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Nimbus

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I’m in Jakarta for 3 weeks, and I’m already running into some trivial but annoying issues. Yes, I (of all people) should know, but complaining is (still) free.

  • My US credit cards don’t work for Gojek nor Grab, because they require additional security mechanisms not available from any American bank. I actually don’t blame the companies, because there’s a criminal segment in Indonesia dedicated to stealing credit card info and profiting from it. US credit cards with their bare minimum security and high limit are always prime targets.
  • MyBluebird app can’t verify my US phone, so I can’t use it. This alone may drive all my rides to Gojek and Grab.
  • If I’m getting a local cell number, I have to visit an authorized Service Provider store, so they can give me a 90-day account. This is because I can’t permanently register my iPhone 12 Pro without paying a decent chunk of money in taxes (the value is still above $500).

Otherwise it’s weird but fine. The place is simultaneously familiar and foreign. Many things I miss, others I can happily live without.

Went to the neighborhood salon to get a haircut. Had a little chit chat, no big deal. About halfway into the process they began to call me ‘koh’, which is the term used for Chinese men. I’m 100% Javanese with stereotypical Javanese features, albeit with slightly lighter skin due to lesser sun exposure. This was fascinating; my Indonesian is indistinguishable from the average Jakartan (I think), yet something in my mannerism betrayed me as an ‘outsider’, so the obvious conclusion for them is me being Chinese! I gotta relearn how locals bullshit around here, because I’m obviously out of touch.
 

Banana72

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yep with me is kinda like that with the US now. My phone's balance is deactivated since it hasn't been used in a couple years...my card suddenly had an auto protection when i tried to reserve a rental car, etc. curious how different it is, wife was there a couple months ago, for her it was definitely different as she hadn't been back in at least five years.
 

atlantis

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Went to the neighborhood salon to get a haircut. Had a little chit chat, no big deal. About halfway into the process they began to call me ‘koh’, which is the term used for Chinese men. I’m 100% Javanese with stereotypical Javanese features, albeit with slightly lighter skin due to lesser sun exposure.
This had me smiling and is pretty interesting because it happens to me often too and perhaps because of the same mechanism in the people's mind which push them to call you koh. People who know me call me Pak Oliver or Om Oliver but I've noticed than in the course of a discussion with people who don't know me previously, they often adopt the term "koh" in the midst of the conversation when addressing me. It happens almost systematically in a shop or like you at the hairdresser, restaurant, administration...etc. Never immediately but almost always after a few minutes after starting the conversation. I am obviously foreign looking for them but after almost 25 years here I speak bahasa Manado in a near native way which is what confuses people. In a few occasions some people who felt comfortable enough to be inquisitive asked me if I was Minahasan by birth perhaps thinking that my Caucasian physical features were due to many Dutch ancestors in the blood lineage? The first time I got called "koh" I admit I had a WTF moment but over the time I got used to it. In fact I even see it very positively and as a mark of appreciation of my effort to be assimilated. For you who is a native Indonesian I understand it may sound odd as it was to me the first time I heard it.
 

Wisnu

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I don't pay special attention to the context or location, but quite often people call me pak, koh (even though my skin is a bit dark but my eyes are slanted), mas, bang, kakak and om. On the other hand, because I am Javanese, I generally call people mas or mbak, or pak/bu for the older ones. sometimes koh too.
 

Nimbus

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This had me smiling and is pretty interesting because it happens to me often too and perhaps because of the same mechanism in the people's mind which push them to call you koh. People who know me call me Pak Oliver or Om Oliver but I've noticed than in the course of a discussion with people who don't know me previously, they often adopt the term "koh" in the midst of the conversation when addressing me. It happens almost systematically in a shop or like you at the hairdresser, restaurant, administration...etc. Never immediately but almost always after a few minutes after starting the conversation. I am obviously foreign looking for them but after almost 25 years here I speak bahasa Manado in a near native way which is what confuses people. In a few occasions some people who felt comfortable enough to be inquisitive asked me if I was Minahasan by birth perhaps thinking that my Caucasian physical features were due to many Dutch ancestors in the blood lineage? The first time I got called "koh" I admit I had a WTF moment but over the time I got used to it. In fact I even see it very positively and as a mark of appreciation of my effort to be assimilated. For you who is a native Indonesian I understand it may sound odd as it was to me the first time I heard it.

