In Indonesia, everyone’s a millionaire!

Sitting down to dinner tonight in Ubud, Indonesia, it dawned on Sel and I that Indonesia has no concept of what a millionaire is.

Why? Because 1,000,000 rupiah is the equivalent of about 96 Aussie bucks.

Coming from a Western society where people define themselves by how much money they have, the notion of millionaire not existing was kind of cool. That’s not to say there aren’t Indonesians who define themselves by money, but it was just another interesting quirk you experience when traveling, where the world as you know it gets a jolt, and it may only be minor, but it’s enough for you to step back and get some perspective.

The following list of quirks aren’t unique to Indonesia, but these are a few things we’ve come across this week:

  1. Gordon Blue

Perusing a menu in any number of Indo restaurants, you might see Mr. Blue. A well-known chef? Nope, sorry. Gordon Blue is the comically translated version of Cordon Bleu. To be fair, the bleu part is translated correctly, although I can’t help but picture a man named Gordon. I could write a whole post based on phrases clearly lost in translation, but this is one of our favourites.

  1. Kids, soccer, heat, and unkempt grass

Combine the 4 together and what do you have? In Indonesia, you get a game of soccer. In Australia, you simply don’t combine those things. Aussie kids would be indoors, soaking up streaming air con, playing a video game, and even if they wanted to go outside, their parents would be too paranoid about a little sunburn (I know, I’m comparing light-skinned Aussies with darker Indonesians… but still…). Aussies also wouldn’t look twice at an unkempt piece of grass, let alone categorise it as a ‘field’. It simply wouldn’t do.

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A patch of grass is a patch of grass. No complaints.        <> Mike Strachan Photo

Despite conditions most people would see as less than ideal, these Indo kids are out playing football on fields that aren’t flat, are covered with patchy, long grass and it’s as much a game of football as it is ‘avoid the divot’. Yet, you only have to watch for a short time and realise they love playing, and the thought of complaining doesn’t seem to enter their minds. 

  1. How much is that again?

Strolling past a shop window, we saw a gorgeous teak globe, coated in black sand. Hard to describe but it looked amazing. It cost over 5.8 million rupiah and we both thought the same thing.

Yep, that’s $58, what a steal! We’ll come back in a few days and snatch it up.

We go back in today, tell the shop attendant we want the globe and both look at the price. In sync, the reality smacks us in the face.

5,800,000 rupiah…. Hang on a second. If 1 million rupiah is equal to a hundred dollars…. that’s $580!

We sheepishly look at the shop attendant, tell her it’s too much, and quickly scoot out of the shop. Oops.

  1. Rules? What rules?

People doubling and tripling on scooters. Electrical cords running everywhere. Cracked sidewalks with gaping holes down to who knows where. Barefoot construction workers. Road lanes and signs that are simply for show. The first instinct is to think of the danger and the types of sanctions people would face back home. Then you realise despite this ‘danger’, the world is still turning, and people just get on with their life.

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Anyone else need a ride? I’m sure there’s room.           <> Mike Strachan Photo

While I understand the need for a lot of rules, it makes me realise just how policed we are back home in every single facet of our life, to the point of overkill. Spend a day in Indonesia, and you realise that a complete absence of rules and regulations doesn’t cause the world implode on itself.

Ideally, we’d be somewhere in between.

  1. Taxi, Madam? Taxi, Sir?

You can’t walk more than 10 metres without being asked if you want a taxi. Which is fine. The Indonesians here aren’t pushy. They ask once and if you say ‘No, thank you’, especially with a smile, they smile back and leave you be.

However, occasionally you get someone who yells out taxi without too much thought. Sel and I were walking together when we passed a man who was holding a taxi sign but possibly had his mind elsewhere.

‘Taxi, ma’am?’

Sel declines with a polite smile and ‘No, thanks.’ Then he turns his attention to me.

‘Taxi, sir?’

My first instinct was to reply with this:

‘Sure, I’ll grab a taxi but you can leave my partner here on the sidewalk after she already said no. She’ll just walk to wherever you’re going to drive me.’

But I resisted.

No, thank you,’ I said with a smile.

  1. Monkeys in the street

No further explanation needed here. This is simply about monkeys in the street. Plus I have a cool photo of one.

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Monkeys. Everywhere.          <> Mike Strachan Photo


13 thoughts on “In Indonesia, everyone’s a millionaire!

  1. I love this post! I’m an Indonesian also living in Indonesia. What you’re saying are true. But trust me, Indonesia has different cultures everywhere. You can experience something different on another province or island 😉 Hope you’re having a great holiday!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This reminds me of my trip to Egypt too long ago!
    Then, it was a case of taxis hailing me be honking and – essentially – driving right at me. Not terrifying at all compared to the trip if you stepped into one. The translational malapropism I loved (and feared) most was “bomb frites” instead of pomme frites. My English-reading eyes passed on any of the potential explosive taste sensations of the earth apple and went for something more exotic to my palate.

    Liked by 1 person

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