Indonesians vs. Jakarta Expats

Jul 14th, 2008, in Society, by

HansHans takes a pictorial look at differences between Indonesians in Jakarta and their western guests.

East vs. West, Orang Indonesia vs. Orang Bule

Yang Liu is a Beijing-born artist residing in Germany. One of her works, Ost trifft West, depicts cultural differences between the Chinese and Germans through amusing infographics, which also hold true remarkably well for differences between the East and the West in general. Including our beloved country Indonesia? Yes, but not entirely either.

According to Geert Hofstede, an international authority on cultural differences, the Indonesian culture can be characterized by high levels of power inequality, low tolerance for uncertainty, and collectivism, while most Western cultures generally exhibit the opposite.

Inspired by Liu’s artwork, I’ve discovered the following, humorous differences between Indonesians and ‘foreigners’ (orang bule).


Where to go in Jakarta?

Yes or no, atau tidak?

Daily newspaper

Favourite fruit

Can you think of any other differences between Indonesians and foreigners? Share them in the comments!

104 Comments on “Indonesians vs. Jakarta Expats”

  1. tomaculum says:

    According to Geert Hofstede, an international authority on cultural differences, the Indonesian culture can be characterized by high levels of power inequality, low tolerance for uncertainty, and collectivism, while most Western cultures generally exhibit the opposite.

    Is Hofstede sure, that indonesian culture is characterized by low tolerance for uncertainty?
    Indonesian culture works with uncertainty (or you’ve quoted Hofstede wrongly?)

    Btw here is a commoness in difference:
    Ikan asin (Indon.), Greyerzer or Harzinger (West., especially German/Austria, Swiss etc.)

  2. Aluang Anak Bayang says:

    Here is my 2 rp:

    Indonesian locals or most Asians in general
    – number of pedophiles almost nil.

    Jakarta Expats or most Bule in Indonesia, Thailand and the Phillipines
    – high proportion of pedophile.

  3. Hans says:

    I believe the quote is correct, low tolerence for uncertainty and power distance usually results in a society which is governed by laws, rules and regulations; which, in turn, will leave those in power with more power. Upward advancement and change is quite hard and uncommon. (ie. Orde Baru, the Indonesian Army etc.). Please correct me if I’m wrong here.

    I can see that Indonesia lives in uncertain times at the moment, but I don’t think Indonesians are challenged by these conditions, nor tolerant of them (demo?), but they don’t have much of a choice either.

  4. Aluang Anak Bayang says:

    @ Hans,

    When was the last time you salivated and ogled at a brown boy?

    Are you Christian?

    What are/were you doing in Indonesia?

  5. tomaculum says:

    “Indonesian locals or most Asians in general
    – number of pedophiles almost nil.”
    You’re joking?
    The problem is in Indonesia, that such crime (like many other crimes) are not really prosecuted or are shrouded by the family because of shame and covered up by the goverment because it “doesn’t fit” to “kebudayaan” Indonesia.

    the problem in Indonesia is that those laws, rules and regulations are being accomplished only if it is usefull for someone or some groups.
    Indonesians live for today based on uncertainty because many of them do not have any change to get any safety.
    My experience: I gave a poor tukang beca some money. Instead of doing something to secure a better life for his family, he bought a golden ring for his daughter because she wanted it since a long time because most of her girl friends do have golden earrings.
    In Indonesia nowadays is the situation maybe a little bit others, but I thing the basic thinking is still the same.
    The Chinese Indonesian think different. If they earn 1000 Rupiah, they will first reinvest 900 Rupiah in their business to secure their live in the future.
    You see Indonesian culture has many facets.
    It is a difficult to write something about it. What about the West Papua culture? It is also a part of Indonesia. The same with Madurese or Sundanese culture. You will find out many surprising facts and details if you dunk into these cultures.
    The same problem you will face if you want to write about the “Indian” culture.
    Talking about tolerance, you will be surprised to find high intolerance up there in Indonesia.
    The difference beetwen Indonesian and Western intolerance is: Indonesian (many of them) live their intolerance, while many westerners try to hide it because it doesn’t fit to their humanism way of live.