I’m walking around Supermal Karawaci, and after a while I noticed that my manner of dress resembles Chinese guys! T-shirt, shorts, and shoes / sandal hybrid. This is completely unplanned, I just wear my typical summer clothes.

The other day I took a cab with my parents, and my mom instantly struck a long conversation with the driver. This is not something I do anymore, as I’m trying hard to hide my American background. The less I talk, the smaller the risk. I suppose my laconic demeanor resembles the behavior of Chinese Indonesians.

My unscientific conclusion is that Chinese Indonesians are the most ‘westernized’ of all the ethnic groups in the country. When people smell that I’m a bit too western for a local, they automatically assume Chinese heritage.
 

gemima

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I’m walking around Supermal Karawaci, and after a while I noticed that my manner of dress resembles Chinese guys! T-shirt, shorts, and shoes / sandal hybrid. This is completely unplanned, I just wear my typical summer clothes.

The other day I took a cab with my parents, and my mom instantly struck a long conversation with the driver. This is not something I do anymore, as I’m trying hard to hide my American background. The less I talk, the smaller the risk. I suppose my laconic demeanor resembles the behavior of Chinese Indonesians.

My unscientific conclusion is that Chinese Indonesians are the most ‘westernized’ of all the ethnic groups in the country. When people smell that I’m a bit too western for a local, they automatically assume Chinese heritage.
Not trying to psychoanalyze you but why are you trying to "hide" your american background? Wouldnt most locals be interested to talk to you about it? I'm 100% foreigner and regularly have interesting conversations with people here discussing differences between indo and my home country (I learn a lot and I think they possibly do too!). I'm overly chatty so I might just be like your mom ha.
 

Nimbus

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Not trying to psychoanalyze you but why are you trying to "hide" your american background? Wouldnt most locals be interested to talk to you about it? I'm 100% foreigner and regularly have interesting conversations with people here discussing differences between indo and my home country (I learn a lot and I think they possibly do too!). I'm overly chatty so I might just be like your mom ha.
Yes, they are typically interested in it, but the line between a friendly conversation and a boast can be rather thin in Indonesian culture. On one hand being an American resident is cool, on the other hand mentioning it can be seen as showing off. I know how vicious they can be toward Indonesians perceived as westernized blowhards, because I’m in several Indonesian whatsapp groups and still connected to many on FB. There’s even a name for it dated at least a century: kacang lupa kulit, literally means a peanut that forgets its shell, roughly translated as a person who forgets his origin.

To make it more complicated, certain demographics in Indonesia are less than friendly toward America. I have had conflicts with some of them even before I went to the states. They don’t like my kind, and the feeling is mutual.

On a practical level mentioning that I’m not from here (I don’t have a KTP, long story) can subject me to “bule tax”, something that you all are painfully familiar with. It’s not the value that irks me, —as the joke is on them because I can easily afford it— it’s the principle. I’m very much an Indonesian like them, so getting the treatment is annoying.

In short, I just want to blend in as much as possible, and have a pleasant and peaceful vacation.
 
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ChrisTex

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To make it more complicated, certain demographics in Indonesia are less than friendly toward America.

Hence why I always say I am from Scotland when they ask me where I am from. It is just easier and safer.
 

Nimbus

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Hence why I always say I am from Scotland when they ask me where I am from. It is just easier and safer.
Yeah, but do you have the accent down pat?

On second thought, the average Indonesian can’t tell the difference. Hell, the average American can’t tell the difference between Scottish and Irish accents.
 

gemima

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Yeah, but do you have the accent down pat?

