To be bule in Bali….

Volunteer Blog

Denpasar, Bali, January 2015 (Susanna Diana)

The meaning of the word bule – as I wrote in a previous blog – is foreigner. Indonesian people use this word to refer to fair-skinned people.

One of the most common things I hear every day is: “Look! A bule!”, when on the way from the office to my house: “Bule, Bule, Bulèèèèè!”.Sometimes, I don’t really like whenthe people shoutsit, but it seems that for the locals this word is kind of funny. 


To be a bule in Bali means that the local people examines you over and over again… especially when a bule walks in an area not usually frequented by foreigners, like our neighborhood.
Many times the people ask us to take a picture with them, children ask some money and laugh when you move, the old women quite commonly stop me to say some nice comment -“
cantik!”(beautiful), “I like your face”, “I like your hair”–and sometimes funny things happen. Once, a man asked me to marry him; during a ceremony a man sang me a famous song in Italian, whose title is “Susanna”…. And a man told me: “oh, you’re beautiful! You look like Michael Jackson”…

But to be a bule means also that the local people, certain that you are a tourist (therefore, a rich person), tries to raise the prices of everything. If an unlucky bule does not know the prices of local food or clothes they make you pay even 5 times more than the right price… so, the strategy is to bargain, bargain, bargain… they don’t really believe that we earn the minimum salary, like local people! Sometimes, not knowing the right price, I tried to bargain even when the price was already low and the situation got hilarious.

Similar things happened with the police: when they see a foreigner, they stop you, and ask always a big amount of money, like 500.000 rupiahs or more. The strategy in this case is hide the money in the trousers, and try to pay the minimum amount possible, try to persuade the police that you don’t have money and you want to go on trial… they usually continue to threaten you, but finally, if you keep playing the game, even with a small amount (about 30.000 rupiahs) they let you go. Of course, this is much less likely to happen if you are a local.

In the last month I realized that I’m not just a bule

I read a nice article about this, and I identify myself in some points… The local faces now are familiar to me, and I when I see other foreigner around, I start thinking: “oh, a bule here!?”!
I don’t like areas like Kuta, because – as written in the article – they are “crawling with the dreaded tourists”, “I’m cold if it is 28 degrees”, “
I can no longer wear close-toed shoes because I get blisters”, “I honestly have no real idea what day it is”, “I keep two wallets”….and whatnot

Maybe after four months in Bali, I’m changing in a person who is settled here… a Bali expat???

In the following links, you can find nice articles about the Bali expats and the meaning bule.
Check them out

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