It’s Indonesia and I shouldn’t complain

Posted on: December 1, 2008

This article was published by The Jakarta Post on January 10, 2009. Read the article on The Jakarta Post, here.

I was fortunate that I had the chance to live in the United States for more than 2 years. I had never thought I could spend my youth time in other people’s land. It was weird when I first set my feet on Washington, DC. Everything was so different.

I felt so lonely when the driver was taking me from the airport to my hotel. I didn’t see many people on the streets; the scene that I had always seen in Jakarta.

During my first 3 months I thought I wouldn’t be able to survive. I couldn’t stop thinking about the life I had left in Jakarta. I could remember all the laughter that I had always shared with friends and family. I knew I couldn’t enjoy that kind of life anymore in Washington, DC.

But then I found out something unique about life in America or at least in some parts of America. It was something I couldn’t find in my home. For the very first time I realized that walking on the sidewalk while enjoying the fresh weather was so enjoyable.

For the very first time I realized that reading a book on a clear sunny day was one of the greatest things in this life. It was so refreshing.

In America I stopped completely at any stop sign although no car was coming towards me. Somehow I felt proud that I could follow the law even nobody was watching.

I started to enjoy living in America.

Now that I’ve been in Jakarta for more than a week, in the place I always call home, I feel so lost. It’s hard to enjoy life in Jakarta when everyday I have to struggle so hard fighting against all those crazy motorcycles and cars on the streets.

Driving in Washington, DC was an effective relaxation for me. In Jakarta it’s a different story; it’s a war. This head seems to explode.

And it was a couple days ago when I first found out that going to Pondok Indah Mall 2 is no longer an exciting experience. I was surprised to know this fact since hanging out at a mall was something I used to love so much.

I get so mad and angry to see how people in Jakarta break the rules on the streets so easily as if those signs had been made as accessories. At first I thought to myself how barbaric these people were, but then a friend of mine reminded me that eventually I would be like them.

He suggested that I shouldn’t be so American and said, “You’re an Indonesian, act like one!”

He thought that I needed to relax a little bit and accept that Indonesia is Indonesia. “It’s just the way of life around here,” he explained.

My friend might be right. I shouldn’t complain and start acting like a real Indonesian. Maybe I just have to get myself used to crossing the red light when cops aren’t around; I used to do it anyway.

I want to fight but I guess it’s impossible. I guess I’m just going to follow my friend’s suggestion and accept that Indonesia will always be Indonesia.

From my deepest heart, I feel so sad. I feel like I want to be a different kind of Indonesian; the kind of Indonesian that I never became. It would be a dream come true if I could say to my friends how proud I am of becoming a good and civilized Indonesian.

It would be so wonderful if I could tell my friends how I have been driving like a civilized person following every traffic sign and respecting the pedestrians.

I bet it would be amazing if I could tell my friends how I have been participating in saving the environment; how I don’t throw trash anywhere like I used to.

But it’s not easy to be the kind of Indonesian I want to be in this city. It’s so hard for me to be a good Indonesian when people around me don’t think that being an Indonesian also means that you can dream big and different.

It’s so hard for me to be the kind of Indonesian that I want to be when people look at me so weird just because I want to follow the right procedures.

And it’s so hard for me to convince others how my willingness to do great changes has nothing to do with my “Americanity”. It’s just simply because I’ve seen how other nations can be so much better than us and I think we can be like them too.

I’m not happy to admit this, but it’s true: The whole condition doesn’t seem to support me and more likely I will become Indonesian as much as I used to be.

Picture taken from here.


33 Responses to "It’s Indonesia and I shouldn’t complain"


I’m heading back to Jakarta for good.. after 12 years being away. Not looking forward to the major reverse culture shock, and probably be having the same reaction as you: wanting to fight it all, only to be overwhelmed by the challenge.

That said, I hope you don’t become as Indonesian as you used to be, that you still keep some of the American values. Like you and JBRB team says: Jakarta deserves a second (and maybe third, fourth..) chance! Good luck with the settling down in Jakarta!


So you “found out that going to Pondok Indah Mall 2 is no longer an exciting experience.” Yeah, I know the feeling. It’s always difficult coming back; culture shock is tough.

I just read your shopping mall article in the Jakarta Post and couldn’t agree with you more as well. Great work.

