s ok…. we will got by

    now…. since the talks goes sideways to technical issues…. i will refrain from that. as my poor knowledge know laws was passed by the legislator… which in turn a product from bail-out who it self was a representation/visualization of political view of the local citizen t
    oward matters in the socio and political issues…… that’s why i wouldn’t blabber anything about the minaret ban which i think is hillarious… but, since it’s their community and local culture do has norm to concern to….. i’ll abide

    thank for the time

  10. bluemoejoe says:

    if you couldn’t comprehend that local wisdom words out…. simply there’s nothing i could discuss with you anymore.because simply no words of adapt and adjust in your vocabulary.

    wether you like it not some of islamic laws do practiced and institutionalized in most community of indonesia. the guy wants to enter the community and doing his best to be welcomed and you (not him ) couldn’t accept the fact… trying find a loophole around to masturbate and ask me on theoligical and social history debates instead….

    since i respect the TS plea and wishes …. i stop beyond this

  11. bluemoejoe says:

    wether you’re like it or not….. forgive the typo please

    damn this android sucks

  12. ET says:

    you trying find a loophole around to masturbate and ask me on theoligical and social history debates instead….

    Who asked

    well enlight me !! since you throw the “money” words out of the blue ….i’m a bit touchy in here

    Short on memory again? This android really sucks.
    But try google masturbate because you seem confused about its meaning.

  13. ET says:

    wether you like it not some of islamic laws do practiced and institutionalized in most community of indonesia. the guy wants to enter the community and doing his best to be welcomed and you (not him ) couldn’t accept the fact…..

    Well there you have it. By marrying the daughter and be welcomed you are supposed to enter the community, probably with all the responsibilities and (financial?) obligations that come with.
    Transposed to a Western setting this would also mean that if I’m a Republican and I fall in love with a girl from a family of Democrats I am supposed to change my voting behaviour and take part in their fund raising campaigns.

  14. bluemoejoe says:

    first of all …. all the previous post was made on cell . damn, you don’t know how much pain i’ve went through just trying to typing the sentence right . but , since my kids so dead set watching those transformer3 on my lappies …. what can i do ’bout it 😀

    Well there you have it. By marrying the daughter and be welcomed you are supposed to enter the community, probably with all the responsibilities and (financial?) obligations that come with.
    Transposed to a Western setting this would also mean that if I’m a Republican and I fall in love with a girl from a family of Democrats I am supposed to change my voting behaviour and take part in their fund raising campaigns.

    firstly … armed with that logic . don’t bother to thingking about marriage anymore ET … you are simply don’t cut it for the job . now i don’t know what kind goldigging sucking bitches you’ve run into before but surely it leaves you some deep scars …. by roaming the threads around i’m starts to grasp the sober ” experiences” arounds 😀

    well i’m a genuine country boy …. whose spents his childhoods playing around paddy fields catching catfish and snakes barehandedly and playing bambooo flutes while riding a water buffallo bathing in riverine . but , i was born in jakarta ( north jakarta precisely !! ) on – off between heaven and hell of indonesia surely give me some insight on how the world is working .

    normally in indonesian culture when a couples do get married … the parents will stop medling in their affair at all . surely parents and relatives do come by and ask for some help some times but that would be incidentally and accidentally . after all i and her was brought to this world by them …been taken care off until we can stands on our own . what’s so hurts to taking care some for them for a while but if this was frequent and habitual then somethings was wrong with your miss / wifes family then. that the real norms .

    why i said that … i’m a married man my self …. and my wifes hold all the salaries money i earns . whatever she or i plan to buy or give anything to my or her family we talk thing first everything was base on consensus . she is state elementary teachers but i never touch her salaries cause that will be hers to begin with … and she never ask anything about my extra money out of side job i did …. but we stilll communicate things before decide on everything.

    well you see … indonesia was normally a society base community . where the relation and bonds are everything … like my childhood times when my neighboor taking brides … all of kampoong members give something for the grooms family be it chicken , lambs , rice and even some woods for the cooking … then all of them eat together whatever was availaible on the table ( since … essentially it was their’s anyway ) it ” the will to share ” that was the basic morality that made it happens and applied in their daily life ….. and then extended to family lifes to some extent . it shocks me at first … but i could understand that now …. it lies from the tought that all possesion was essentially simply a loans and you couldn’t bring that to your graves … as times goes by the meaning and appliances do change but the moral story …. PERSIST !! ( if this would be a new concept to you too … i wouldn’t be suprised )

    that the real reason why i never accept any offers ( at all … why do i have to work in there if i earn the same with less headache to ) to work in jakarta … the way i see it things now . jakarta are too corrupts and crowded… and i had enough tasting bad and crazy times in there

