a bule gal's perspective
By Eleanor Rivers
University of Technology, Sydney
I love Indonesia, I have lived here for almost 2 years of the 23 years of
my life, and I'm sure that I will be back to live, work and hopefully raise
a family here for many years to come. There are a few things that annoy me about
Indonesia (like the bureaucracy) but these things are bearable.
However one of the things that I lately been very aware of is, that no matter
how many years I live here and no matter how fluent my Bahasa is, to the average
person on the street I will always be a 'bule' or 'londo' (as opposed to, for
example, an Asian in Australia who has lived there forever is of course an Australian).
is because, even around the Pogung Baru area where I have lived and been observed
by the locals for the last 10 months, I cannot walk from my house to Jl. Kaliurang
(a five minute walk), without someone saying something or making some comment
to their friend.
I mean, it happens to Indonesian girls too, the girls in my kost are always
complaining about groups of guys outside of kosts harrassing them as they go
past, but I think it happens to bules more often. For example, in the Pogung
Baru area there is an empty field that is used for soccer games almost every
afternoon. The other day it was raining lightly so I walked past the boys playing
soccer while covering my face with an umbrella. 3 metres in front of me there
was an Indonesian girl walking, but they could still tell that I was a bule,
and one of them said 'Hey, yang bajunya coklat (me), lihat ke sini dong'...and
they all started commenting and calling out...the Indonesian girl in front of
me was ignored!
Of course harrassment like that isn't sexual, it's just a group of guys having
a little fun with themselves at our discomfort. As for sexual harrassment, apparently
there are a lot of comments as I walk past that are sexually loaded (about body
parts etc) but it annoys my friends more than me because the comments are in
Javanese so I don't understand. A few times I understand, especially around
the Malioboro area, but it pays to just ignore them.
Twice, in this area (Pogung Baru) I have been grabbed by guys riding past on
motorbikes. The first time it was about 9pm at night and I was walking to the
local warung with two friends. I was walking closest to the centre of the road,
when this guy slowed down on his bike going past us and made a grab at me. It
was very dark so there is no way that he knew I was a bule.
It happens to Indonesian girls too. By the time we realised what was happening
he was long gone.
The second time was in the middle of the day when I was walking back from class.
I was day dreaming and even though I heard the sound of a motorbike going slowly
behind me, it didn't click until it was too late. As he rode off I could see
him looking in his rear vision mirror for my reaction. I was confused what to
do, if I shouted after him then it would just make him happier, but if I did
nothing, he might think I enjoyed it (?!?!) and search me out some other time!
In the end I just got tears of frustration in my eyes behind my sunglasses and
Ever since then, day and night, I've always been very very careful. Everytime
I hear a motorbike behind me I always turn around to look (if you've looked
at them it will turn them off doing anything) or lift my arm up and scratch
my face so that my body is covered. It's such a lot of effort, and I always
laugh to myself when the person that goes by turns out to be a girl wearing
The only other bad experiences I've had (twice) is walking past guys sitting
in secluded areas, um, what can I say, playing with themselves. No doubt they've
just come from an internet cafe where the majority of the last 10 sites viewed
are pornography, and they need to express their excitement!
That's all I can really say about my experiences here. Somedays you can put
up with it, but other days you just wish that you could cut off your nose, lose
20kg in weight, dye your hair black and get the perfect tan...and just blend
in...just stay cool, best thing to do is ignore them.