  6. Odinius says:

    Orang Indonesia: likes to buy Euro clothes
    Orang bule: likes to buy Euro clothes

    Orang Indonesia: likes to watch crappy American TV and movies
    Orang bule: likes to watch crappy American TV and movies

    Orang Indonesia: likes smelly durien
    Orang bule: likes smelly cheese

    oh wait…

  7. Brett says:

    Does anyone else get tired of the rascist twaddle spouted by self-professed experts on Indonesia like Geert Hofstede? Has anyone noticed that the self-professed Indonesian experts are, by and large, Dutch?

    In response:

    Skin whitening creams are vanity products, sunblocks are health products.
    You’ll find more bules at Ratu Plaza buying pirate DVDs than at Monas.
    In my experience, bules NEVER say “yes” or “no” – its always “maybe” or “it depends”.
    Personally, I quite like that stinky fruit.

    I’m an orang bule living in Jakarta and, quite frankly, it’s times like these that I wish I were slightly browner…

  8. Achmad Sudarsono says:


    I am afraid I have to agree with Ustad Anak Aluang here. Most of the ex pat Bule contribute little more than nasty DNA samples, mostly on the floor of seedy places like Blok M.

    We Javanese are a tolerant folk, and find the curious breed of Bule Gembel an amusement. We save our serious attention for fighting the international order that is resisting the second rise of Mojopahit.

    As Paul Kelly, Australian poet and folksinger, sang, quoting Vincent Lingiari, hero of the Gurindji people, “we know how to wait.”

  9. Patrick says:

    Orang bule like to make money
    Orang Indonesia like to take that money

  10. Patrick says:

    Orang bule is butally honest!
    Orang Indonesia is politely vague

    On Indonesian Food:
    Orang Indonesia like it hot
    While Orang bule like it not

  11. Patrick says:

    1 more (similar to the 1st)

    Orang bule like the Indonesian honey
    Orang Indonesia like the bule money

  12. HeavenlySword says:

    lol you have to go that far just to say “we know how to wait?” lol.. very inefficient 🙂

  13. Purba Negoro says:

    Geertz personifies the English perjorative Wanker superbly- as well as “culturo-intellectual colonialist and moral onanist supremo”.

  14. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    @ Heavenly Sword,

    Efficiency is a tool of the White Belanda Colonialist to oppress the Malay Man.

  15. Hans says:

    One to easily convert into an image: Orang bule wear checkered shirts, Indonesians wear batik 😀

  16. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    Another one:

    Bule come here and make the Kultuurstelsel or forced labor plantation and Indonesian rise up like Diponegoro and Si Pitoeng to defend their homeland.

  17. rayner says:

    It is not generally true that the Asian culture does not produce paedophiles. In Japan for instance it is only recently that under age sexuality if even against the law! There were no minimum ages of consent in Japan until George Bush started to pressure the Japanese government to introduce one.

    At the University of Hawaii where I used to attend their excellent sex and society group in the 80’s, there were many Japanese young women who were amazed that Americans and most Westerners could make charges against men who groped and abused them in public trains. When they were young school girls men would grope them and when they exited the trains would follow them and continue abusing them.

    When they would tell a policeman or railway worker, they were told to move away from the abuser. No attempt was made to arrest the perpetrators or otherwise help these young girls. Generally abuse is endemic among most cultures usually it is hidden because it is not against the law. In Thailand there are underage brothels where girls as young as five are to be found. It is little use complaining to the Police. They are paid so little that they become part of the problem, taking bribes in money or girls.

    In Bali i am told there is little or no child sexual abuse. Perpetrators, usually Westerners if discovered are killed. Very few find them selves in court. Summery justice is the rule. It would be useful to hear from some women on this website as too how they fared. From what i have seen it is probably true, that there is little or no child sex abuse in Bali. If that is so it would be most useful for Western governments such as Britain and America to get some idea of how this has come about. We have a terrible problem with abuse in both Britain and America. Is it that you teach your children compassion and empathy for others when they are growing up? Or is it some gradual learning experience with their peers as they grow that fills that need. Generally, that because of the general frustrating experience that Westerns experience that basic sexual need is never fulfilled and will come back at a later age when they have children under their control, with quite devastating reults for their kids.
    What do you think?

