A couple, Steve and Janet, who has been living in Jakarta for the past 4 years and is now headed back to the US, have kindly been answering lots of questions and offering to sell me their stuff. What a random connection–their parents go to my church! Janet recommended, Culture Shock Jakarta by Derek Bacon and Terry Collins, among the Indonesian Lonely Planet books.
I’ve been reading the culture shock book voraciously since it arrived. The descriptions of the heat, the mosquitos, the mosques, the bribes and the culture of service, or pembantu (housemaid) make a person calculate the value of simply hearing about the culture from another ex-patriat. Does it afford you any degree of preparation or does it create a more heightened concern or, on the up-side, an increased sense of adventure? hmmm . . .
Bluntly put, the author warns, “. . . there are certain things guaranteed to annoy an Indonesian person. One of them is moaning about Indonesia. They’ll wonder why you bothered coming in the first place if all you can do is complain.” (“Fitting into Society”)
That’s a handy rule of etiquette. At the same time, there must be some wiggle room for comedy among foreigners (out of the earshot of locals). Shock, by its very nature, may need some diffusing. The authors channeled the after-shocks of their experience into a practical tip book, with anecdotes from ex-pats they’ve met. So, like this blog, telling a story offers you an illusion of grounding while in reality, you’re “Lost in Translation.”
On the flip side, many of the customs related to being agreeable and possessing a tighter circumference of personal space–apply to many Asian cultures. I’m clinging to this sliver of recognition as memories surface of being 5 years old at yochien (preschool in Tokyo) and summers spent among the crowds of Namdemun (open air market in Seoul).