Living in Indonesia – ‘Hello Mister!’

So what’s it really like living on a remote island in Indonesia? Why did we move away from a life in the UK to come and live on a beach? These are the questions that all of our guests ask us!

We moved here originally to experience an adventure – to see a different country, experience another culture and to deal with the day to day challenges of living abroad – learning a new language, interacting with a local community, shopping, living off the grid… it’s been a massive learning curve!

The first challenge I had to deal with was being a woman in Indonesia… not the same as being a woman in England!

Indonesia has had a female president in the past and there are female ministers within the presidential cabinet at the moment, however on our small island the role of women is still quite strongly that of a housewife.

It was tricky when we arrived here as we were both in our late twenties, and trying to build a diving resort from nothing. We started by hiring a group of guys from the local village to help us with the building.

The culture here is very communal, people will do as much as they can in a group including making decisions together, individualism is not common. It’s also quite hierarchical in that the oldest male is the one who is normally in charge and makes the final decision. So it was a bit confusing for everyone when two young people arrived and both my husband and I were making decisions!

My husband got on quite well with the guys and managed to do a huge amount of work with very limited Indonesian language, but I struggled with the men who worked for us. It ranged from complete silence and me being ignored when I spoke to them, to them laughing at me, or continuing what they were doing anyway. I finally made a breakthrough when I started every sentence with ‘My husband would like you to….’ which resulted in postive action!

I have also been in cars that I have hired with drivers who will not listen to me, a couple of typical encounters (all in Indonesian);

Me ‘Can we go to Plaza Bangunan please?’

Driver- looks confused

Me ‘Go left at the end here, and I’ll give you directions, it’s not far’

Driver – gets his phone out and calls his friend ‘Hey! Where’s Plaza Bangunan?’

Me ‘………………’

Another occassion:

Me ‘Can we go to the Aryaduta Hotel please?’

Driver – to my husband ‘Where do you want to go now?’

My husband – stays silent in support of me

Me ‘The Aryaduta Hotel please’

Having said that, I don’t think that these men are trying to be rude to me, it’s just a culture clash that I as a woman am making decisions and it’s not in their personal worldview and they don’t know how to react to me!

At our resort we have an amazing team of staff – four men and four women who are all from the local village and we respect them hugely, we couldn’t run our business without them. I get on really well with all of them, even the guys, and we have all learned a lot about each other!

My next mission is to find out who is teaching all the children in Indonesia to shout ‘Hello Mister!’ at every foreigner no matter the gender and change it to ‘Hello Miss!’ for women!


fishing boat

fishing boat