Oct 3rd, 2006, in Society, by

On the “quality”, or possible lack thereof, of expatriates in Indonesia.

Visitor Parvita, on the dating Indonesian girls article, makes these, somewhat stinging, remarks about expatriates in Indonesia.

I’ve gone out both with Indonesian and expat men (western and eastern) and my lesson to learn is: expats are just for fun and not to be taken seriously.

Most of them that comes over here, especially the westerners, are those who cannot “compete” in their country. And when they come over here, they make better living because our country pays expats waaaaaay better than nationals. Then they became like kings, thinking that they are superiors, and some girls fall for them. For instance, would you think a very successful and smart lawyer, or businessmen in England would move to a country like Indonesia? And the houses they live in in Kemang, when they go back to their countries, say, Italy, they will just live in a one bedroom apartment (or a studio) with no driver and a really small car, commuting to the city? The place I live and the car I drive currently is much much better than what they have.

I deal with lots of western expats, some of them are my friends. They told me that when they are here, they are handsome. In their countries, they are invisible. There you go, a confession from an Australian.

Some expats are even so obnoxious, having to live in the states for long, I know they are the loser kind but when they are here, they are surrounded by women and think that they are God’s gift to women.

When a smart, rich, independent Indonesian women dates an expat here, that expat must be a really damn good one! [bold added]

Certainly some home truths there, but the “Most of them…” part may not stand up to analysis.

520 Comments on “Expats”

  1. Polar Bear says:

    A majority of Bules in JKT are basically oxygen thieves. They simply don’t perform at the level expected. They are brought in as Bules to over perform, and mentor and lead the locals. Instead many spend their time getting pissed and laid whilst they stagnate technically, apply decades old ideas, technology and management practices.

    In the meantime I am staggered at the number of bright educated Indonesians (especially Chinese Indonesians) I find studying here in Sydney. They go straight from a undergrade to an MBA, collecting a CPA at the same time. One guy in my building casually mentioned the other day that he starts his internship at PWC next week. He intends to return to JKT late next year”¦”¦

    All of which leads to the question: How long can these Bules stay in Indonesia, and what will happen in the future? Perhaps the gravy train is finally leaving town, and a lot of guys are not on it”¦”¦.

    Tonight is the Sydney high school spectacular at the Entertainment Centre. As I did my shopping in Market City across the road. The shopping centre was full of young people parading themselves in make up and leotards, presumably straight from a rehearsal. I looked carefully, and could not see a single Asian face.

    Why? Because the Asians were too busy to f##k about with a dance routine. They want to be a Doctor, Dentist, Lawyer, Accountant, so tonight they are studying to get into a good University. I guarantee none of the 3,000 performers (YES THREE THOUSAND) will make it big time as a dancer or singer. I also guarantee the Asians studying tonight will become professionals. In 10 years time, when the dancers are flipping burgers and they see the Asians driving Mercedes, I hope they understand where they went wrong”¦..

    Both of the above are related to one thing. Bules cannot sit on their arse and expect the world to feed them just because they are white. Those days are vanishing fast. It applies to those kids in leotards, and to the Bules in a bar tonight in JKT”¦..

  2. Dewi says:

    For You Harry,

    I saw your comments in two forum ( this forum & another forum: Dating Indonesian Girl).
    You always state that no one girl like you because you’re not tall, young or handsome.

    I saw many bules whose shorter than you less 173 cm, but they can have many girl friends. I lived in touristical area in the island before I moved to Jakarta. There, I saw some bules whose not really handsome but still can get girl, because they know how to talk (lip services).

    In my opinion you only kurang gaul, so why don’t you go hang around & start with nice talking with a few girls.. who know next time you can write nice comment in this forum..

    Good Luck harry ^-^

  3. taxpayer says:

    The saddest thing to see is people having plenty of time to judge others yet no time to improve themselves.

    Talking about “Bules” shows overall ignorance in itself. The word “bule” is derived from the word “bulai” which means ALBINO. It is derogatory and prejudice. Foreigners, especially Americans, English and Australian should be ashamed of themselves for participating in clear racism and racial bias. This word is a stain on the Indonesian language as the word “nigger” is a stain on the english language. I am a foreigner. Orang Asing last time I checked an Indonesian language book.

    Why people choose to come to Indonesia or any other country is not for the scrutiny and judgement of other people. Siapa peduli? Who cares? It’s a smaller world now. The internet and other technological advances have opened the world up to everyone. If an Indonesian comes to America to live:

    A) NOONE will ask, “Where did you come from?”

    As if that person floated in on a spaceship

    B) NOONE will judge that person for being “Tan Skinned” or dressing different.

    C) NOONE will attack that persons race, color, creed, nationality or religion

    D) Every country has losers, lazy people, gold diggers, etc. It’s your choice what quality of people you hang around. You should be judging people by character and behavior instead of skin color and origin of birth.

