5 Wrong Things about Indonesia or Indonesian

Recently I realised that many books, about Indonesia around 1940 when The Netherlands colonialized Indonesia, are sold here. These kind of books usually written by people who lived in that time in Indonesia. I find these kind of books are good if you have ever been to Indonesia for living, not only holiday, because you can understand more about the history. But if you never been to Indonesia, reading this book will misguide you toward Indonesia situation in this moment, current moment.

Why ?

Because I met several people who never go to Indonesia or just have very short holiday then they read this books and dragged a conclusion that Indonesia people have still the same attitude like based on the book. That’s why now I understand the reason my neighbour thinks that I have low confident because I was quiet in the party, because of the book ! She said “I love Indonesia, I read many books about Indonesia…”. I asked what kind of books, she replied “the books during the war”. Aha ! No, I’m not shy or having low-confident mam, I just have to bring this big pregnant belly and I just want to sit down and have a quiet moment.

Then after that, I begin to realised some opinions about Indonesia or Indonesian are not correct. But that’s normal if you never lived in Indonesia. I’m totally understand about that… just sometimes it is a bit irritating when people still think that Indonesian people is not educated or is not developed because the country was in the war. Therefore I write this article, based only from my opinion and based only from where I live now.


1. Indonesia is far behind in everything.ย 

Actually it is not. It is far more growing than you expect because the government gives a lot of opportunities for micro-economic sector. The permit to open a business is not difficult and the tax is not high. That’s why many people can put on all of their creativity and their idea into their business, including me when I was in Indonesia. I had my own and I could live well with my income, more than the basic Dutch salary. Once my good friend who studied and already lived so long in here, said “if you want to be rich, live in Indonesia because there are so many opportunities and if you want a stable life, then live in The Netherlands because the government put effort to take care of the people”. I think that is somehow true.

2. Indonesia is a poor country.

Maybe it is, maybe it is not. I’m not so sure about it.

Yes, there are so many poor people among 250 million people in Indonesia. If you count on the average income and the basic salary in total of 250 million people…ya sure it is far less than The Netherlands. But it doesn’t mean all of Indonesian people are poor or living under the poverty line or have less salary than Dutch. That’s not true.

If you are on holiday and you see many food staal on the street… you can’t generalise it that the people are poor. In fact, most of them live quite enough or well enough, have a car, have a motorbike, can go to school, etc…. They don’t have to pay tax to open the food staal.

There are a lot of poor people but also there are a lot of people who live in middle class line and this people are usually educated and never been in the news spotlight around the world. So I can understand if some Dutch think that most of Indonesian immigrant are poor and not educated. It is understandable. So far I know, all of my Indonesian friends in The Netherlands are educated people.

3. Indonesian people are friendly. Therefore Indonesian people are more laid back and less competitive than Dutch.

Ya, we are friendly.

Are we laid back and less competitive ? I can laugh about it. We are definitely not laid back and far more competitive than the average Dutch I know. When you have ever lived more than 3 years in my land, you will feel it.

Most of the time, people make comment about Indonesia “Oh you come from Indonesia, it is a very laid back country, everything is calm and nice”. I replied ” I can say that you visit Indonesia only for holiday.”. and I was right.

Indonesia is a very competitive country. Indonesian people love to put effort to be the best, to be the first, to be the one who win the deal, etc. Being ambitious is a very common attitude. Work from 9am to 9pm or more, is a very common work attitude. It’s not a country where the government gives space or ambient that people should give more time to the family, it is not like in here. Supermarket open 24 hours, the clothes store open until 10pm everyday, the working building open 24 hours, almost everything open 24 hours. So you don’t have to be in a rush to buy things so then you can go back home at 6pm and have dinner with family. We take our family to our office and then go with them to the shopping building and do shopping together. It’s a very fast moving line everywhere.

If I meet a salesman in The Netherlands, I asked for the price, I showed enthusiasm, they explained very well… but no one call me for further bargaining. It is like, if you really like it, you will call us and buy…

In Indonesia, they will call me and ask if I’m interested or not and will do bargaining… or should I say that they will call 3x times a day.

When I had my own company, I had some competitor and always always had to move faster, to be the first, be more creative etc. I found it so exhausted sometime. I don’t feel that competitive ambient here…maybe in Amsterdam or Den Haag.

In fact, I feel that people are more laid back and less competitive here maybe because so many subsidies and help from the government. I don’t know. It can be.

4. Indonesian people are not direct.ย 

This can be true for some but we really can’t generalised it. It depends on the family background because most of Indonesian immigrant here are very direct, more direct than Dutch. I find it great ! I’m very direct as well… more than Dutch people in my town.

