Sunday, January 09, 2011

East Meets West

I remember someone telling me when I was still living in Indo that I wasn't too Eastern-minded and I think after having lived in Finland for a few years, I'm getting more Western-minded. Just a while ago I checked my FB account and found a friend who was frustrated with the "extreme hospitality of Indonesians" - meaning the people who keep on asking him when he's going to get married.

In his frustration, he wrote some answers that he might give and asked us to rate which one would be the best. I laughed when I read one of the answers he wrote, "And how about you yourself?
/ When are you going to get married? / When are you going to have kids? / When are you going to give your first child a sibling? / When are you going to die? / Why did you use drugs?". Another answer he gave was, "I'm too handsome, so there are too many candidates and it's just so hard to choose." It also made me laugh he he...

I know that when I go back to Indo again, they'll keep on asking me, "When are you going to have kids?"

And I'm either going to say, "Just pray for us" or "Go ask God when He's going to give us kids."

There's no escape these questions when you live in that type of society:

- When are you going to get married?
- When are you going to have kids?
- When are you going to have another kid? Your first child needs a little brother/sister?

I must say that living in a Western society that isn't "too friendly" has its advantages, especially for an infertile like me. I'm free from all those bothersome questions and I don't have to keep repeating my answers like a broken record. In Indo, unless you get married early and have at least two kids early, you can't avoid those questions and the more friends and colleagues and relatives you have, the more wedding invitations you'll get and during those wedding parties, you're bound to get asked those questions.

Another eastern thought is that when you're a widow/widower and you're "so old" already, why bother get married? I know a relative who's a widow. She's over 60 years old and she's now being approached by a widower (both of them have grown-up kids and grandchildren already). Her closest relatives think it's all up to her, but that doesn't mean that society would think that way. It's a whole different case here in the west. Even if you're 70 years old, if you want to get married, so be it. It's your right and your life. Why bother think about what other people think? It only makes your life more complicated.

A friend of mine who worked in a European country for a few years just returned to Indonesia. She experienced culture shock when she came back home. Being single, she thought that what would bothered her the most was the fact that she was single. Turned out that the most bothersome part was the fact that Indo people thought she was stinking rich 'coz she had earned Euros when she worked in that European country.

It takes a long time before she can feel at home again in Indo and there are many things in Indo that bother her now (that didn't bother her before). I even think that it's a worse culture shock when she came back to Indo rather than when she first moved to that European country, 'coz now she's used to life and culture in that European country.

I must say that I still know what the Eastern people think about many things, but these days I've learned to care less and less about that - what matters most is that my family supports me and understands my decisions.

In every culture there are also positive and negative aspects, but I strongly dislike all those chit-chat questions that I've written above. Caring for other people is good, but "caring too much" (a term given by a priest in my brother's church) is not good.


  1. Extreme hospitality! Yeah, that's so true!
    When i visited Indo last summer, it was "only" one person who asked me how many kids i have and when i said i have none, she ended up asking why I still have no kids yet. :( I think I've told you about it.
    Plus another person (you know who!) who have said so many mean things, when she knows that she's not supposed to say so! :(
    Untungnya gw udah sempat nulis di FB note ttg masalah itu, jadinya teman2 gw ga ada yg pake tanya begituan segala pas gw di sono. :P hehehe...

  2. I never like those questions especially if they are from the same people every time I meet them. Last Christmas I was so sure my grandaunt would ask me about kids like the years before, so, I tried to avoid her, but she managed to ask me the question!!! I just looked at her and didn't say a word. I didn't want to be hostile, but that was too much to handle.

  3. So totally understand this! Kalo gw, karena banyak yg tau I can't have kids, jarang ada yg nanya ke gw. Tapi,, just like your friend, banyak yg pikir I am stinking rich! Bahkan yach..waktu gw bilang mau beli wii, tapi akhirnya gak jadi karena gw takut gak cukup uang, sepupu gw..(sepupu deket lho!!), bilang gini "ih..loe kayak bukan kawin ama bule aja" -.-" capek dehhh...You are right, cuekin ajalah segala macam pertanyaan2 gak jelas gitu. Yg penting you have the love and support of your family, and that's all that matters =)

  4. When I was still single, I got lots of questions like that too. Glad since I live in here, I get more peace :D

  5. Hi Amel!

    Wonderful post, first and foremost.

    Indeed, certain cultures have this kind of behaviour that to us, Westerners (or Western-living people), seems extremely stifling; but at the same time we have to respect it *shrugging*.

    Cultural differences, my friend...

    Big Hug, gorgeous!

  6. Africa can be like that too. Very "grrrr" at times.

    I love that changing emoticon. CUTE!