    E) As of 2004, I believe, Indonesia is a DEMOCRACY. It is time to for people to accept their new government form and start behaving in a likewise manner.
    And in a DEMOCRACY, people have unalienable rights and freedoms. Indonesians should spend more time building and molding their democracy. Not judging and stalemating their fellow man. Foreigners should provide more leadership and guidance and stop looking at other countries citizens as “small people” who need their assistance.

    F) People like sex. get over it. It is a gift from ABOVE. Some people abuse this gift in a manner that I find disgusting and completely “UNCOOL”. If sleeping with 75 Indonesian women is a prideful achievement than I suggest you hang that achievement next to your College Degree so your Mom’s can share in your success. Sleeping with women as if they are recycleable cans is pathetic and a stain on all of us foreigners who are respectable people with clear moral judgement.

    G) Women and men manipulate each other daily, worldwide. Indonesia has not cornered this market. Men manipulate women, women manipulate men. If your friend jumps off a cliff, do you have to as well?

    As for me, I could make more money elsewhere. That is true. Perhaps to some I am handsome and to others I am jelek sekali. I don’t know. I cannot live my life trying to impress every other human being on this earth. I can only treat ALL people with genuine respect and hope that people can respect me. I like Indonesia and it’s one truly great quality; People here are sincerely genuine in character. A lesson all of us could learn. Focusing on people’s poor qualities and judging those who are different from us with a “General” paint brush is ignorant, childish and the root of all the world’s problems.

    Status and image seem to be the driving forces behind all this.

    “Status is taking money you don’t have, to buy things you don’t need, to impress people you don’t really like.”


    “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
    John F. Kennedy

  4. Stella says:

    good comment Josh!….

  5. Mohammed Khafi says:

    Very good comments Josh,

    I will take exception though to your understanding of the word ‘Bule’. With the constant evolution of language in Indonesia proceeding as it does at a rapid pace, words in some cases quickly loose their original meaning, I think this is one case where that has happened and is very similar to the other word which you refered to.

    The word Bule can be construed as offensive only if used in an offensive context, I have many expat friends who take no exception to the word at all and even use the word themselves when talking about other european foreigners.

  6. Tomaculum says:

    M. Khafi:
    I think the word “bule” still has a negative touch. Bule means albino and this is in fact an abnormity (dysfunction in the biosynthesis of melanin and this disease is often combined with other symptomes like mental and neurological disturbances).

    An albino was and is always seen as something strange even in her/his group, sometimes it is identificated with evil or as a bad sign.

    Someone who every day says “bule” may do not recognise this negative intention again. I don’t know who are the expat friends of yours, but I think they just have resigned, because they have seen, that it is useless to talk with Indonesian about this problem. How would you react, if someone call you “brownie”?

    My wife is european kaukasian. We are offended to hear this word from the mouths of a citizen, which is proud of their politeness. It is a poverty of sense to take such vocable into the language of a “big nation” and didn’t recognise that this is an affront.


    If an Indonesian comes to America to live:
    A) NOONE will ask, “Where did you come from?”

    USA is a classical migration land, so you will meet people from different races there. One Chinese or Arab or Indonesian more would not attract overly attention. In Indonesia is this different (the same case in Germany, which is also not a classical migration land). Every kaukasian in Indonesia or every brown skinned in Germany is a strange thing (not as worse as some years ago, but the indigenous german still asking me sometimes where I came from.).

    B) NOONE will judge that person for being “Tan Skinned” or dressing different.

    Really? Try to walk in Iowa with Jilbab or Burka, I bet the people would “watch” you.
    And, Josh, in Germany I undergo almost every day (after over 30 years in Germany, with my perfect german language and my western clothes, only my skin and my nose are the same) prejudices in the shops, in many cafes, in many restaurants and even sometimes in the hospital where I work as senior consultant.

    What about the prejudice of the kaukasian american to the american Africans or indians?
    I agree with the rest of your comment.

    Indonesia has a very young democracy. It needs time to grow and to ripen. And it is the duty of all Indonesian to support this development. Not only complaining or talking bullsh*t. There are much to do in Indonesia and not in Afghanistan or Palestine.

    I’m now a German citizen, but I hope with all of my heart, that Indonesia can make it.

  7. Mohammed Khafi says:


    There are a couple of interesting articles which may be worth reading on the subject of the word ‘Bule’:

    Don’t call me Bule
    The ‘Other’ Stares Back

    Believe me I have been called much worse than ‘brownie’ in my time!


  8. Jakartass says:

    The link in expat.or.id has been moved, to where I couldn’t find out – because thanks, or, rather, no thanks, to Indosat I can’t stay online long enough. The other article is a downloadable academic study in .pdf form.

    The author analyses a group of expats who are here on relatively short-term contracts, a group which is able, thanks to their income, to live a relatively isolated existence in Jakarta. She then goes on to suggest that “expatriates, through their discursive constructions and practical responses to instances of being othered, attempt to regain a power position vis-à-vis Indonesians which they feel has been undermined.

