Common misconceptions and clichés about life in Indonesia

Hello everyone,

Old clichés die hard, as the saying goes... and living in Indonesia can generate lots of misconceptions in the eyes of the people.

What are the most common misconceptions about the expat lifestyle in Indonesia?

What are the most common clichés about life in Indonesia in general?

Did you have a biased view of the country before moving there? What is you view now?

Thanks in advance,


The first is going to be a possible source of argument, and that's religion.
Indonesia is mostly Muslim and the western press tend to print a lot of horror stories about suicide bombers and general idiots with guns all wanting to kill as many white people as they can, probably whilst dressed as a woman in full black burka with one small slot for their eyes and another for an AK47.

This is a load of old crap.

The vast majority of Indonesian wear clothes that would be pretty much normal on any western high street, most men in suits, shorts or jeans.
A good number of women wear a headscarf, but a lot more don't bother. There are a few who wear the 'full' stuff, but they're few and far between and not really liked much by most of the locals as they're viewed as extremists, commonly called "terrorist's wives" by the locals.
Imagine a woman in London wearing jeans and a T shirt, but shirt has a round neck and short sleeves, sometimes with a headscarf.
There you have a picture of the clothes the vast majority of younger Indonesian women wear.

another misconception is the idea Indonesians will rip you off for the last penny you have.
Tourists all over the world get ripped off a little, but only the gullible ones get ripped off every time; sadly they also tend to be the most vocal.

The number of stories I've heard from tourists is horrendous, but questioning soon opens up a gap in their story in that many of them have never been to Indonesia, and they're simply repeating what they've heard from other people who have equally passed it on.

Not that I'm trying to say it never happens, it clearly does, but the stories simply don't match the reality, and most of the rip offs amount to charging Rp10,000 for a bottle of Coca cola rather than the Rp 4 or 5 thousand it should be.

Once you'd been here a while, these tend to stop or the rip off drops t an extra thousand or so, something I don't bother arguing with as these people are commonly very poor and that tiny extra is a lot to them.

The most common misconception I encounter, is that the most simple of things should be simple or easy to sort out but as foreigner in this land they often become the hardest. Also expecting the same standards in terms of road safety, internet speed, service, building standards (fire exits and the like) also seem to confuse and make people suddenly realise its not home.

I meet and spend time with many new expats who have not set foot in Indonesia before and often South East Asia as a whole and if they have visited Thailand or somewhere similar think that it will be the same and find out that its not rather too quickly.

Once people accept that the journey anywhere is never easy and that Jakarta is worth the effort to explore and deal with then I find most expats settle down and just carry on regardless.  For those that fight it and try to change things, they leave quickly and haven't understood anything about being a visitor in a foreign country and for those that do, then the personal rewards and satisfaction is huge.

lukereg :

Also expecting the same standards in terms of road safety, internet speed, service, building standards (fire exits and the like) also seem to confuse and make people suddenly realise its not home.

OMG - Yes, but, and there's always a big but.

I travelled a lot in Malaysia, finding the strange vehicles they accepted as roadworthy there an amusement so my shock level in Indonesia was reduced, but Indonesia manages to keep more wrecked wrecks on the road longer than any Malaysians manage.

As for fire exits; what fire exits?

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