I don’t think we should act as devils when we are around them. Surely you got culture shock, but I am optimistic you can handle that and go through it hardly. Be tough!

ya ya ya
itulah Indonesia KITA tercinta, kawan

kebenaran kolektif bukan berarti kebenaran hakiki
kebiasaan mayoritas bukan berarti kebiasaan yang baik
pembenaran bukan kebenaran

kalo kamu percaya yang kamu lakukan itu benar, lakukan saja terus. terbawa arus tidak bisa jadi pembenaran, hanya menunjukkan bahwa kita kurang kuat dalam mempertahankan apa yang kita percayai

coba berikan inspirasi dan ciptakan lingkungan yang taat peraturan, dimulai dari kamu, lalu orang-orang terdekatmu. doesn’t sounds bad, eh? susah? pastinya.

Tasa, I’m sure you belong to the vanguards of Indonesia – a citizen of the world with his roots firmly in Indonesian soil.


I’ve been living in Jakarta for almost 6 months now, but I am going back to Boston to finish my Bachelor’s Degree. Been reading your blog. Trust me, I used to love Jakarta so much as I would come home twice a year. Every summer and winter break. But then I didn’t go home for 1.5 years, then this July changes all my perception about Jakarta. I hated it. I used to think the same way as you do that I would be an Indonesian as much as I used to. But hey, don’t you think one person can make a difference? It’s not only you who’s trying so hard to change the behavior of Indonesian, but there are so many Indonesians who go to school in the states that I believe they had adopted American values. To be more civilized 🙂

Good luck settling down. It’s always hard at first…. This is your new journey.

Warm regards,

Masya Allah, kayanya blog elo dihack apa ya? Ampe gonta ganti nama gini gue?? Good bye real name….hiks 😦

There is always first time for everything. Adaptation takes time. You’ve lived here fewer than a month, you still need more time to be patient. It’s more than just a cultural shock, it is the city which is indeed wrecked by the disobeyed citizen and ignorant local govt.

You don’t have to cross the red light except it’s inoperative or depends on the street. If there are many blow their horn to you then cross the red light hehehe.

Be creative and flexible. Go with the flow of Jakarta’s rule of life….but don’t get washed away too far.

P.S: Don’t forget to check your blood pressure 😆

setuju sama patung pancoran.
misalnya begini, seandainya kamu (sebagai orang yang normal) di antara suatu komunitas orang gila, lalu mereka semua loncat ke jurang…apa kamu mau ikut2an padahal kamu tau itu perbuatan yang salah/bodoh?
hmm yah ga bisa sepenuhnya dianalogikan gitu juga sih, tapi mungkin contoh gampangnya kyk gitu..

Why bother being different when you’re doing the right thing?

Check your spam, please. Seems that my comment is too long, so it caught as spam. Thanks.

If you were to stop “complaining” then the whole purpose of JBRB would be moot. “Complaining” doesn’t have to be portrayed through the vocalization of our frustrations to any one who has an ear. When the leaders of change marched onto the streets of their communities, they too were “complaining” but they conveyed it in through action that led to the positive change they desired.
You may not be able to do it all the time, given the circumstances of the hectic hustle and bustle of Jakarta. I remember sitting in the car dumbfounded waiting for other cars to let us go when our light was green and their light was red. We eventually did pass the intersection, it just took almost an hour. Pak Nata was laughing at us as he saw our flabbergasted faces from the rearview mirror.
Jakarta may be an unruly mess congestion wise, but it’s not without hope.
Even if all we do is try our best to follow the actual rules of the road, and not the renegade dictations of the rogue drivers. lol
I do have to give props to Indonesian drivers though, they really know how to drive. Pak Nata was somehow able to stop mere inches away from the car in front of us despite the speed he was using. And maneuver around tight corners created by bunched up cars and motorcycles. Now THAT takes skill. Writing this makes me miss my family there. You are very lucky to be back in Indo, despite the chaos.
Just don’t give in, Tasa, don’t give in lol

Welcome home Tasa

hai bung tasa, how are you? i hope you still rememberme, ahmad. tki in saudi arabia. heheh..
wow,,,it is really amazing to hear your story…full of human interest,,at least for me. i like the way you explore and organize your experience into story.
more interesting is about how we live and change in life toward the better one.
i know that you have a big hope that not only jakarta but also all indonesia people would become what you dream off, they obey the law, tolerance and many good things. i think i have to look into my self, does my self do as what i think in the terms of idealims…
any how, it is interesting from you. and i like it.

welcome back to Jakarta Mr Barley!

It is so good realizing how American culture has influenced you to do many good things, e.g. obey the law. I hope you would influence Jakartan with all of those – no matter what.

If during your 2 years living in America – you took a lot of good things, then after back here you follow the crazy things like people does in Jakarta, what’s the point? Let people in this city look at you and learn from you, ok?