    In other words, her thesis is that we ‘bules‘ object to the term as it undermines our sense of racial superiority. That may be true for some, but judging from the majority of comments published in this thread, the objection is to the notion of racial stereotyping.

    My objection is simple: any label which is based on skin colour, hence ethnicity, is intrinsically evil Racial hatred, often cloaked in political and/or scientific dogma, has led to genocide the world over. Locally, and recently, there have been murderous attacks on the Chinese community here. My Indian friends also have difficulties because of their


    Being a caucasian does not give me a feeling of ‘superiority’, but I often

    regret the loss of anonymity that …. expatriates bemoan (which) is also an expression of surprise and regret at (our) sudden bodily visibility, whatever its shape and colour.

    This is perhaps especially true for those of us who have lived here for longer than those who yell at us from passing trucks and buses.

    We expats will always be ‘other’, if only because the pressures on us in terms of ‘permission’ to live in and leave from Indonesia are different. We need permission to do both. Most of us can live with that, but to be further separated on the basis of skin colour adds insult to injury.

  9. Tomaculum says:

    For me in this context the word “bule” will always have offending, declining and racistic means.
    As Jakartass wrote:

    any label which is based on skin colour, hence ethnicity, is intrinsically evil Racial hatred.

    You will find such stereotypising every where in the world. As an asian living (since 30 years) in Europe, I am sensitised to such things without being histerical.

    Jakartass, allow to comment one of your sentences:

    Locally, and recently, there have been murderous attacks on the Chinese community here.

    Of course were those riots terrible, inhuman and not to be apologised. But the problem is not only a racism problem, but also – as you surely know – social and “religious” matters.

    Btw: there is also a very strong racism from the side of the chinese minority against the so called “pribumi”. But I’m sure you know this too. The problem is: when will we beginn to watch us in the mirror?

    But I have recognise a change during the last 10 years. When I visite Indonesia with my family, the people don’t ask any more where they (my european caucasian wife and our mixed blood children) come from and they cause less sensation as for 15-20 years ago.

  10. Ihaknt says:

    I call my husband bule gila sometimes…that doesnt make me a bad wife. My cousins do too, cos he is crazy sometimes. In a funny way:)

    Parvita, miiiiaaauuww!! Girl, get those claws out.

    I have worked overseas throughout all my working life. And when people get an expat contract, mostly it’s not because they can’t compete in their own country. Some are offered, some volunteered – mainly and mostly they get paid sh*tload and family also benefits from the contract (shool fees paid for, housing paid for etc, who wouldn’t want that?!?!?), and some just want to go for the experience. Many come back and get even better jobs with their ‘overseas’ experience. It’s a very good selling point on your CV. If they go back home to the same company, that also provides them with a higher position, i.e. to hold a region such as Asia Pacific as they are regarded to have the necessary knowledge about the people, behaviour, economy, etc.

    I deal with lots of western expats, some of them are my friends. They told me that when they are here, they are handsome. In their countries, they are invisible. There you go, a confession from an Australian.

    🙂 gotta love those Aussie women! Is this what you meant by the word “competition” Parvita? hehehe, well tough luck for the guys I guess.

    To Harry

    I read your comments and they made me smile. I think your main problem is you lack of self esteem and confidence. For some girls, those 2 qualities are huge turn-ons and very attractive. Certainly works for me second to intelligence and brain. Maybe if you focus on the positive, it will radiate and attract girls. I hope this posting gets to you in time. Everyone has at least one positive quality, and so do you. Now have a shower, brush your teeth, get out there and smile to the world.

  11. Mohammed Khafi says:


    I am not having any problems connecting to the relevant page on expat.or.id, please try it again later.

    The article there gives a quite balanced view, with opinions from both sides, those who find the term offensive and those who don’t. I still stick to my view that it is based on the context in which the word is used, names based on colour of skin do not alway have to be offensive do they?

    Hitam Manis

    Brown Sugar

    Coco Goddess

    All used as terms of endearment?

    The name Samara, which in Egypt is used as a term of endearment actually translates as ‘dark one’

    I would like to say that the ideas expressed in the academic article are not shared by me, I was just trying to illustrate the issue as fairly as possible.

    Whilst I do know of some expats who appear to feel racially superior I have to say that my experience personally is that they are in a very small minority. I welcome the opportunities for knowledge advancement, social and cultural exchange that having expat workers in Indonesia brings.


  12. taxpayer says:

    “Racism is commonly defined as a belief or doctrine where inherent biological differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, with a corollary that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.[1]

    The term racism is sometimes used to refer to preference for one’s own ethnic group (ethnocentrism),[2] fear of foreigners (xenophobia), views or preferences against interbreeding of the races (miscegenation),[3], and/or a generalization of a specific group of people (stereotype); regardless of any explicit belief in superiority or inferiority embedded within such views or preferences. Racism has been used in attempts to justify social discrimination, racial segregation and violence, including genocide. Politicians are known to practice race-baiting in an effort to win constituents.

