Bali Life

Culture shock no more!

A guide to avoid a potential culture shock when visiting Bali for the first time…

Bali is a small island, situated in the large of the Indian Ocean in the beautiful country of Indonesia. It is labeled one of the most popular touristic destinations in the world and attracts more and more visitors each year. Yes, you have heard it all, beaming beaches, magical sunsets, and perfect waves, it truly does feel like paradise. However, these natural attractions are not uncommon!

You are ready for a one in a lifetime experience. But, you still ask yourself how you are going to deal with everyday situations that might seem a little off. Going to a foreign country for the first time can be a little scary I know, and for sure there will be a culture shock.

Keep calm and enjoy the ride – here are some things you might want to add to your “Bali holiday” agenda..


Keep your nose out of my business!

Do not be offended by the smallest friendly remark. If you stumble across a security guard or a hotel staff crossing your path to be asking you where you are going or how you are today, it is absolutely normal! Indonesians have a natural flair for starting small talks. It is not that they are nosy, they just simply want to engage in a friendly chit chat before you head off! It is a genuine gesture and considered polite to be doing so in Indonesia.

Keep in mind that they might potentially develop the conversation such as where your family is from, or what you do for a living. But don’t worry, there is nothing threatening in their advances! Instead of giving that confused look, smile and tell them nicely what you plan to do! They will respond by giving you a friendly laugh and may even help you reach your destinations. Yes, they are generally very helpful!

Why so early?

Indonesians tend to eat very early. Now this is probably due to the weather and working culture of the country. They usually have longer and earlier work hours that might have an impact on their eating habits. It is not uncommon for some of them to be cooking dinner at 5 and eating at 6! This one was quite shocking for me, a young French lady who is used to having dinner between 9-11 pm. I mean, during summer, Europeans still have the sun out at 10pm! Who wants nasi campur at 5?

Indonesian sweets from the breakfast Sweet Corner – Donbiu, Padma Resort Legian

Wash your hands!

Talking about food, if you walk by the streets of Bali and see workers with their little “nasi bungkus” eating with their hands, don’t start making prejudgments by how unsanitary and gross looking that probably is. Indonesians love to savor their food, and eating with their hands just triples the taste! How about you? When you’re home alone and no one is looking, don’t you just love grabbing that chicken wing with your hand and devouring it in 10 seconds? 😉 Well, in Indonesia, they are just not embarrassed to do it when everyone else is watching!

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No lefties, please..

Indonesians perceive the left hand to be unsanitary and impolite because it is the hand they generally use to clean their private parts. So, when shaking hands, offering a gift, handing or receiving something, eating, pointing or generally touching another person, it is considered proper etiquette to always use your right hand! Take notes!

They will understand and won’t give you a dirty look when you don’t do so. But while you’re in the country, you might as well take part in this cultural experience and mingle with their unique traditions…right? *pun intended*

What is that thing..?

If it’s your first time in Bali you might be quiet shocked when you enter the bathroom. You might wonder why there is this hose looking thing to the right of your seat. Maybe you’ll be looking at it for a while before realizing that it is where it is to clean your private parts! Yes, Indonesians do not find it satisfying to clean up with toilet paper. They feel as if water has more effect on getting the stuff done. But hey! You can’t blame them! They are protecting trees no? Maybe you should start adopting the same custom. Feel cleaner while saving forests!

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Whisper to yourself!

You don’t want to talk to me?

Indonesians are very social people. They love to share and communicate with everyone they meet – emphasize in LOVE – oh how the love to talk! Talking is their forte and everyone is a friend to them! So, these people will appreciate you sharing your life stories and talking endlessly with them. They definitely do not like it when people whisper to each other. It is a sign of rejection and they feel like you are too snobbish to share your secret to them. So guys, if you are itching for a whisper, make sure you wait until nobody is around!


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Nowhere in Bali will you hear a daughter talking to her mom like that. In Bali, elders are respected and honored. They are the ones with the upper hands and are treated like so. The Balinese concept is: I raise you, I teach you, one day you treat me like a King or Queen. When your mom or dad reaches the age where they can’t work anymore, you might be too busy and consider leaving them in their apartment or senior houses and maybe visit them once or twice a year. But for Balinese people, no way in the world would they let their parents be alone. There is usually always a family member, it being your wife, your niece or nephew accompanying them with their everyday tasks. Indonesians would fight and work three times more in order to provide for their parents. They also normally always move closer to their parents or ask them to move in with them. Their parents are seen as a reflection of their success, and they have to give back whatever they have given to them, including money and affection.

Admit it – you’re thinking of your parents at this very moment while you’re reading this. I know I am! 😉

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So..that is a brief overview of how you can potentially avoid a culture shock in Indonesia based on my personal experience being in this beautiful country, or Bali in particular for a long period of time! Yes, there will no doubt be a cultural barrier, however, lovely Indonesians will always welcome you with open arms, a warm smile and a genuine sense of hospitality! Once you enter the country, you are part of the family.

Happy holiday!

Jasmine Couteau

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