Bali is one of the most visited places in the world clocking in almost 3 millions worldwide visitors every year. It is also not surprising for a foreigner to fall in love and extend their holiday for an unlimited period of time. If you happen to be one of those foreigners who have now lived in Bali for some time, you must have known or picked up some of the local norms. Unknowingly, you have maybe gone full- Balinese with your new found lifestyle and habits that reflect only the things that a true Balinese can know or do :
1. Early to rise
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Balinese share a common philosophy which centers around its traditional agricultural society. They believe that part of happiness is establishing good relations with the nature and divinity. It is a customary act of religious respect to get atop religious buildings and pray through loudspeakers. Usually what breaks the dawn is the Moslem praying that is broadcasted at around 5 am and soon to be followed by Hindu prayers, also through chants and bells from loudspeakers. This may last for 1 hour or longer. This makes for a free wake- up call and as a result, you will probably be accustomed to it that you’ll wake up automatically without a need for proper alarm clock.
2. You can’t live without rice or sambal
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For the local and most Indonesians for that matter, the staple of daily food is rice. One other main thing that is always present in most meals is the chilli peppers. There are a variety of mixtures in serving this little spicy condiment. Whether cooked or served raw, many locals cannot go by a day without getting a burning sensation in their tongue. There are also bottled versions for convenience and can last quite a while. While it might take a while for foreign tongues to adjust to the hotness chilli presents, pretty soon they will enjoy having chilli as a must to go along other foods. Along with rice on their plate, of course.
3. You are the instant millionaire
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As Rupiah suffers against other international currencies, plenty of overnight millionaires are born in Bali. Local businesses still rarely cater to credit card transactions which makes it vital for you to carry plenty of cash when you want to travel and explore Bali for longer period of time. As you get accustomed to calculating your conversion mentally, you’ll be sure to feel like a rich person carrying plenty of notes to last you a while.
4. You get to love sarong
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This long cloth is used to cover your body parts from waist down. Commonly comes in many patterns and colors, the usual ones are the checkered or plaid patterns as well as batik prints. Many Balinese love sarong and use it universally for daily activity, even their children too. For many public or personal occasions, you too will soon get used to donning this particular cloth around. You will find that sarong is actually a good option of garment to be worn in the tropical weather of Bali. If you perhaps like it even for air-conditioned indoor, we totally understand it.
5. You will prioritise using your right hand
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It is considered rude to extend your left arm to take something from Balinese. Balinese cultures adhere to the using of right hand for transactions while left hands are considered the “dirty”hand as it used for hygiene purposed. When you wave or point at something, it is advisable to use your right hand. For those who are left-handers, do not worry as you may still carry on using our primary left hands, but always stick with using your left hand when it comes to dealing with local people.
6. You’ll get used to rubber time.
The locals have a very relaxed manner in going about their daily activities. This has resulted in their lack of time discipline as they do not tend to rush into things. There is a phrase “ jam karet” which means rubber time as you can bend rubber as far and as long as you could. The Balinese are social people who love to chat and socialize. They do not appreciate hasty attitude so it is best not to rush Balinese of press them for a deadline. Overall, this is a laidback life philosophy and in time, you will learn to go with the flow and understand the concept of “rubber time”.
7. You have a Balinese nickname
The naming tradition in Balinese is a unique system following the birth order of the family. It also has an aspect of caste system in it. You will soon realize that Balinese share many similar names because they refer to their order of birth or sibling positions in a family. There are fixed names for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th born children. The naming system automatically restarts itself on the next born child ( the 5th and so on). Prefixes ‘I’ and ‘N’ are used to differentiate the genders, which means Mr and Mrs. There also no family names or surnames.
This naming system is actually very applicable universally, including to foreigners. Pretty soon they will give you your own Balinese name based on your birth order. If you infact have one, congratulations as you have been accepted and made it into the familiarity of Bali people.
8. You look at fruit salad in new limelight
Image Courtesy of Indi and Rani Soemardjan
You might have enjoyed the western version of fruit salad, but in Bali you will get a taste of ‘Rujak’. It is also served with varieties of fruit, vegetables and a sauce made from tamarind, peanuts, palm sugar and chilli. It could also have dried shrimp paste, fish stock or boiled eggs. Once mixed, you’ll develop a taste for rujak and can’t get enough of it.
9. You know more about Bali.
Maybe even more so than the locals. Usually Balinese are confined to their locale as they go about their business or daily activity. This has disabled them to fully explore Bali in all its glory, whereas a tourist has the option to travel the island by the inch. To begin with, usually tourists will start from the mainstream places and will very soon explore to the more unlikely hidden spots in Bali. You will get to see secret beaches that are far from popular resorts, which are only reachable through local transportations that even real locals rarely experience. You will visit monasteries, temples or fishing villages in the quiet beaches. As you know the island more, don’t be surprised if you will be the one telling stories to a Balinese.
10. You know proper Balinese attire
Image courtesy of Bryan Sereny
If you’ve warranted yourself an invitation to a formal Balinese event, chances are you have to arrive in local formalwear. This traditional garments have unique features that consist of woven flat length of cloth. With many draping and draping plus minimal stitching, it will be an honor for any foreigner to ever experience this. Afterall, traditional Balinese formal attires are not only for fashion statement, but a symbol of respect to its tradition and religion. Also, if you really have been staying long enough in Bali, sarong is the least formal attire in Balinese cultures.