    The term racist, when used to describe someone who supports racism, has been a pejorative term since at least the 1940s, and the identification of a group or person as racist is nearly always controversial.”


    All opinions aside, the term “Bule” is racist. Definition 2 above. Personal opinions of whether is does or does not effect them cannot be the factor that dtermines what is and is not racism.

    I, for one, hate the word “Bule”. The word psychologically changes the way an Indonesian person approaches a foreigner of white skin. End of story.

    Anytime you genralize and classify people under the umbrella of a single term causes racism and prejudice and does not allow for that same person to approach someone as a “Fellow” human being.

    As an American who was, fortunately, raised to not classify people by race, color, creed, culture or nationality, I find it extremely difficult to justify the word “Bule” anymore than justifying the word “Nigger”. As soon as you segregate with words, you segregate them in your mind as being different.

    Indonesia is going through political change and political change takes time. I respect the joking term of “Bule” but still hate it. After all, I have African-American friends and they don’t laugh at ANY of my, ha ha ha, nigger jokes.

    Need I say more?

  13. Tomaculum says:


    Indonesia is going through political change and political change takes time. I respect the joking term of “Bule” but still hate it.

    I will never except the word bule in this context, the same way like my challenge against the word nigger, yellow bastard or something like that.

    I’m glad to meet (although just in the virtual world) one more person who doesn’t classify people by race, colour, creed, culture or nationality. I hope to meet more persons like you (and me).

    M. Khafi, the name Samara is not given to one because of its race, I think. But because of her darker skin in comparation to the others in her neighbourhood and it is given by the parents with loving dedication, isn’t it? But I the word “bule”, once more, is always said to exclude the white skinned (and Samara has surely not any medical meaning with connection to a disease, isn’t it?). Believe me, I have never heard the word “bule” said with a true loving intention (from a stranger, not from the mouth of a loving wife like Ihaknt).

    My second daughter has a little bit darker skin then her sister/brother and I call her sometimes; my beloved hitam manis (sweet black). But it is different when a stranger name her “a dark skinned bastard”.

    To my opinion such (sorry I don’t have now time to read those articles carefully) studies or “ethnological” works are only to be taken with a pinch of salt. I don’t know how many expats the writer had interviewed and with which methodes, etc, etc.

  14. Mohammed Khafi says:


    Using your given definitions:

    and/or a generalization of a specific group of people (stereotype); regardless of any explicit belief in superiority or inferiority embedded within such views or preferences.

    Are you not being racist by generalising that all Indonesians using the word are using it in a racist or derogatory manner?

    You specifically refered to Definition 2:

    ),[2] fear of foreigners (xenophobia), views or preferences against interbreeding of the races (miscegenation)

    With a few notable exceptions of xenophobia in the government, military and Mainstream Islamic clergy towards foreigners, how do you justify this reference to support your claim of the word being racist? (for the moment we should leave out Indonesians xenophobia for our own fellow countrymen. ;-))

    Miscegenation, where do you see that? Considering the small numbers of expats in Indonesia and the high number of them who are married to local women or for that matter men, how can you accuse us of miscegenation? Haven’t you seen the adoration which is showered on mixed race people in the media and entertainment world?

    I can assure you that for the majority of Indonesians who would use this word there is no derogatory meaning intended, it is just descriptive of your skin colour. It is no more derogatory than refering to somebody as a black man or a white man or a brown man.

    As Ihaknt said above:

    I call my husband bule gila sometimes”¦that doesnt make me a bad wife. My cousins do too, cos he is crazy sometimes. In a funny way:)

    You said:

    After all, I have African-American friends and they don’t laugh at ANY of my, ha ha ha, nigger jokes.

    One could say that the term African-American is racist as it refers to Americans who are black African, would you use the same term to decribe Africans who are white skinned, who are equally African after all?

    For more on the other word try here: Urban Dictionary. Some very interesting and varied viewpoints!




    The point that I am trying to make here is that the general use of the word ‘bule’ by native Indonesian speakers is nothing to do with race or connotations of disease, it is commonly used as a nickname amongst Indonesians for other Indonesians. There is a young girl of maybe 3 or 4 in my kampung who is nicknamed bule, everybody calls her that even her grandmother, they are not being nasty to her and she loves the name because it means that she is seen as special because she has paler skin and hair than her playmates.

    I am suprised that you have never heard the phrase used in an affectionate or friendly way, but perhaps you have never been amongst ordinary Indonesian people enough, recently.

    I am sorry that you have been the victim of racial hatred, I too have seen my share working around the world, and I recognise that it must leave a deep scar when it is applied to your children.

    I am not denying that there are some people who would misuse the word, but those who are filled with hate can change anything into evil, please don’t let your opinions be ruled by those sort of people.


  15. taxpayer says:

    Mohammed Khafi:

    That definitions is directly from the wilkipedia dictionary. FOLLOW the link.




