Yin & Yang: Bules & Pembantus

Feb 18th, 2010, in Opinion, Society, by

Expat men in Indonesia and their love affairs with lower class women, opposites attract.

The Friend,

Late one night as my Kampung friends and I were guarding our neighbourhood, the age-old question came up: why does the Bule Man (Bulman), like the Pembantu (maid) face ? We contemplate many such questions as I tap on my Bongo drums and my friends sip their Kratingdaeng, staring out from our little pos jaga (guard post) at the corner of the street under the Jambu tree.

Yin YangIndeed, it is like Yin and Yang: white (or pink), tall, educated, from the city, versus dark, short, from the village.  For me, the Bulman’s taste is his own business; that is how our Indonesian system of Bhinekka Tunggal Ika, or Unity in Diversity works.  But many big-haired society Matrons, funky university hipsters, and ordinary Indonesian people alike wonder about the strange attraction of the White Man for his maid.

At our guard post, we try to help the country, so for you, my Indonesia Matters friends, I return to this burning question.

Thang D. NguyenMany writers ever addressed the Bule-Pembantu phenomenon before.  The prominent columnist and thinker Thang D. Nguyen ever wrote about Westerners and maids, putting the attraction down to the law of relativity. Mr. Thang defines Pembantu characteristics as,

a dark complexion, buck teeth, and a high forehead typically found among remote mountain villagers in Java

adding that his Indonesian friend finds such features,

not beautiful.

But, Mr. Thang says:

Beauty, like many things in life, is bound by the rule of relativity.  In other words, what one man considers beautiful is ugly in the eyes of another.

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere and Chatosphere, Java Jive, and Unspun, and Detik, have all discussed the Yin and Yang syndrome.

The Detik chat is an online version of thoughts going through the minds of many Indonesians as they see a fifty-ish Om-Om, or even a debonair well-dressed Bulman mas mas (young man), with someone who looks like a rejected audition from the 1970s classic film Si Inem Pelayan Seksi (“Inem the Seksi Server”). Si Inem was like an Indonesian Cinderella, or the 1990s Julia Roberts film ‘Pretty Woman’, where the poor girl gets the prince.  (Personally I want to see Julia Perez do a Dangdut version of Pretty Woman – Astaga and Aduhai !)

Here are the thoughts of my neighborhood watch group and hang-out friends.

The Bule cannot find it in his own country.

bossyEver since Bule Belanda (Bulbel) came to the Spice Islands to trade nutmeg, Bule has ever come to my country to find something he doesn’t have.  In his country, the woman is tall, White, likes to argue and not follow what he says.  She threaten him with divorce and instead of being allowed to perform manly night-guard duties, like us, he must do housework while she watches “Desperate Housewives”.  Maybe for Bule with his maid it is different.

Opposites Attract

memperbaiki keturunanI ever read that primates seek to make up for shortcomings in their genetic makeup by finding a mate with different DNA characteristics: thus opposites attract.  Maybe the maid wants to improve her bloodline (memperbaiki keturunan).  Bule subconsciously does likewise.  Just like Bhinekka Tunggal Ika teaches us, there is unity in diversity.

Beer Goggles (Alcohol Induced Judgement Lapse)

Friend, we Betawi warriors don’t drink much more than the occasional shot of Arak in our Kratingdaeng, so we are not experts in beer drinking.  But for hundreds of years, Bule has soaked himself in gin, rum, or recently beer. In fact, friend according to Mike Dash, author of the history ‘Batavia’s Graveyard‘, there was one tavern for every seven Dutchmen in Batavia in the 1770s.  Drunken opponents – as well as Silat – was one reason the Betawi hero Si Pitoeng was so easily able to defeat Tuan Scott (see clip below).

At the popular Bule meeting places like Jl. Felatehan Blok M, Bule crashes into everything – the walls, the Preman, and, yes, the one who looks like Maid.  Sometimes true love can blossom and he will marry her.  Then the relationship becomes more like one and two above.

A Call For Discussion

Remember, that not all Bule are alike.  There are short, tall, and even vagrant and poor – known locally as ‘Bule Jaksa’. In turn, some Bule marry the Cinetron star, big-hair high society matron, or local aristocrat, be it from Bali or Java or whereever.  Friend, that is the beauty of Bhinekka Tunggal Ika.

There are many mystery in Indonesia.  Why wasn’t a single member of Dono, Kasino Indro given a cabinet post ?  Does Wiranto, Hanura chairman and retired general, wear a toupe ?  Why is Ulfa so annoying ?

Friend, our late-night guard post Bongo session was an open discussion.  I now call on You, Indonesia Matters reader to share your own insights and thoughts on the Yin-Yang phenomena.

161 Comments on “Yin & Yang: Bules & Pembantus”

  1. deta says:

    Gosh, I’m in a positively horrible frame of thinking today, aren’t I!

    No, Timdog. In fact, you’re in a horribly positive frame of thinking today. ROFL

  2. ET says:

    Gosh, I’m in a positively horrible frame of thinking today, aren’t I!

    No, just making the wrong assumptions, as usual.

  3. Oigal says:

    Bison sized white woman…..mmm you are feeling mean today timdog

  4. Halo All My Seksi Friend, Oigal, Mr. The TimDogs, others. I am ever want to start to do the write again. Please PM me if u have any thoughts on the defamations laws. : )

  5. David says:

    I’d let me worry about the defamation stuff… I have faced down one bison sized white woman before over the issue, I’m ready to do it again.

  6. timdog says:

    Indonesian literature needs you Mas Achmad (as do lonely ladies, bule, bison-sized and otherwise). There has been an aching void while you’ve been gone. If you start a blog on Mr David’s platform I might even start one myself (even though I’ve always believed that bloggin makes you go blind)…
    Defamation schmefemation…

  7. @ Timdogs, yes, but I ever openly set out to insult people, lay out the method, and gloat about it. Hard not to be able to argue legal intent to defame, Kawan.

  8. Oigal says:

    Ah yes Assmad, but it has gotten pretty bland since Ross scurried off to his own dark, dank paranoid corner of web with his crew of the like (light) minded. If it wasn’t for Patrick and the trogs on the BO thread it would be positively humorless.

    Why it’s been months since Patung has deleted one of my comments of inane abuse…sad really..Of course, since I took up the position as a White House enabler for the new world order, he may be running scared….

  9. Hmm, ok, Mr. Oigals (you must be on your way home from Jl. Felatehan and Stadium now), maybe time for a shout out to revive the Trolls ! Perhaps a lamentation combined with a call to arms.

  10. Oigal says:

    Mmmmm… Actually…. closer to Dolly at the moment….

    Seriously, after such a long break, you lead with Blok reference? Ah come on

  11. Luuk says:

    gUnitLA will make a fine husband, we are all sure about that thing.

    We humans always want to have what we can’t get. Western people want a little bit of eastern culture, respect, less stress. And East wants a bit of West.

    Humans are made to look forward and unfortunately aren’t satisfied easily.
    If I am speaking for myself I love many factors of Indonesia/asia although i would never assimilate. Assimilation is the worst form and is known to create identity crisis.

    And about feminism.. There is nothing wrong with that, it shows that an equal relation is not easy, not impossible. Somewhere it went wrong with values in the eastern society. But nothing can beat an equal marriage in my eyes.

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