    @ Oighal : try googling badui tribes ….. you’ll be suprised to learn about how they see about money concepts

  15. Oigal says:

    Thanks BMJ …interesting but already knew a bit about them as a cultural curiosity but relevance? Fairly unlikely I am going to marry one and their traditions are hardly widespread.

  16. bluemoejoe says:

    Fair enough !!

    to be honest … they still amazes me though 😀

    there’s so much local wisdom i took from them ’bout how you should view about the mother earth and the ” green living ” way of transportation 😀

    then again it’s fairly unlikely you’ll meet them inside ” the inner circle ” since they forbade any foreigner( even chinese or looks like one ) to go inside 🙁

  17. rustyprince says:

    I’ve met about a dozen individuals here who”ve converted from Islam to Christianity and it seems to be about 50/50 as to whether the convertee family accepts Islam’s loss. The appearance of grandchildren seems a good icebreaker.
    On the matter of marriage remittances to the wifes family, from what my university Indo mates tell me there are only a minority of educated lassies holding on to their virginity and isn’t the tradition of remittance tied to the ‘purity’ of the lass?
    My advice is paying for the ceremony is enough of any remittance and get married in Manado if conversion to Islam is a problem. Also bear in mind that you’ll always be an outsider no matter how you bend over to assimilate – so make her compromise on certain issues.

  18. ET says:

    Indeed rustyprince, this wouldn’t be Indonesia if there wasn’t a way around it, 🙂

  19. mingo says:

    Has she used the saying :up to you: yet. Loosly translated is , you are my husband ,you make the decision, but god help you if i am not satisfied with the outcome,
    I have been happily married to a lovely Indonesian lady for 15 great years, wouldnt change a minuit of it, follow ya heart

  20. deta says:

    On the matter of marriage remittances to the wifes family, from what my university Indo mates tell me there are only a minority of educated lassies holding on to their virginity and isn’t the tradition of remittance tied to the ‘purity’ of the lass?

    I don’t know how you’ve got that misleading information, but remittances have nothing to do at all with a woman’s “purity”. It is a measure to help family members when social justice fails to do so.

  21. ET says:

    deta, I guess he was referring to the ‘bride price’, but I’d better let him elaborate himself.

  22. Lolipop says:


    Actually I visit this site to spit out my complaint on Dating Indonesian Girls thread, but then I found this thread and I thought it’s worth to share my opinion here. I married a foreigner, and yes, there are lots of cultural barriers between us even it doesn’t become big problem since we try to solve it with compromise and understanding.

    To tell you the truth, my opinion about “bules” isn’t always good. I’ve met lots of jackasses and arrogant guys, who think they are better than Indonesians just because they are “bule”. But we found these types anywhere, so I don’t generalize that all bules are like that. And yes, I “admire” bules for some reasons. When I was a kid, I was exposed with TV show like Flora Fauna and western movies, as well as encyclopedias. I wasn’t from a rich family, just lucky enough to have relatives who spent their money to buy books, and I like roaming the library rather than playing outside. From there, I was amazed to see how dedicated those people; they able to create those shows, books, and movies. They spent their life to pursue something that they loved, and enjoy their works. I always wanted to be professional like them, so since then I develop my favor to western culture. I think it’s not a coincidence that finally I married a westerner, it was part of my path, I think.

    But even I am pretty prepared to face multicultural world, I am still struggling at some points. I cannot always make my hubby understand how I feel as a stranger in his country. As an Asian, as an Indonesian who marry bule… and language barrier, of course. My hubby is always kind, he tries to understand my point of view even though many times he got frustrated.

    For example, he couldn’t understand why I got so mad when saw comedy channel that made fun of prophets. It’s just a comedy and people here made fun of everything, he said. It took times before I got accustomed to some “strange humor” like that.

    He cannot always enjoy Asian food, that’s for sure. Just like me who doesn’t enjoy burger or sandwich.