    PS: the term AFRICAN- American was coined by black americans, sent to a senate referendum and voted on as US law.

    Interesting concept huh?

    Black Americans chose AFRICAN-AMERICAN and their government supported their wish.

    Sounds like a democracy……hmm…Indonesia is a democracy too.

    Please don’t join intellectual discussions when you have chosen to argue your emotions versus arguing well chronicled facts.


    “The ‘Other’ stares back
    Experiencing whiteness in Jakarta
    â–  Anne-Meike Fechter
    University of Sussex, UK
    A B S T R A C T â–  Discussions of whiteness often focus on the ‘invisibility’
    of whites. I suggest, though, that the situation of whites in non-white
    environments contributes a crucial dimension to concepts of whiteness. In
    particular, I examine the case of white Euro-American expatriates living in
    Jakarta. These corporate expatriates have been posted to Indonesia by
    their companies, and they often experience being ‘racially marked’ for the
    first time. This takes place through the ‘gaze of the Other’; being looked
    at by Indonesians in the street, and by being called bule, an Indonesian
    term for ‘white person’. While many regard these practices as unpleasant
    and offensive, expatriates are unwilling to acknowledge their political
    implications. They often refuse to recognize their status as a ‘race’, thus
    highlighting the persistence of the notion of whiteness as unmarked, even
    when confronted with situations which suggest otherwise.”

    http://eth.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/6/1/87.pdf (For rest of the study)




    Well”¦..You have the link. Read it. Terserah Kamu!!

    As I said before and will say again. BULE is derogatory and racist.

    A) Based on facts (Regardless of willingness to read them)
    B) Indonesian history of the word bule
    C) based on personal experience
    D) Based on testimonials from Indonesians themselves.

    Shall we start another topic?

  16. Stella says:

    This country spoiled expats tooo much…. pay them much more than Indonesian, they could live better here than in their countries and of course they think they are kings and could get whatever they want so easy. Why?

    Its because of the new Indonesian culture!! Most Indonesian men or women think that expats are smart, we have to respect them more than Indonesian, we sometime show them our dumb smile and give whatever they want, like facilities, high standar life even girls!! It made the expats feel superior than the locals.

    I know an expat married man who works here, brought his family here and falls in love with a smart, independent girl who come from a good rich family, then he divorced his wife, live together with his Indo girl, dump her and he realize than he just want to screw around! This expat guy is not handsome, short, I could add a bit bold, maybe like our friend Harry. He was a nice family man not confident about his look but one day he went to a bar, try if he could catch girls and he got two for one night stand. That night his life has been changed to a sleezy obnoxious man. He found out that he could do whatever he wants to do because he is a foreigner and he feel superior because he has money.

    Economy reason for the girls and pussy addict for the expat men. Just imagine, if the expat man works in his country he can’t have a big house with a swimming pool, car with a driver and pembantu with his salary!! Who could you blame? This country almost lost the identity and they expats use it very well to take granted and if they don’t have a good foundation as a human being then they turn to be leeches.

    My opinions are maybe too subjective but its a free comment so its all back to your own perspective and judgement my friends.

    Have a good evening!!

  17. Mohammed Khafi says:


    I never questioned the definition of the term rascism, I questioned your application of those particular definitions. For which you didn’t give me a satisfactory answer?

    Just because Black Americans coined the term does that somehow mean that it cannot be rascist? The term African Americans clearly is applied to Black African Americans and not to White African Americans. Just because it was voted on by a senate commitee doesn’t mean that it is not rascist, Democracy and Political Correctness clearly have their faults as well! If the United States Senate was truly non racist they would just be called Americans.

    As you said in your earlier posting:

    As soon as you segregate with words, you segregate them in your mind as being different.

    Please don’t forget that it was also ‘African Americans’ who coined the word ‘Nigga’ Please note the spelling!

    If you take the trouble to really read ‘The ‘Other’ Stares back’, you will see that the point that the researcher is making is that the perceived rascism is just that, perceived in the minds of the expats.

    Instead of regarding their stay in Jakarta as a valuable experience of what it can be like to be racially othered, many expatriates merely complain about being subjected to racial stereotyping by Indonesians.

    While expatriates resent being subjected to what they regard as Indonesians ‘racist’ practices

    You talked about testimonials, how about these from the same study:

    As emerges from discussions with Indonesians, bule can be used in a neutral fashion, as well as carrying positive or negative connotations. Indonesians often explain that bule is used in an unassuming, functional way – as a shorthand
    to describe a white foreigner. As an Indonesian participant on the ‘Living
    in Indonesia’ forum states, ‘bule is purpose [sic] for a white or Caucasian
    foreigner, cos the skin looks more brighter than Indonesian skin. Don’t
    worry, it doesn’t mean any offense. Or it doesn’t mean Indonesian peoples
    [are] racist to white peoples or black peoples’


    An American contributor to the forum, who is married to an Indonesian, presents this attitude as follows:
    There is nothing impolite inferred when an Indonesian refers to you as bule.
    At home we have to tread on eggshells and pretend all races (and sexes) are
    the same for political correctness, but Indonesians just call a spade a spade
    (no pun intended) and say it like it is. You are white; they call you bule.

