EDITORIAL: Foreigners’ Folly

Many people who come to Bali for the first time feel an almost indescribable affinity with the place, a kind of unseen umbilical association, and they vow to one day live on the island, making a tropical dream – or fantasy – come true. Bali is an intoxicating lure that does not easily loosen its grip.

Setting up home in a strange land, on a tiny island, is fraught with frustrations and infuriation: Some things can really vex. For the determined émigré, such obstacles are a small price to pay for achieving what many wish for but never have the fortitude to enact; many others, unable to survive what can be a chaotic, at-times surreal existence, quickly surrender and run back home.

There are foreigners living in Bali for decades, some of whom have adopted Balinese names and have been assimilated into the community and wondrous, magical culture. There are those who have been here a short time, or have just arrived, perhaps having been relocated as part of their job, as employees in the international chain-hotel sector frequently are. And then there are the circa two million foreigners who holiday on our island each year, some, smitten, staying on longer than they had intended.

A large chunk of foreigners, whether long-term or fleetingly here, lead uneventful, calm lives in Bali, and that is just how they like it. But for what seems to be a growing group of expatriates here, living the high life is what they seek; they are drawn to our island by the party, anything-goes atmosphere that can prevail in certain areas. Some reinvent themselves, hoping to close the door on a dicey past by devising a new name and a new career and glossing over their troubles.
Such folk are attracted to Bali because of its perceived lack of law and order, the supposed ability to buy your way out of any strife – above all, to live big with no questioning peers in sight.

At the lower end, we daily see foreigners riding motorbikes without helmets, when not only common sense but the law says otherwise. We see groupings of expatriates who float about in the shiny invitation set and deem themselves the height of society in a community to which they are irredeemably alien. In a kind of pseudo class system, they attempt to outdo one another and, occasionally, engineer difficulties for rivals or those they abhor.

But at the pinnacle of contemptible expatriate hell-raising are foreigners who fully engage in activities that break severe laws – such as drug-taking – while plastering photographs of their playful antics on social-networking websites as if we are all having a laugh.

We are not.

Any foreign national who is serious about Bali knows to respect Indonesian law and the island’s customs and traditions, and they are grateful they are allowed to live in such a special place. For the others who flit around and thumb their nose at whatever they like, there is no place in Bali.

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8 Responses to “EDITORIAL: Foreigners’ Folly”

  1. dave Says:

    Well said indeed mate,i am happy with the quiet life and spend all my time with family, in Denpasar or kampung,rich wankers and drunken yobs i find equally embarrassing,and dont need to be a part of their little world….

  2. Derek Says:

    I am ashamed of the way some tourists come to Bali and disrespect the country, it’s people and the laws of Indonesia.

    A small dose of humility goes a long way when you are in another country.

    We must all remember that the things that we do on holiday are a direct reflection of your own country and it’s people (like it or not).

    The trouble is that some people (no matter where they are from) just don’t care about anyone or anything and have absolutlely no respect for themselves, much less the foreign lands that they walk on.

    God bless the humble tourists who tread lightly and respect such a beautiful and majical place.

  3. troy Says:

    Mate i have to agree with you 100%, i see it everytime i go to Bali, all these people who come to Bali to live must and should respect the Balinese and Indonesian people and cultures. To many wankers that come to Bali to live think they own the island and would have no idea about the local culture. Mate i find it so relaxing to go to a village and spend time with locals, eat, drink, pray and enjoy. My dream is to come to Bali oneday and live a life that i cannot do in Australia. Spending time with Balinese people makes my life full and happy, i have done lots of travel around the world and have not found any culture or friendship that the Balinese have to offer. They are the most caring people in the world and i hope to be apart of the future of Bali. I have got a Balinese name and am a hindu which i thank the Balinese people for there belief in me and found it very special to be apart of this fantastic life. Anyone thinking of going to Bali to live must and should live a local life. Bali forever. Om Shanti

  4. shorty Says:

    congrats on a great editorial!

    it’s ironic.

    i can understand (tho not endorse) the yobbo holiday…get wasted, get laid…in a sense kuta and the surrounding area serves a useful purpose. it’s a honeypot for the people you want to avoid, making it easier to avoid them. they’re reasonably easy to control.

    of great concern are the expat ‘ghettos’ prime land is being alienated. look at the development along bukit, dreamland is a prime example of expat exclusion wankery. look at pereranan, pipitan, echo beach….rows of empty mcmansions on once was what beautiful productive land.

    the greatest shame is the pressure put on land prices and services. the demand is putting home ownership and security beyond the reach and aspirations of the balinese.

    of greater irony, is that the owners/developers are destroying the reason for being there. at home they undoubedly complain about ‘migrant ghettos’.

    we can hope that the bubble bursts, bali becomes passe (or not profitable), who knows where becomes more fashionable.

    last i checked, ausbalia and the eec (enterprising european c…. use your own imagination) were not provinces of ri, or balinese regencies.

  5. shorty Says:

    ps. what galls me more is the superior attitude adopted by some bule….tourist and expats.

    have you noticed that whenever the shit hits the fan it’s always the fault of a local?

  6. shorty Says:

    pps. family, village, banjar and religion are intrinsic values and linchpins for balinese society.

    there are signs of local voices having more power. any expat or regular visitor would have to be blind or deaf not to hear/recognize the rise in balinese ‘nationalism’.

    changes to the electoral system…direct voting hopefully will help. those elected will have to ustify themselves to the electorste (village…) not the party

  7. David Says:

    What gauls me is some expats who want to blame the other expats for all the shortcomings here. Sombong … or arrogance is a prevalent attitude by many of the locals. Shorty , take a real look at the locals, look at the way many, buy not all of them drive … it’s a clear indicator to the rest of the thinking patterns. No attention or care to anyone else but themselves on the road .. only they are important while putting many others in danger …. Human nature being is what it is , the balinese are no different than any other person, well maybe they are …it’s been raining money here for 35yrs. or longer … work for a living … ya sure .. Don’t forget Shorty …. all foreigners are tourists or guests here no matter how long you have lived here or how much you have integrated into the local culture …. you are and always will be a tamu (guest) ……. if you want to feel “gaul” to the other expats here … better to keep it to yourself and except it for what it is. Bali like many many other tourist destinations , eventually if it has not already , will price itself out of the average local’s pay to buy land … but hey, don’t forget .. until there was tourism here , the land wasn’t worth much to the locals, if anything at all …………. there are many, not just a few balinese, who have gotten very very rich from tourism … now they can buy whatever land they want , their families are taken care of ….. There are always two sides to every story.

  8. James Says:

    Thanks for sahring with us, Editorial. I just wanna share my opinion based on my expereince as a private tutor for bahasa, dealing with expats and foreigners staying in bali. Life is what we make it and let’s live and learn to adapt to the new atmosphere. I think Anyone thinking of going to Bali to live should live a local life and think globally. cheers ,have anice day, Gbus.

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