    Problems with culture. When we visit Indonesia, he was so exhausted, not only because of the humid air but also because we have to visit almost every single relatives and friends. That’s how we live in Indonesia, maintain relationship with relatives and friends is almost as important as maintain relationship with our spouse. We can’t live alone, we like it when people are around us. For talking, for gossiping, for helping each other… that’s how we live. And in some point we should (or have to) help them from financial trouble, that’s the point where we argue seriously, and I can’t explain well to him why I have to do that. That’s why I insist to get a job even he can provide way more than what I need for daily or monthly spending. It is to anticipate, just in case I need to help some of my relatives. I know he will be unsatisfied with this, but I just want to handle it by myself. And besides, it helps me too. By working, I can meet with lots of people, talk with them and have a reason to visit them sometimes. You know you can’t just knock any door and say hello to people here.

    Religion. This is also a crucial point. My husband was already a moslem before marry me. But like lots of converts with western background, he doesn’t always agree to what were said in holy books, or to embrace new culture. He will always be American, and agnostic, and ignore anything that doesn’t satisfy his logic. Me, at the other side, can’t live with that. Even though I’m not a religious person, I’m pretty stuck to what have been taught to me since I was a kid. That a husband is also my imam, that he should be a leader for me and I have to follow him. I know it sounds pathetic, but that’s what I feel. I even write about this in my book, about inter-religion issue. I have respect to what people choose, I’m okay if people marry to someone with different religion background. As long as they’re happy, why not? But when it comes to me, I can’t do that. I have to marry a moslem too, and when I have to choose between love and religion, I will choose religion.

    One of my contact said that I seem hypocrite. He said he knows that I’m not a religious person but why I still insist to agree on some topic that’s not logic in his opinion. I said, that’s how culture work. You cannot just change it in a day, or a year, or in many years. Some of the aspects will still intact in our mind. That’s why I “convert” the hot Italian guy in my novel into a moslem who then marry the moslem lady from Indonesia. That’s just how it works for me.

  23. apollo23 says:

    Hello Lolipop:

    Thank you for sharing. Please let me know when your book comes out. I would probably enjoy reading it. I´m although a bit surprised that you call yourself non-religious, but you give priority to religion :/ It sounds like a dissonance to me, unless you are doing it in order to satisfy an existing cultural demand, which in this case would be marrying a man of your same religion. It is however good to preserve your cultural identity; as you say it is impossible to completely reprogram your brain to match other cultures. Well, I want to thank you again for taking your time to share. I wish you success in the release of your book. Greetings 🙂

  24. Lolipop says:


    Compared to my folks, I’m not religious and not consistent enough… lol… I maintain it probably because I was strongly influenced by my environment which close to pesantren/religious community. Or probably I’m not not brave enough to break certain rules… lol… My book is already published last year, but it is in Indonesian language. I don’t know how fluent you are in speaking and reading in Bahasa Indonesia. But anyway, you can check it out. Here is the link of my novel:
    Wish you happy with your gf 🙂

  25. elinkasanah says:

    New in this site and found it, @ Lolipop, your comments are very true, indeed. Also the novel in Indonesian, that makes me drop my tears.. I’m Indonesian Asian girl (muslima) too and a little bit ‘shock cultural’ for some foreigners around me. Religion is the most important thing for me. Your story are very helpful. Thanks 🙂

  26. abu raid says:

    after all, it will be back to ourself, which the most love we given to. to God/Allah, to ourself, or just to love itself. many say they are religeous, but what they said just came out from their lips with no meaning. for moslems, we say la ilaha ilallahu, but how many time we postpone praying for a little un-important reason. how many time we prayed to Allah because we want ‘something’ from Him. if we do love Allah, we will do what He loves first, not ours. Religion is not democracy, take it or leave it, with your own risk.
    Cultural Barrier, you’ll find it everywhere, even in the same house, just for info my son has different ‘culture’ with my daughter.

  27. Fatimah says:


    It’s probably a bit too late to give a comment to your thread but I couldn’t help not to.