    While there are others who hold opinions such as yours, the researcher has this to say about them:

    While postings like these abound, it does not seem to occur to the writers that their impression of Indonesian society being racist might be due to the
    fact that they are for the first time a racial ‘Other’ themselves.

    Please don’t help me do my homework, I get the feeling that my comprehension of the English language is better than yours. I would suggest that you reread the document again.


  18. taxpayer says:

    Kind of nitpicking the thing now. After all, doesn’t your country require classifying people by religious groups and creed on all paperwork?

    When you fill out an application for anything anywhere in the world, don’t we all have to check some form of skin color?

    All applications in Indo say “CAUCASIAN”. Perhaps they should just change that to “BULE” huh?

    After all, it is a far more accepted, polite and understood word than Caucasian.

    Also…..Just for the record, white African-Americans also are called African American.


    The term “Nigga’ is used amongst African-Americans themselves and is unaccepted coming from the mouth of us American Bules.

    And amongst Afican Americans, they, also, argue about the usage of this word. Now, I don’t meet fellow bules and introduce myself by saying “What’s up Bule?”

    Arguing the use of the word nigger and ‘nigga’ with an American is somewhat useless and defeatist. Since I was in kindergarten I have had to study AMERICA’S big stain called slavery.

    I have been, if you will, “BRAINWASHED” myself by the American education system to not be prejudice against African Americans and that BOTH these words are unacceptable.

    Even getting into Indonesian’s words describing Black people would make BULE seem like a normal word. Some of the worst things I have heard said about black people I heard here and in Vietnam. Funny, I had to leave America, which has a HORRIBLE history towards blacks, to hear the worst comments.

    Anyway, do what you want. If you want to call people ‘bule’ than go for it. Make sure when you see a black person you say ‘Nigga’. Go for it.

    Shall we discuss the Chinese and Indonesia?

    Perhaps Bule would not be such a big deal if Indonesian history, like American history, did not show such blatant attempts of segregation and discrimination.

    In America, education has made this gap between people much smaller. Now it’s your turn.

    Instead of BULE and whatever other words you can come up with, wouldn’t it be easier to call someone by their name?

    Take Stella , who wrote in a worthless paragraph above”¦”¦..is this not indicative of the problem needing to be solved?

    Is she angry at us BULE because we get paid more or is she angry that your government has not raised the wage standards across the board?

    Does she honestly think that we cant make more money and be more successful in our homelands or is she upset that her dreams have been suppressed and won’t be achieved?

    In the USA, after Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, it took a whole new, younger generation to bridge the gap between races. The same will have to happen here. But I grew up during the 70’s and the 80’s and things such as Rap music, R & B, Hip Hop, etc was my time as a child. This is what changed the overall attitude towrds racism and African-Americans.

    If grown-ups want to use the word BULE than so be it but why continue to teach it as acceptable to the children?

  19. Mohammed Khafi says:


    From your original well thought out comments and observations you seem to have drifted off into some sort of incoherant babble, you have not answered my questions to you regarding your generalisations, or accusations of miscegenation and xenophobia toward foreigners.

    You obviously didn’t understand or comprehend “The ‘Other’ stares back” and argued contrary to the researchers findings.

    You also seem to have some sort of fixation with the black citizens of your country, I referenced them to illustrate the change in meaning of a particular word over time, you seem to have them as a cornerstone of you argument.

    Your argument over the meaning of one word has disintegrated into one of general rascism!

    I am suprised that with your relatively young age, and the short period of time that you have spent in Indonesia that you know so much about our culture and language that you feel empowered to tell us what our language means.

    There is a simple solution to all of this, if you don’t like Indonesia, or even Asia in general, go home, go back to your country of perfect racial harmony, and social equality. Take your knowledge and use it for the benefit of your fellow countrymen instead of wasting it here teaching us our own language and trying to change our culture.

    Josh, we have enough problems fighting Arabisation and Javanisation without having Americans come over here and trying to impose their values on us, fighting their own perception of how we feel about them.

  20. Ihaknt says:

    Josh, I dont see why using the word bule seems to offend you so much. My granma’s generation use the word ‘londo’ for any white people, even if they come from Australia, America, anywhere in the world, but because they are white my granma just calls them londo (Belanda = Dutch) because she was there during the colonialism. If we cant use the word bule, then what word can we use?
    Bule doesnt have negative meaning to me. Most bule I know thruout my life are great people. So it actually has positive meaning for me personally.