5. Indonesian people eat rice, only rice.ย 

Nope. We love rice but we eat from pasta to pizza, from potato to bread. We are an adventurous eater. That’s why so many restaurants open in Indonesia. We also eat together with family, but not so long like Dutch, because we love more to hang out in the family room than in the dinning room. So after 30 minutes eating, we move to family room while eating the dessert. Sometimes we eat on the floor, because we find that more “gezellig”… (nice and comfy)… not because we are uncivilised.

The Netherlands and Indonesia have different culture… it is very different that we can’t compare each one just like that.

I can’t say that Dutch are more clever than Indonesian or Indonesian are richer than Dutch. Every aspects has its own comparation and has its own level. I just want to make a statement that Indonesia is not like 69 years ago. If you want to understand about Indonesia in current time, don’t read a book about the war in 1940’s. That’s not relevant anymore. Just make a friend with us and open mind about the cultural differences.

One of neighbour were very shocked knowing that my parents will stay with us for 6 weeks after I deliver my second baby “What ! That’s not common that your parents stay for more than 3 days in your house”.

I replied “oh…your parents live in Asia as well? It is 24 hours trip.”.

“No, they live in Amsterdam but it is not common”.

Where my parents should stay then? They have to fly back to Indonesia after 3 days?

“I don’t know but that’s weird that your parents stay with you for so long”.

Hmmm… it is a very expensive ticket and I would be so happy to live with them for 6 weeks because I don’t see them for a year.

and they still don’t understand. ๐Ÿ™‚

Cultural differences. It’s funny, it’s lovely, it’s making you upset sometimes… but that make this world worth living and beautiful. I think it would be a lifetime process for me to understand the whole cultural differences between Indonesia and The Netherlands and what – how I have to present and to deliver to my son(s). It is a lifetime learning process. That’s why I write this blog, it helps me to understand more about the world I live now.

Cheers !! Xxx.


This is my monday cursus group. We come from many different backgrounds and countries, some married with the Dutch, one was a refugee, others are student, the rest are workers. I’m the only one who come from Indonesia. We share our thoughts and spirits. I find it always “gezellig” meeting up with this group. They come from Russia, Finland, Belarus, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand and The Netherlands itself. Wat leuk he !!


She is my good friend who lives in Amsterdam. In fact, she is my first Dutch friend without have any relation with my parents, my husband or anyone here. We met the first time on 2005 when I flew to The Netherlands for study and she was back from holiday in Indonesia. She is mixed Indonesian-Dutch, so when we meet up, we speak in Indonesian and she understand the cultural differences. Well, you can take the girl out from her country, but you can’t take her country out of her. Inderdaad !! It’s true !!

Greetings from Zwolle,

Sekar Steenwelle-Nareswari


10 thoughts on “5 Wrong Things about Indonesia or Indonesian

  1. yayangneville says:

    Hampir setuju semuanya apalagi yg nomor 3, pengalaman disini orang indonesia lebih kompetitif dibanding orang sini, bukan hanya di tempat kerja saja tapi orang tua Indonesia ngajarin anaknya di rumah juga (aku engga haha) sepertinya mereka mengharuskan anaknya paling pinter di sekolah.
    Nomor 4, aku belum direct, masih susah bilang tidak!๐Ÿ˜ฅ
    Oh ya suamiku minggu lalu beli buku karangan Hans Boland, judulnya de zachte held. Tentang orang belanda yg lahir di Indonesia dan kini ingin kembali ke Indonesia ngabisin masa tuanya. Kayaknya menarik, tapi aku blm sanggup baca secara bukunya tebel banget๐Ÿ˜€


    • Sekar Nareswari says:

      haiii mbak… wahh aku belum tahu nih watakku gimana kalau anak sekolah, kompetitif atau gak, krn anak blm sekolah hehehe…
      Kemarin suami beli achter de eeuwige glimlach – elisabeth riphagen… blm dibaca sih tp kami lg penasaran buku apa aja yg bener2 bs menggambarkan indonesia masa kini… ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. denaldd says:

    Waktu aku ke Belanda untuk perkenalan dengan keluarga disana, Mamma mertua kaget mendapati aku yang ngobrol dan ngomong apa adanya. Beliau pernah tinggal di Jakarta selama 15 tahun dan mendapati orang-orang disekitarnya pada saat itu terkesan tidak bisa dalam mengungkapkan pendapat, malu-malu, atau tidak berani berbicara apa adanya. Makanya beliau bilang aku beda. Trus aku jelasin, saat ini keadaan beda ketika Mamma dulu di Jakarta. Banyak orang Indonesia yang sudah direct dan speak up dalam berkomunikasi. Bahkan kata Mamma, aku terkesan “lebih berani” dibandingkan beberapa orang Dutch kenalan Mamma ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Sekar Nareswari says:

      haaiiii !! wahh mamma pasti bangga dgnmu krn lebih speak up … bener banget tuh penjelasannya… jaman sudah berubah ๐Ÿ™‚ jd ya karakter manusianya mengikuti jaman juga ya… thanksss for reading ya !! sukses dgn proses pindahnya ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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