I met up with my friend’s mum, Marina, to see what she could tell me about life in Indonesia and about Indonesian people. She greeted me with Indonesian layer cake and tea just to set the tone. Marina was born and raised in Jakarta and left at the age of 13 to come to Australia so that she could have a ‘western education’. She’s been going back almost every year since and said she has seen it change dramatically over the years. The most notable change she mentioned was that Jakarta seems to get busier and more chaotic every year. ‘I don’t know if it’s that I’m too old now but last time it was bustling and overwhelming’ she told me, whereas when she left if was ‘like a village in a city’. Not surprising she felt that way when the estimated growth rate of greater Jakarta is 3.6% p/a- over double the growth rate of the rest of Indonesia, and when Indonesia is the world fourth most populous nation (Firman, T. 2011)
She talked about how Indonesia was multi faceted and layered due to the many religions, languages and ethnic groups, of which there are over 719 and 360 respectively, that to try and understand it is a large feat (The Road Ahead, 2014). I found this fitting as I scoffed down my layer cake while she advised me that ‘you have to experience it to try to understand the complexities’. I asked her about the tension and animosity between the groups that often occur with the melding of cultures. She informed me that there ‘is little conflict beyween ethnic groups’ and that ‘Indonesian are very patriotic and loyal of what is now united Indonesia’. When I told her that I found this surprising due to the massacres around 1965 and their current conflict in the Papua region (More Religion, More Trouble, 2008) she stated that ‘political conflicts were more prominent than cultural ones as central government takes a lot of the resources’. Lack of a welfare system, high levels of corruption and political instability are the main challenges that Indonesians face according to Marina. ‘The possibility that tomorrow there may be a coup’ is so deeply ingrained in their psyche that many live day to day. She believes that corruption is now a big part of their culture that not only is it too hard to remove, but that its accepted that “if you don’t play the game you cant exist’.
What she loves most about Indonesian culture however, is the strong sense of community and family values. She believes that the value of maintaining harmony between the community and the low sense of individualism held by Indonesian gives them ‘warmth and no one ever feels isolated’.
Firman, T. 2011, ‘Population growth Greater Jakarta and its impact’, The Jakarta Post, 26 March, viewed online 17/5/15, <http://m.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/03/26/population-growth-greater-jakarta-and-its-impact.html>
‘More religion, more trouble: Radical Muslim and Christian groups stoke the embers of Papua’s conflict’, 2008, The Economist, 17 July, viewed online 17/5/15, < http://www.economist.com/node/11751404>
The Road Ahead, 2014, The Economist, 21 June, viewed online 17/5/15, <http://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21604528-decoding-nation-13466-islands-360-ethnic-groups-and-719-languages-road-ahead>