    My hubby is a bule and he seems to prefer that than the term ‘white guy’, cos when he is out too long in the sun he becomes pink :), so the term ‘white’ is irrelevant. The word ‘caucasian’ is too long and can be hard to pronounce for some of us, and I (my bad on this part) sometimes think it sounds like crustaceans (and this word always manages to trigger my uncontrollable cravings for seafood!!! damn!!).

    Stella is just being bitter, she was probably the chick that the expat dumped (ehheeheh, no offence). And Stella’s problem is IT, it’s her problem, let her deal with her bitterness. You never know she may have written it at ‘that time of the month’.

    And back to the topic, not all expats are bad. I deal with them on daily basis here and they’re lovely. For the ones who are a**holes, I just simply dont talk or mingle with them.

    Anyway, please answer what word can we use to replace this negative conotation word “bule”? And I will decide if the word is good to pass down to my kids. And Josh you never know, we maybe on our way to create linguistic history here, maybe my kids generation and the next won’t know what bule means.

  21. taxpayer says:

    I am not sure why we need any name for anybody. I was always partial to Hi, what’s your name? or nothing at all.

    Look….it’s peoples choice to use the word and I am not crying in my coffee or losing any sleep over the word. I just don’t like it. Having also been married to a women from Jakarta and having been exposed to Indonesians all my life(Due to the 1,000’s of Indonesians that live in my hometown and attend my hometown’s University) I guess it is one of those words that just seems unnecessary for speech.

    I just think that we are all the same people and the time is well past for using for names or slang names for racial and national groups of people.

    Alas, forums are what they are. Just forums. Yet another way for people to not physically talk to each other and thus, enticing people to have rants and temper tantrums without consequence.

    I am not offended by the word. I am offended that the word is used with little thought of why or what it is derived from. Teenagers using the word is expected becuase they are teenagers. Adults put the teeanager things away and behave like adults.

    When people I am know and have an extended relationship with use the word than it loses some of it’s offensiveness. But when passerbys call me the word without knowing my name, than I find it offensive.

    Call it more annoying than offensive. Somewhat like being “Hey Mister’ed” all day, everyday.

  22. Ihaknt says:

    Hi Josh, Ok now i get your point. I think those people who greeted you “hey bule”, mmmm let me guess, the uneducated people by the streets who were just nongkrong2 ga jelas, or some giggly girls who think that you’re cute and wont be annoyed by the greeting. Me personally will call any white guy sir if i happen to need to ask a question. I guess education plays a part here too.

    I am not sure why we need any name for anybody. I was always partial to Hi, what’s your name? or nothing at all.

    Too much effort Josh, we may lose the moment if say we were having a coffee and there’s this nice looking white boy walked past and the quickest and easiest thing to say to my girlfriend would be, “hey check out that bule”…then describe, say, what he is wearing at that time. I cant possibly chase him (or can i? 🙂 ) and ask for his name then go back to my friend and then talk about him. Hehehe, I hope you’re not too serious about the whole thing. I am just messing with you. Merry Xmas bro.

  23. taxpayer says:

    Just want to note that your the one who said “uneducated ” people. NOT ME. And your assumption that it was just “giggly” girls is pathetic and typical generalization.

    let me guess….you probably think I am an English teacher, drink beer all the time, have slept with many Indo girls, like Blok M and what else?

    Merry Christmas.

  24. Ihaknt says:

    Oh Josh, don’t be upset.
    I know i was the one who said it, NOT YOU. And no I didnt think you were English teacher. Actually I didnt think all those you mentioned at all. So your guess is wrong. I am more open minded than that coz I know a lot of foreigners. They all have different jobs in Jakarta.
    But I know when I walk on the streets of Jakarta, people call me bule too sometimes even topped with annoying whistles and mostly they are the ‘uneducated’ mas mas who are nongkrong by the streets because they have no jobs. It’s the mas-mas with annoying congor that i was refering to!

    Actually i notice you’re very sensitive on this issue compare to your other posting on other issues.

    And regarding the giggly girls…mmm, yes i was generalising because that’s just how it is. they are giggly, i giggle too doesnt make me a bad person no?

  25. Anna says:

    Khafi. I agree with all your statements.
    Keep up the good work and I soooo disagree with all Parvita’s statements.
    Open your mind, open your heart.

    Harry, you have self pity, that’s not good. Come on there is something wrong whit this girl if they don’t want you. (I don’t know what you look like, but you seem nice). Be confidence to your self Harry, maybe chew some gum or do something, for crying out loud. Not just complaining that you can not get a girl. Do something. Good Luck.

  26. Ibuchat says:

    I was an expat (woman) in Jakarta in the 1990s and became friendly with a few single expat men while I was over there. I don’t think any of them were like the men described in this article although I did see plenty of men like that around where I lived. One of the guys I was friendly with actually found working in Indonesia a really lonely experience. yes, he would have a certain type of woman throwing themselves at him if he ventured out to the type of nightclubs generally frequented by foreigners (and most of the foreigners in Jakarta are male) but was romantic enough to be looking for a woman who was actually interested in him for himself rather than because he was foreign and assumed to be wealthy.

