Things That Shouldn’t Surprise You When You Live in Indonesia


I feel that I have lived long enough in Indonesia to compile a list of things that shouldn’t surprise anyone who might want to visit someday. Some of the things (#1 and #3 in particular) don’t apply to all areas, and as I’m currently based in Jakarta, I’m living the extreme cases of those. But others, they happen far too many times on a regular basis that it can be counted as normal, and when you complain about it, people will tell you to ‘just suck it up and go with it’.

So here we go.

  1. Being stuck for hours in the car (literally hours), thanks to the horrible, horrible traffic.
  2. The crappy public transports. The tube in the rush hour is nothing, I tell you.
  3. Spending 2-4 hours a day for commuting is normal. So very normal.
  4. The struggle of being a pedestrian. Drivers honk at you, no matter how wrong they are for taking the pedestrian space. I once got honked when I was crossing the zebra cross at the parking lot.
  5. Public toilets. Expect it to be dirty, smelly, and wet (for most of them at least). My poor bladder has been trained to hold pee for hours because of this. An absolute torture.
  6. People pissing on the street. I remember being quite shocked when I saw it just a few days after arriving back in Jakarta, but people around me barely noticed anything. I guess it was just as normal as… crossing the street, maybe?
  7. Violations of personal space. This is something I can rant about forever, so I’ll just leave it here. Maybe I’ll write another post for this in the future.
  8. Some people can’t handle differences very well. Try not to mention that you’re an atheist/agnostic or that you support gay marriage to avoid lengthy lectures that can lull you, or being stared at like a sinner who deserves to be stoned.
  9. Indonesians’ ability to take spicy things without sweating. I know many people take pride in this, which I secretly laugh at.
  10. Thousands of people at Indonesian weddings. Because it’s more important to live up to the tradition rather than creating something personal and intimate that reflects the bride and groom. And God forbid anyone should get offended because they’re not invited. Parents’ colleagues, parents’ childhood friends, anyone goes. It’s incredibly easy to gatecrash weddings, so to speak.
  11. How everything is SO slow. The most irritating for me is people walking so slow they hold you up, and cashiers at the supermarkets scanning goods like they’ve got all day.
  12. The mosquitoes. That darn creature can be truly vicious and merciless.
  13. How profoundly keen most people here on malls, borderline obsessed. Every time a new mall opens, it becomes some sort of attraction that you cannot miss. And if you don’t like malls? You’re the weirdo.
  14. The beaches here are second to none, and it can truly spoil other beaches for the rest of your life. Growing up in a coastal town, I haven’t found any beach better than the ones I’m accustomed to, so naturally, I’m not as excited about going to the beach as other people may be, because I know it will be below my unreasonable expectation.
  15. The food. Remarkably delicious, and no word will ever do it justice. It’s one of the very few good things about Indonesia.

For anyone who plans to visit, I sincerely wish you good luck.

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  • Reply Lorraine

    I agree with all points you described above Dixie. I admire people like you, those who had lived abroad before and came back as I can’t deal with reasons nr 1 – 8 anymore. Did you experience a kind of reversed culture shock when you came back to Indonesia from England?

    February 1, 2016 at 2:38 pm
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      I’m still struggling to adjust Mbak (and have lost 10 kgs due to stress of living here). I definitely experience reversed culture shock when I came back, and even though I’m living it now, number 1-8 still got me on my nerves most of the time.

      February 2, 2016 at 12:41 am
  • Reply Fbi

    I think half of the points happens only in Jakarta…:))

    February 1, 2016 at 11:50 pm
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      Not in all places certainly, but I think many people living in the big cities in Indonesia have experienced those things 😀

      February 2, 2016 at 12:43 am
  • Reply kutubuku

    Oh I’m proud that I can eat spicy food without sweating, haha…. but yes to all the points above. I would probably have major reverse culture shock if I ever considered moving back, especially with the slowness. My pet peeves when people tried to get into the elevator before the people inside could get out…arghh!

    February 7, 2017 at 6:21 pm
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      It really drives me nuts how slow people move here. And yes, the elevator situation here is very common, it happens every time.

      February 8, 2017 at 11:03 am

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