Known for her satirical humour on her popular YouTube channel, Sacha Stevenson, is a Canadian bule (foreigner) who has been living in Indonesia since 2001. Sacha moved to Indonesia to become an English teacher, where she subsequently surrounded herself with Indonesian culture, choosing the local way of life, as opposed to her bule friends. She rejected housing subsidised by her teaching program, opting instead to live in a bare, unfurnished apartment (Tempo, 2015). During her travels, she began practicing Islam and even wearing the hijab.
Through her instructional series of “How to Act Indonesian” Sacha demonstrates the typical Indonesian way of life through her personal observations. “It’s Indonesia from my perspective,” she says. However, what may seem like a little bit of comedy to us, some Indonesians might find insulting and sarcastic.
Indonesians come from a culture where they hold a lot of pride and take offense very easily. It isn’t much of an issue when its coming from their own people, but when they see a bule mocking their ways, it becomes debatable. “I’ve received death threats,” she says in an article on The Jakarta Globe, “But the response has almost all been positive. And the videos that cause some controversy also get the most hits.”
Her videos dwell on hypocrisy – in an episode, we see Sacha clean her house with care, only to throw the rubbish on the street. However, they also cross into pure ridiculousness (The Jakarta Globe, 2013). In another episode, we see the overused nature of texting through BBM (Black Berry Messenger) where even homeless people have Blackberry phones. These reflections allow for a greater understanding of the Indonesian culture.
Coming from an Indonesian background, I find that most of her videos similarly relate to my own familiarities of Indonesians; whether in Indonesia or Australia. I’ve been subscribed to Sacha’s channel for a couple years now and my most profound relation with her has to be her impression that Indonesians are very inquisitive people. They don’t feel any shame in expressing their curiosity with strangers, often asking intimate questions that we might feel uncomfortable to answer. This is very normal amongst older Indonesian women, who constantly feel the need to be ‘honest’.
In 2013, the series was seen as controversial as it dealt with Muslims in Indonesia. This rapidly aggravated certain religious groups, claiming her as an orientalist in social media, who studied Islam just so she can insult the religion (Tempo, 2015). Sacha apologised immediately has vouched to “never want to do anything that has to do with religion, because this is a very sensitive subject.”
Although she has since become more selective in the content that she uploads, the satirical humour is still engaging and encouraging for those wanting to learn more about your typical Indonesian.