  18. gOObers says:

    Aluang said:

    Indonesian locals or most Asians in general
    – number of pedophiles almost nil.

    Don’t be so ignorant! Pedophiles can be found in all over Indonesia. How about those young girls in Blok M area at night (perek), most of them are underage and those who used them (most of them are Indonesian) are “PEDOPHILES”!!!!

  19. Neil of Newcastle says:

    Ah, Achmad, the mole from the International Z-Men Conspiracy. You are back, oy veh. But your idiocies, inanities and provocations hold no truck with us, Shlomo. Be assured, we are onto your schtick! But that aside, Geertz is a goose. That’s ‘gandz’, Shlomo…as if you wouldn’t know, you sly hund

  20. jaka says:

    Indonesian locals or most Asians in general
    – number of pedophiles almost nil.

    Who uses the service of “ciblek”-s in Jogja, then?

  21. Teng says:

    Geertz personifies the English perjorative Wanker superbly- as well as “culturo-intellectual colonialist and moral onanist supremo”.

    While this might be true, the article mentions Geert Hofstede, not Clifford Geertz

  22. Odinius says:

    I like Geertz, if you start reading with the assumption that half of what he says is bulls***. 🙂

  23. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    Mr. Neil,

    Your use of the word “schtick” betrays your political and ethnic sympathies. For all know about the forced labor system of the bule . His symbol is the whip; his harvest is the sweat and labor of the brown man.

    Rayner — have a look at the white man’s anti-Asian propaganda about “Shudo” – boy-man love in Japan.

  24. Ai says:

    It is not that difficult to mention the differences between Indonesians and Jakarta expats. But what’s the point? this could be a very sensitive issue to be discussed. Good and bad people are everywhere regardless of their race or where they live. Both Indonesians and Jakarta expats do need to live in harmony.

  25. Odinius says:

    “According to Geert Hofstede, an international authority on cultural differences, the Indonesian culture can be characterized by high levels of power inequality,

    Clearly this man has never been to the USA.

    It’s basically what Indonesia would like like if it was richer. Big, chaotic, full of contradictions and diversity, religious people, traffic and food.

  26. Hans says:

    Ai, look at the pictures.., they’re for fun! Odinius, been to the USA, I don’t get what you’re saying..?

  27. Odinius says:

    Well, the bit about high levels of power inequality is true of the US too…and I added a few other things that Indonesia and the US have in common. Superficial stuff mostly, but this whole “West” and “East” dichotomy is highly problematic especially when the biggest “Western” country has nearly as much in common with Indonesia as it does with the rest of the “West.”

  28. Ken Lovell says:

    I’m not a fan of Hofstede’s work but it’s important to understand that he was not pretending to analyse Indonesian culture or that of any other country in particular.

    Hofstede was trying to find out what this thing called ‘national culture’ actually means, and whether there is any way to measure it. He surveyed people from all around the world and believed he had identified several dimensions of difference that could be attributed to national or ethnic background.

    He called one dimension ‘power distance’ but this does not refer to the existence of power inequalities. He was describing the cultural attitude to these power differences; for example in Japan, people are likely to show respect and deference to a professor or a senior manager just because of the position that person holds in society, whereas in Australia that is much less likely to happen.

    His findings have been the subject of a lot of criticism (for example, what is the ‘Indonesian’ culture that he claims to have identified; is it ethnic or national? And how can it be reconciled with the subcultural differences that tomaculum mentions?). However, he was not racist and did not argue that one culture was ‘better’ than another.

  29. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    Actually, it’s true — Hans seems like a nice guy. Don’t want to wind him up. Sorry hans !

  30. Farah says:

    some bule like durian… and some indonesian doesn’t like them too..

    some of whitening cream have spf 30..

    but its for fun.. okay….okay…

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