Jakarta welcomes you back!
Now, get back to business! No more hanging out…! Well, jalan-jalan with “the new one” is fine once a while. But get done the agenda!

This is a serious message!

Hahaha…jangan setres dah. Ayo sekarang loe face-to-face sm Jakarta Tas. No more hiding behind laptop or anyting hehe…let’s do something real, right?

Howdy :mrgreen: . A pleasure to meet you.

The way I see it, worrying so much about what other people think or say about you is proof enough of your Indonesianity (fast-read it and you’ll have insanity 😆 ).
Not giving a damn about what other people think and just do what you think is right, is sooo not Indonesian.

*grammar nazi mode on*

It was weird when I first set my feet set foot on Washington, DC.

I could follow the law even when nobody was watching.

From my deepest heart.. From the bottom of my heart..


Ah, the moderation bug. You might want to check your dashboard for my moderated comment.


u can, up to certain points. it takes more energy than if u do it in the states. but as u do it for ur self and not for others, then it shud be easier. why cares about what people say? i don’t underatnd u for that.

i actually drop by to ask u campaigning rubbish separation in Jakarta. It is possible, can you believe that? i started at my home when i just came back. but here i read you sounds like loosing ur faith..unfortunately. let me know when you have it back.

What i couldnt handle from Jakarta is the traffic and the dirty air. and so i move to an island of only 25 thousand people in the north of Indonesia now. it’s so peaceful and lovely. here i can be the kind of Indonesian, i can not be in Jakarta.

It’s not really Indonesia Tasa, it’s probably Jakarta. so move out 😛

Asti: Hi there. Welcome to the club! I wish we could share our stories 🙂 Thanks for your support, I do hope that my friends in JBRB can help me out find the right ways to adapt myself with the whole condition in Jakarta. I still love this city btw.

David: Yes, you’re right. It’s tough but sometimes it can be exciting too. And I’m enjoying Jakarta so much better now.

Hedi: Yes! I’m doing it so much better now.

Patungpancoran: Susah tapi bukannya tidak mungkin. Thanks.

Colson: Thanks for your support, again and again. I hope I can see you one day in Jakarta.

Inez: Hi Inez, thanks for your support. Life in Jakarta is indeed tough but I do realize that this is the city I love. Thanks for visiting.

Queen: Gue gak tau apa yg terjadi dengan lo… hahaha. I didnt do anything, sumpah! Makanya jangan ngomong yang aneh2 di blog orang. hahaha.

silly: I didn’t find your comment on my dashboard… I guess you lost it, sorry…

Nadia: Of course I won’t give up. Hehehe. You can trust me on that… So how’s life in DC? Missing the people and the place already. Are you coming to Anthony’s party?

Gilang: Thanks! Kapan ketemuan?

Ahmad: Thanks brother, it’s been a long time. How are you? I hope everything’s fine woth you. I’m doing great right now, adapting was tough but it’s cool now. thanks for your support!

adit: Do I know you? Hehe. Thanks.

Titus: Thanks man, I hope I’m a better person now and I hope I can do the good things that I learned from America.

Ian: Sudah tentu ituuu. tunggu berita dari gue yah. hehehe…

Fritzter: Thanks for the grammar check, you’re the first one to do it. hehe. I admit the first one. But the other 2, I dont think so. You can google it, hehe.

M: Yes, I could help you! What can I do.. Don’t worry it was just a temporary frustration. Hehe. Please e-mail me on that… Btw, what island you live now? It sounds fantastic. I might wanna visit sometimes 🙂

how I don’t throw trash anywhere like I used to.
LOL… a friend of mine whined that when they returned to Jakarta, it’s really hard to find a trashcan anywhere.
His children are confused, “papa, where is the trashcan?” – they’ve spent their childhood in UK, where they’re learnt to do things proper.
Anyway, I told my kids to store their trash in their own pocket until they can find a trashcan nearby. And many other tricks – this way, we managed to keep most of their discipline intact.
Until when one of them complained loudly when he saw an adult threw his trash around – leaving me in an awkward situation 😀

tasa, welcome home buddy. yea rite, it’s Indonesia

Gak membangkitkan semangat nih, kan revolusi cuy, jadi mau gak mau harus melawan arus lah.

Hahah… gw juga lg di jkt… words of advice kayaknya cuma tetep gaul sama lulusan luar atau yang cara mikirnya sama… niscaya pasti lebih kuat melawan arus

Hear, hear.

Here’s my similar experience. Remember that when we were in elementary school, in PMP subject, we were always taught that Indonesian people are friendly, willing to help others in the so-called ‘gotong royong’ spirit? well, as I grow older, I begin to question those ‘doctrine’.