    I have seen way too many bule husbands of Muslim wives ( pretentious convert and non convert) who have suffered because of their wives unhappiness to live in a haram marriage. most of them have tried all they could to make their husbands change their lifestyle and way of lives to embrace Islam. Most of them didn’t mind marrying non muslim bule in the first place believing that Allah would help them with the conversion. If you decide to marry her based on love alone and live in Indonesia, there will be more pressure on her from her muslims friends, families and communities to create a family based on islamic teaching. If you decide to to take her to your country, divorce will be the only way to escape the haram relationship if conversion doesn’t happen, of course it will only happen once she knows how to go around with the social support system in your country from friends she will makes who are in the same boat as her. And you should know, love alone isn’t enough to make marriage works. Financially, you’ll find it very tough as you will have to financially marry the whole family along with their relatives. 2 religions in a family has never been a good thing, you either convert to islam or the other way around. If that seems impossible than you better save some headaches for the incoming disaster. I am an Indonesian and have been happily married to a bule man for 16 years and hopefully will stay as it is till death do us apart. I’ve chosen to convert to my husband religion after deeply studying my former religion and have found out there were so many contradictions in it that just wouldn’t sit well with me. I wouldn’t go further with it, as it’s a very sensitive subjects. All I have mentioned above can potentially happen. It can also turn out to be alright, you can always give it a try. All the best.

  28. Nay says:

    The thing that always gets me about the “Muslim bule convert” issue, is that there are lots of Muslim bule out there, and yet Indonesian women tend to go for bule in the wealthier western nations who are not Muslim.
    I’m constantly shocked by the cognitive dissonance that some of these women have.

    If their desire for a whiter skinned baby AND their religion is very important to them in a future husband, they should perhaps be booking flights to Turkey, or maybe try to chat up muslim bule men from the former Yugoslavia online. That way, they can get all their bule husband needs met without the potential for religious conflict.

    In the meantime, I’ll stick to seeing women who like me enough to not bother me with religious “hobson’s choice”

  29. Cobalt Blue says:

    @Nay: On some cases, esp for people who view bule as superiors, then I suppose you could say that. However some people maybe just get exposed to bule people more often and accidentally fall in love with one of bule who happen to have different faith. They don’t even purposely hunt bule in the first place. I might agree with you if it’s the case where the girl does have intention to look for bule. If they’ve already set target about the race, then why not go for same-faith as well, but going through the whole conversion business?

    I know this post is almost 2 years old by now. I was browsing “meeting Indonesian parents” because a guy I know just mentioned about how people “giving wine as gift”, but he already knew that Muslims don’t drink alcohol, so I am trying to find out if this gift holds different context, such as token of appreciation and respect to parents of a girl (which I suspect to be the case). But anyway, that’s off topic.

    Regarding religion, yeah, I understand the concern and question: if religion is personal matter between a person and God so it must come out of free will, why this religious issue seems to bother you when you just want to be the one with you love? I agree with Lolipop, that cultural values always play part to some extent in the people who live in a country, wherever that will be. Right now what I am trying to distinguish is which one comes from cultural aspect and which one comes from religious aspect, because that would determine which issues I could compromise or not with this guy. And I should admit, it isn’t easy since you barely notice that it has something to do with culture until you are exposed to different culture.

    My concern right now is if he later converts only to please people. I am like Lolipop, if I were asked which one I would choose between love and religion, I’d choose religion. No matter how much I love him, he will never be my first priority. If he has different view, then marriage could not happen. The tricky part is how this sounds like “take it or leave it” deal; convert or go away. It sure does sound that way from “bule’ perspective”, but it actually would be devastating to the Indonesian as well, to think that we can’t be together. But that’s how religious commitment works, it’s put as first priority–with side note: of course I am saying this for people who do prioritize religion because they are more committed to religion rather than culture.

    I am pretty sure half of my worries also come from how Indonesian generally view bule negatively in term of life style: casual sex and drinking habit. Although he is neither a drunk or often play around with girls, I think I do have some prejudices and assume that it’s impossible for him to convert because of stereotypes we put on bule. This is what I have to work on, I guess.

    Also, different people have different level of commitment to values they hold, be it cultural, religion, or anything. Maybe I do have more commitment to religion compared to culture, so that makes cultural values an area to compromise, but other person might be other way around. I think marriage could be viewed as sum of values. You need several values to be exactly same which will function to strengthen your marriage when things get rough, but you don’t have to have ALL values to be same because you both are still two different individuals. These differences are what we need to compromise on.

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