Nongkrong is the best
Posted January 4, 2009on:
This article was published by The Jakarta Post on January 20, 2009. Read the article on The Jakarta Post, here.
What is it with Indonesians (especially the young Indonesians) that we love to nongkrong so much? Before you judge me, I’m not saying that nongkrong is bad; it’s probably one of the most important reasons why I chose to come back to Indonesia.
But sometimes it just makes me wonder why our people love to nongkrong so badly? What is nongkrong anyway? It’s so hard to explain, really. It’s so hard that I don’t think Oxford English Dictionary has that word in English. “To hang around” may be the right expression in English for “nongkrong”. For Indonesians, as I know it, nongkrong means “to meet and talk; and smoke for some”.
But nongkrong is basically about talking and talking with people we’re close with. But what to talk about? Based on my experience of being an Indonesian for more than 20 years and so, we Indonesians talk “nothing” when we nongkrong. And that’s why it’s so exciting.
“Nothing” here doesn’t mean that we don’t talk when we meet, but it specifically means that we talk nothing important. Yes, we talk and talk for hours about things that aren’t really important.
Some might nongkrong to talk about something important, but trust me, it usually lasts within the first hour; the next hours will be about who’s got a new girlfriend or where the new cool place to hang out is.
When I was in America it was a different story. People meet up at a restaurant or a cafe to talk something important. They talk business or they study together. It seems to me that in America time is money (really).
Americans don’t really meet in a big group (while Indonesians love to meet in a big group); when they do it’s usually for a meeting or probably a museum tour. So, they don’t really have a term “nongkrong” in their lives. Meeting to talk about something unimportant? What’s that all about? They might think.
“Nongkrong” is obviously not on their list. They do, though, hang around with their friends but only on weekends; and it comes with all their strict rules.
That’s why you’ll find Starbucks stores in America are different from the ones we have in Jakarta; and you can be proud of that. Coffee shops in America are mostly quiet. They’re quiet because most people come either to study, read a book, or talk business; others just grab and go. While a coffee shop in Jakarta is typically noisy since we make coffee shops as perfect spots to nongkrong. On weekends we spend hours and hours talking loudly at coffee shops or restaurants.
That doesn’t mean Americans don’t nongkrong at all, it’s just that we Indonesians do it so much more.
I remember when my friends picked me up at Jakarta’s International Airport after flying from America and Japan. They had promised me to take me around as soon as I landed. They then took a new place in Kemang where they had cafes and restaurants. The place was packed with young people; finding a parking spot was a tough struggle.
When I asked him what’s so fun of going there besides eating and drinking he spontaneously answered, “What do you think stupid? Of course we’re going to nongkrong!” Suddenly I felt guilty of still having the American mindset in Indonesia. I replied him with a big grin, “I’m sorry, you’re right. Of course my friend, it’s nongkrong time!”
Some people might attack our habit of “nongkrong” as one of the reasons why our society is left behind: It’s this behavior that makes us a lazy nation. Is that true? Well, I guess someone has to start conducting a scientific research on this issue. The result will surely be interesting and our government officials might be able to use it to fix this nation.
But before some smart old guys conduct such a research, we all should agree that nongkrong is indeed fun. It’s so much fun that we don’t realize how time can slip by so fast. It’s the moment when we Indonesians share our happiness with our loved ones. We laugh so much and we share stories. The concern over whether our young people do nongkrong too much is another matter.
I don’t think we all should be ashamed of being what we are. We Indonesians love to socialize and what’s wrong with that?
A friend of mine got really bored living in America only after leaving Indonesia for 6 months. The one thing he complains about the culture in America is that Americans are like robots: They wake up, they work, they eat, and they go home; and they will do the same exact thing everyday. All of those done to pay what Americans call, Mr. Bills.
But again, I’m not saying that nongkrong is bad; I do it all the time too. Hey, I’m an Indonesian just like you guys too. The only difference that I have right now is that I don’t like to nongkrong at a mall or at a place where asap rokok is everywhere anymore.
So, please let me know the coolest places to nongkrong in Jakarta.