On second thought, the average Indonesian can’t tell the difference. Hell, the average American can’t tell the difference between Scottish and Irish accents.
It's not just Indonesians - I'm Irish and no one I meet here can pick it up. I get Canadian/ Australian/ American/ British from western people and Indonesians seem to think I'm dutch.
I understand what you say about the fine line between friendly chat/ boasting. I realize there is a lot I don't have to deal with here being a very obvious foreigner. It's very freeing in some ways but restricting in others!
 

Nimbus

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It's not just Indonesians - I'm Irish and no one I meet here can pick it up. I get Canadian/ Australian/ American/ British from western people and Indonesians seem to think I'm dutch.
I understand what you say about the fine line between friendly chat/ boasting. I realize there is a lot I don't have to deal with here being a very obvious foreigner. It's very freeing in some ways but restricting in others!
I follow the “The TRY Channel” on Youtube, which is basically a whole bunch of Irish people trying all sorts of food. Their accent is not very distinctive, I won’t be able to ID it on the street. Maybe they’re more urban.


On the other hand there’s this:

 

ChrisTex

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Yeah, but do you have the accent down pat?

On second thought, the average Indonesian can’t tell the difference. Hell, the average American can’t tell the difference between Scottish and Irish accents.

I can and I did live there for six years. Even some of my Indo friends who know where I am from and are used to hearing the different accents have told me I don't sound like I am from North America. One of my grandmas who wasn't in the best shape mentally(long story), when she called, I would do the accent and it would trigger something that would remind her(in a good way) of some of her long deceased relatives.
 

Nimbus

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Spent a couple of nights in Bali. Two people I talked to mentioned separately that Balinese people dislike immigrants. The Balinese guy proclaimed (upon learning that I visited from USA) that he wished for a president like Trump, because the guy wanted to keep immigrants out. Now you understand why I often prefer to keep my mouth shut. The other guy was a Javanese long-term resident of Bali. He said most Balinese don’t favor a Java-Bali bridge because it would make the Island of the Gods less separate, thus facilitating the movement of immigrants. They warmly welcome tourists and their money though.

Two guys are not a good representative of an entire population, so I hope they’re a small minority.
 

R Cameron

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Spent a couple of nights in Bali. Two people I talked to mentioned separately that Balinese people dislike immigrants. The Balinese guy proclaimed (upon learning that I visited from USA) that he wished for a president like Trump, because the guy wanted to keep immigrants out. Now you understand why I often prefer to keep my mouth shut. The other guy was a Javanese long-term resident of Bali. He said most Balinese don’t favor a Java-Bali bridge because it would make the Island of the Gods less separate, thus facilitating the movement of immigrants. They warmly welcome tourists and their money though.

Two guys are not a good representative of an entire population, so I hope they’re a small minority.
That's curious, since Indonesia has relatively few immigrants. Did you get a better sense of who he was talking about? 'Digital nomad' types working on visit visas? Foreigners on proper work/retirement/spousal visas? Javanese 'immigrating' to Bali? "Cina" (ignoring that most have been here for generations)?

Indonesia has 0.1% migrants, compared to USA 15.3%, UK 13.8% Malaysia 10.7%, Australia 30.1%
 
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Vanuatu

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That's curious, since Indonesia has relatively few immigrants. Did you get a better sense of who he was talking about? 'Digital nomad' types working on visit visas? Foreigners on proper work/retirement/spousal visas? Javanese 'immigrating' to Bali? "Cina" (ignoring that most have been here for generations)?

Indonesia has 0.1% migrants, compared to USA 15.3%, UK 13.8% Malaysia 10.7%, Australia 30.1%
In Bali, many Balinese regard Indonesians (regardless of ethnicity) from outside of Bali as immigrants, it's not reserved just for foreigners.
 