When I went to high school in a small town in California a few years ago, I used to go to school (or from) on foot, if the weather was nice. What I experienced was, sometimes I’d bump into some people –strangers–, and they’d simply say ‘hi’, ‘good afternoon’, or ‘have a nice day!’ and I’d response the same to them. I mean, that’s the friendly spirit that I don’t see much of back home.

Other experience I had after I got home happened a couple weeks ago: I was talking to my boyfriend in the car, as he was going to leave for home; when all of the sudden this one guy collapsed just in front of my car, his body was shaking all over. And I was shocked for a minute or so, and we thought that the guy might have an epilepsy or something. So we got off the car, and helped him. Well, my boyfriend did, with a couple more guys. And I was panicking, and this woman next to me said, ‘Well, that happens to him a lot. He lives just down the streets, his family owns a kiosk there.’ So I asked, ‘Shouldn’t we tell his family?’ But she said, ‘Naah, they’re probably busy right now. And this often happens to him, he’ll be okay in a minute.’

I mean, seriously. Some people who knows his family were standing there, watching while some strangers were helping their neighbors who was in need of a big help! That just doesn’t quite fit the ‘ramah tamah’ and ‘gotong royong’ spirit to me.

Yea, the reverse culture shock must be hard, I was told. But my best suggestion is, why don’t you be a modernized Indonesian? I mean, not all Indonesian values are bad, and not all western values are bad either. I found some of my ‘Indonesian’ values, surprisingly, when I lived in a western country. I still get very angry if I see someone cutting the line or littering, which are pretty normal here. Sometimes I yell at them, but sometimes I get tired. The best thing I do will be not littering, and queue, and telling my family and my best friends to do the same. Hopefully, they’ll spread the habit to their friends and families also.

And about that PMP subject, I think the education system should start teaching practical stuff, not merely telling doctrines and theories. You know, instead of filling the kids’ heads with false pretension such as ‘gotong royong’ and ‘friendly nation’, why don’t we just teach them to put the garbage in the trash can, for a start?

Well, above all, you should be thankful that you got a chance to see your own nation from another point of view. Thus, you can see what’s wrong from all this false justification that everybody else is in. And we should not just be passive and not doing anything about it, don’t you think?

ps: sorry about the length of this comment. it’s just that I haven’t been here for a while, and I just wanted to tell you that I know how you feel.. =)

Tas, i am ok, alhamdulillah. yes it is right that breaking the law in our country is so easy to find, eg in the public place like in street, to much people with their car, saling balap-balapan, to show that they are best driver. too bad.
the culture of (ketertiban) like queue up is something very expensive, so the people just want sth instantly, and very hard to think about “tartib” in their daily life.
well, so we can see that it is the mirror of our nation attitude. i always hope that i should be consistent with my own word. InsyaAllah.
thanks and move on my bro.

Welcome to my homeland, jgn lupa mampir whitehouse or I should say now is a blackhouse 😀


Serius deh kalo gw gak pake nama sendiri, lo gak ngenalin gue.

Pindah blog aja deh?!

we complain ourselves, I agree with you.. I love Indonesia however is it..

Hi, salam kenal, saya tinggal di Jakarta hampir 16 tahun dan sekarang menetap di London baru sekitar 2,5 tahun.

Yang saya ketahui, orang di negara tak berhukum (hukum tak tau rimbanya seperti Indonesia)mendambakan hukum ditegakkan; orang berada di tengah negara hukum berdiri setegak-tegaknya atau yang taat akan hukum malah ingin melarikan diri dari penatnya hukum yang terlalu banyak mengatur segi kehidupan.

Mau bukti? 5.5m British Citizens live overseas but only 4 – 10m Americans !!!



Masih awal mas, kita tungu aja jadi apa kita nanti ya? Saya rasa juga lama-lama saya jengah disini.


Welcome back Tasa.

This post, as read with interest in The Post, leads me to reflect that Jakartans are not truly urbanised in that ‘modern’ trappings have removed folk from their roots, from the truly communal, respectful, culture which is emphasised, as Vienz says, in schools.

I’m composing a post on this topic, so expect a link.


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About Me

guebukanmonyet is Tasa Nugraza Barley. He's a free man with unique thoughts and dreams. He sees his life and this world differently from anyone else. That's because he knows what he wants; and for that reason he doesn't want to be the same. Read why he blogs, here.

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All articles and essays were written by guebukanmonyet. Before commenting remember that Life Accepts Differences.
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