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Makassar (Indonesia), September 28th 2008
If you ask people in the West about what they can easily miss in their daily life, they probably mention the everlasting hurry. The feeling that they do not have time enough to do all the things that they want to do and the accompanying stress is a feeling, justly or not, that many people in the West have. In Indonesia, people do not have that feeling. Young or old, poor or rich, they all know how to find a way that they can relax a major part of the day. Wherever you go in Indonesia, you will see people taking a rest everywhere. In every street you will find rickshaw-drivers sleeping in their rickshaw, and shops where people made a place to take a nap once in a while.
After almost one and a half years of travelling, we also lost some pressure to be active and productive all day. However, it is still difficult for us to do nothing for more than an hour or so. The maintaining of our website and diary are repeating activities where we can always work on, that take a lot of time, but that are also very rewarding to do. These activities are now part of our daily life and we can not miss them anymore. We do not make money with it, so we do it solely for our own satisfaction. And of course, we love to get responses once in a while from strangers who love to read our website. But this is incomprehensible for most Indonesians. Working and giving yourself pressure without getting money for it, is something unheard of in Indonesia. Money on the short term is the only real reason for Indonesians to arise from their ‘resting’ position and to do some activities.
This attitude to life definitely has something interesting. People are never in a hurry, do not know what stress is, and always have time for a chat or at least a big smile. But there are also moments that this attitude to life is immoderately irritating. If you look for example at the speed at which the cashiers work in an Indonesian supermarket, you get the feeling that you entered a slow motion slapstick movie. The pressure to work a little bit harder is absent. The manager is also taking a nap somewhere in his office, and the clients that are waiting in the long queues do not have any problem with the lack of speed at which they are served. And you are wrong if you think that this only happens in the smaller shops in the rural areas. Also the checking in on a flight of a renowned airline can be very time-consuming. At these places, the slow working speed is combined with the badly prepared and nonchalant local travellers, who often do not have the right papers, who think that they can buy an additional seat at the check-in counter, have way to much kilo’s of baggage, or want to check-in too much pieces of luggage with the most extreme sizes and shapes. On our flight from Bali to Sulawesi for example, a local family tried to check-in a substantial amount of non packed ceramic vases and flower pots. And the most irritating part of the story is, is that people think they can get away with it. As long as you talk long enough with the person behind the counter, and maybe slide some money to him/her, than everything is possible is the going thought. And Indonesia would not be Indonesia if this wasn’t through! The result: long queues and significant delays.
This attitude is not only annoying for us as western travellers, but also bad for the development of a country like Indonesia. The work tempo is too low, people are not working efficiently, there is no pressure to improve, and long term thinking is still not often practiced. People prefer to watch TV or take a nap in their hammock, in stead of, for example, getting rid of the garbage that piled up around their house last years. And that is strange, because also the Indonesians are not really happy with what they have. They often complain that they are poor and that their living environment is dirty and badly maintained. Also the Indonesians want to have more to spend in their life, but there is one big difference with the Western people. They do not like to work for it. And that is exactly the reason why a job at the government is so popular in Indonesia. Because working for the government means that you can combine the best of two worlds. As a public servant you do not have to work very hard, and you still have the guarantee of a good income because you can supplement your basic salary with the payoffs that you can demand from the normal people.