    As a woman, I found it much easier than he did to make ‘true friends’ in Jakarta. I was invited to people’s homes, to weddings etc etc and generally showered with hospitality. I did have men (particularly taxi drivers!) try and hit on me occassionally but this was generally outweighed by all the genuinely friendly overtures from both men and women.

    Also while in Jakarta I also had an opportunity to speak to Indonesian women about the experience of befriending foreign men. Many said that they wouldn’t want to be seen with a foreign man as they would be regarded as a prostitute and have nasty comments hissed at them by complete strangers.

    In contrast, an Indonesian man I knew who was married to an Australian friend of mine said he practically got high fives from other Indonesian men any time the two of them went out together.

    I don’t know if the situation has changed much since I was in Indonesia but I certainly don’t think the situation is as simplistic as the writer of the original post makes out.

    Oh and by the way, I am new to this board but have been having a bit of a look around and am very impressed with the level of discussion. Mohammed Khafi, you seem like a very wise man!

  27. Tony says:

    As a canadian who has lived in Indonesia for the past 10 years I can see that there is too much emphasis here on us v. them. People are people regardless of their culture. We hide behind national identities, money and beleifs because of insecure behavior.

    If a foreigner falls in love with a pembantu, so be it, she would only suffer at the hands of her majikan here in Indonesia. If a wealthy Indonesian woman falls in love with a poor bule–great–he won’t need to worry about money. I have both expat friends and Indonesian friends, both have the same type of outlook on life and they grew up thousands of miles from one another.

    Most of my local Indonesian friends, who are married, have at least one girlfriend they see on Friday nights at the karaoke. Good for them, the culture here permits that type of behavior. Usually, when a bule marries as Indonesian woman, she adopts the western view of women’s rights–perhaps because there is nothing like that here–not just money.

    So, my point here is that we need to drop these labels and silly notions of why people are attracted to one another. Just accept that fact that they are and that they are happy. Isn’t that the way it should be?

  28. Markus says:

    Just to put the Cat amoung the Pidgoens, its too simplistic to judge Foreign expats on the behaviour of Blok M “Bules” or Jl. Jaksa drunks. It is also too simplistic to say all Asians are hard working, honest and not judgemental in Jakarta.

    There are losers, sleazy people and scumbags everywhere, and most expatriates I know do contribute positively to Indonesia,and care about the Country. Try living in bankrupt Germany, or PC debt-ridden America?, and tell me if these Countries are in reality offering better “quality” people than in Indonesia.

    Its all about access to money, jobs and whether you conform to society or not. Not on your ability to perform professionally or your personal life.

  29. Anita McKay says:

    It’s really a sexist article(s). Portraying that most expats are bad and ‘leftovers’. Does the writer even know how difficult to get expats to come to Indonesia? Most of the companies have to lure them with luxuries otherwise nobody would think Indonesia in a blink. When my friend got an offer to work in Indonesia, the company put him and his wife in Dharmawangsa Hotel for 2 weeks, drove them around, showed them what they could offer and keep offering until my friend would eventually say yes. Indonesia has such a bad reputation that the first thing crosses everybody’s mind when they’re offered the job: “oh no, terrorism, jihad, suicide bomb, unstable political conditions.” To say that they cannot compete in their own countries is rubbish. They sometimes are transferred to fix the acute problems that happen in Indonesia due to our own incompetencies. Or like in most of oil companies, they’re simply rotated. IF they’re SO BAD in their own countries that means Indonesians are MUCH WORSE because we couldn’t even compete with losers!

  30. Tuan says:


    Terrorism, jihad or whatever is not something to worry about when the average salary if I recall is roughly equivalent to a minimum wage worker in the US to one month salary of low-middle class income employee. I meet plenty of Indoensian students and they say like America because there is more civil infrastructure (or something like that). So it would be hard sell to have an American or any other employee from a western country to come to Indonesia when you have Middle Eastern countries like Dubai and Bahrain who can offer better incentives.

    Not only in Indoneisa or other Asian countries, but there is stigma attached to certain pairings of interracial couples here in the US. One in particular are the men from here who have wives who are straight off the boat, like the Filipinos. And in some cases it is true, they are usually not very successful with women in America maybe (because of looks or financial reasons) and look for women outside of the borders. In other words, they are definitely not the Brad Pitts or alpha males, who are more than likely to hook up with a girl here in the US.

    All in all there will always be stigmas in the west or east when it comes to interracial couples. I am sure that expats here can agree with me here. WHITE WOMEN with black guys are sometimes perceived as sluts or called “mud shark” by WHITE MEN. Interracial romances on tv with non-white males and white females are still somewhat of a taboo here in the US. From personal experiences, I have dated white and black females despite the stares I get at the mall from white folks or black folks. In other words, it happens and you just have to roll with the punches.

    ~Tuan-American Indonesian Muslim

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