One Word That Describes Indonesian People Best

Grateful. That’s it. I honestly can’t think of any other words that can describe these insanely awesome people better than “grateful”.

Why? I’m glad you asked, grasshoppers. Join me on a 2-day ride throughout Indonesia as you find out the answer to this question. I promise – it’s gonna be fun and so not a waste of your time! Why only 2 days? Read and find out!    

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Beginning of story or the “I’m trying to be creative” part

It’s a particularly hot day in the middle of October (No, I’m not kidding). Two Bulgarian people are in Asia for the first time and they want to explore it in the best and most authentic way possible. Plus, they may or may not have a death wish. Hence – a scooter.

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So far, so good. But… what about all those stories of tourists ending up in the hospital (which, by the way, having spent 2 weeks in Indonesia, we never saw) after a horrible accident? “Oh, come on, we’ll be careful, those fools probably had no idea what they were doing”, she said. “Yeah, we’re much more awesome”, he confirmed what she was already thinking.

The story continues – lost any brain cells yet?

Day #1 – Trying out Indonesian scooters; getting used to:

  • the most insane way of driving that ever existed in the galaxy (Not sure it even exists. Probably imagined it);
  • people smiling instead of cursing when facing a near-death experience on the road;
  • kids waving at us without even the slightest thought of throwing a rock when we pass their tiny little villages.

The people living in Lombok are Muslim – and I’m talking gorgeous-ass mosques everywhere (providing a very high level of contrast to the surroundings) and people praying 5 times a day, just like it’s supposed to be (I think). When you enter a place like this, you probably (due to the vast array of stereotyping and dumbassery you come across everywhere) expect people to stare at you with hate, indulge in profanity caused by you not covering yourself up with 10 layers of clothing and generally treat you badly because, well, they’re Muslim. Heeeeeeell no, though. These people…. really made me dislike Europe for a while. When we went to a gorgeous waterfall called Sendang Gile, riding 2 hours each way on our scooter, people were grabbing us by the arms, asking us to take pictures with them, smiling, waving, even giving us compliments and laughing like crazy.

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They were enjoying life to the fullest and they wanted us to be a part of it – the funny white people waving a GoPro in their faces and wearing next to nothing (well, me, at least). The feeling was incredible, partly because it was so unexpected (not, not the feeling of wearing next to nothing. You creep). We went really deep into the island and we didn’t see any other tourists there, so we half expected people to treat us badly for some reason – I don’t know… because we’re “trespassing”?

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Imagine the narrow little streets with houses, shops and rice fields on both sides, each with at least 4 people out front, gawking at us while feeding their chickens or goats. It didn’t take me long though, to realize they were amused and not disturbed. Bottom line: when you hear negative things about a place, take them with a grain of salt until you go and see for yourself.

 Day #2 – Realizing people are not mocking us when they keep calling us “sir” and “miss”; learning to:

  • smile instead of just stand there not knowing how to react when people tell you how amazing you look;
  • again: SMILE when told what a great day it is today;
  • tip without giving people a heart attack.

After taking a taxi that cost us 300 000 IDR from the airport to our hotel in Lombok, my boyfriend decided he was feeling extra generous and applied his complete lack of knowledge of tipping customs in Indonesia by giving the taxi driver 40 000 IDR more, even though the man was already paid by the hotel. I turned around to see what’s happening at the exact moment when he was staring at my boyfriend with the most weirded out expression ever, accomplishing in the end to substitute it with a grateful one. He obviously wasn’t used to it, especially since the hotel arranged him beforehand. Lesson #1!

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The sea was particularly striking that day, crystal clear, no waves at all, just how crippled little me likes it (I can’t swim).

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We were about to have lunch right next to it in the hotel restaurant and just as I was sitting alone for a while, peering at the menu and thanking everyone from the first person that ever hired me to the pilot of the last flight for enabling me to be in Indonesia, a guy came to take my order. All the other waiters were singing and dancing to some American song, something they probably did all the time while working. Anyway – short, dark-skinned and smiling, just like every single person in Indonesia, the waiter told me: “You are so beautiful, your hair is like fire!”. This is literally the first time a guy has told me something like this without seeming even the least bit creepy or without the intention of hitting on me. “I could get used to it”, I told myself. And used to it I got, although most of the compliments I got were “Wow, what an amazing couple!” 😀

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Completely deserved, I’d say. Nah, I’m kidding, we know we’re hideous.

Now, let’s back up a little bit. I’ve stayed in many hotels and other types of accommodation before, but I’ve never in my entire (incredibly long and wisdomous) lifetime seen people that are just so… generally happy and smiling!  And just so… grateful.

Did you know that most people in Indonesia work in the rice fields and earn about 5 USD per day? Working in a nice hotel with gorgeous views and, hopefully, pleasant guests, is a far cry from that. Don’t get me wrong – I never saw a single person working on a rice field that wasn’t smiling either, but I’m just trying to find some logic here. I mean… people can’t just be happy no matter what they’re doing, right? WRONG.

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“We’re not in Europe anymore” is what became very clear to me after just a day. You go back to your room after an exhausting 10 hours of sightseeing and walking around, being jumped by monkeys and hugging bears (just you wait) and you see someone that’s still cleaning it. What do you expect will happen? Well, I definitely didn’t expect him to start asking me about my day, giving recommendations about what to see, asking how I’m liking it there, whether I’m happy there and apologizing 10 times about not being finished. The whole experience of having a conversation with an Indonesian person always left me with a huge smile on my face and some sort of peculiar excitement. And no, I’m not a weirdo loner that never talks to people and hangs in the corner,

on the contrary – I’m a super sociable person when I’m not a bitch, so this really was astonishing to me. Just remember – it takes two to tango, so don’t just let these awesome people hanging – talk to them and trust me, you’ll get something out of it. Out of my 14 days in Indonesia, checking out 3 different islands, I never ever felt angry with anyone or mistreated in any way. Well, we did pay 3 times more than we should have for a boat once, but hey – they’ve got to make money too, right?

The point is, every single person I met seemed to love his life, or at least no one seemed desperate, sad, angry… and I definitely can’t imagine them complaining. People are happy to have food on the table, to have kids attending school, to have a means of transport to get them from one village to another, to have tourists around to wave to and make some money from. We even nearly got into a small accident a few times and – imagine that – instead of cursing at us or flipping us, the people started laughing and just waved it off. Oh, the horror!

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I know that, of course, I can’t possibly claim I I know everything about these people’s lives after just 2 weeks, but after talking to them (and asking an enormous amount of questions) and seeing them all the time, I can at least have an impression of how things are. And what an awesome impression that is!

Anyway, after our first 2 days in Lombok, my boyfriend said something I really liked that I hadn’t realized before. We were on a scooter (yet again), and I was rambling on about how amazing and interesting people are, and how Europeans have this misconception about them, that they’re so poor and angry at the world, and probably hate tourists, but that’s so not the case. “You know why they’re so different from us? Wanna know what makes them different?” – he screamed from in front of me while overtaking a car from the left side – “They’re Grateful”.

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