R Cameron

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In Bali, many Balinese regard Indonesians (regardless of ethnicity) from outside of Bali as immigrants, it's not reserved just for foreigners.
I've heard that, and can understand the viewpoint. The confusing part to me was the desire for a strongly anti-immigration president, how would that do anything to change Java-Bali 'immigration'?
 

Nimbus

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That's curious, since Indonesia has relatively few immigrants. Did you get a better sense of who he was talking about? 'Digital nomad' types working on visit visas? Foreigners on proper work/retirement/spousal visas? Javanese 'immigrating' to Bali? "Cina" (ignoring that most have been here for generations)?

Indonesia has 0.1% migrants, compared to USA 15.3%, UK 13.8% Malaysia 10.7%, Australia 30.1%
I didn’t get specific, but I feel that he was against all non-balinese living in Bali. A Balinese telling a Javanese living in America that he doesn’t like immigrants in Bali is cringey, and I will forever wonder why he did that. I wasn’t being offensive at all, in fact I just gave him a hefty tip in appreciation for the service he provided. Maybe he was socially awkward, and his attempt at small talk fell flat.

Indonesia doesn’t get a lot of immigrants, but I bet a high percentage of them live in Bali and Jakarta. There were certainly a lot more foreigners walking around in Bali compared to anywhere else in the country.
 

Nimbus

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Flew out to Tokyo Haneda then connected to JFK on ANA. The flight attendant didn’t give me any paper form when I said I was connecting to USA. They clearly marked the direction to the connecting gates at the airport, and I had to go through security again as usual. Japan always insists on x-raying connecting passengers, which is odd since the origin airport has already done it. Now (at least in Haneda) they have U.S. style body scanners instead of the common metal detector gate.

JFK customs / immigration is a PITA. Out of 28 counters only 3 were manned in the beginning, then increased to 5 after huge lines have formed. I was one of the first 10 passengers to get into the citizen/permanent resident line, and still had to wait at least half an hour. Part of the problem is because the counter for diplomats and wheelchair-bound passengers weren’t open, so these guys continued to be put ahead of everybody. The immigration officer took what felt like forever interrogating an older Chinese lady on wheelchair, and it didn’t help that her fingerprints were problematic.

The CBP officer asked about any food that I brought, and I said noodles. Strangely she asked about the flavor, and she was ok when I said it was tuna. I did bring a case of Cakalang (Skipjack tuna) flavored Indomie, because it’s impossible to find in USA. I suspect that meat flavors are scrutinized more due to possibility of bringing meat products. The thing is, indomie costs about 20¢ each, and I would be hugely surprised if there’s any real meat in it despite what the packaging says.

Anyway, the Chinese passport holder who was holding me up earlier turned out to be my savior at the customs gate. The lone guy was too busy interrogating her that he only asked me the same question about the noodles, and let me go after 5 seconds.

The process to enter Indonesia was a lot faster 3 weeks earlier. I didn’t have to fill any form either when connecting through Narita, but still had to go through security. Since I was vaccinated in USA, I couldn’t register easily through the pedulilindungi app, but the lady at the counter simply stamped my boarding pass. They made me go through the X-ray machine, but they didn’t bother opening my bags.
 

Banana72

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Got back also last Monday after being in the US for three weeks. I definitely appreciate Indonesia's immigration/customs here vs the useless, inefficient and rude TSA in the US. I got held back in PDX and had the agents re-screened my luggage again and more intrusive pat downs just because of my decaf coffee...my two bags of Ghiradelli chocolates and a bag of Erythritol. Also, in San Francisco, I wasn't sure if i was supposed to be patted down after passing through that body-ray machine thing so i kept walking and the rude jackass put his arm across my chest quite hard (without even saying anything and a smug on his face) just to stop me. Comparing them and the folks at Soekarno Hatta...I realize that we've come a long long way. Knock on wood though I've always had a decent experience at Soetta..never had any issues with baggage or bad treatment..ever.
 

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