Friday, March 14, 2008

Por favor, whadjamean and other such things...

I've realised that I'm usually mistaken for an Indonesian while I'm out and about in Jakarta. I don't mind it, it makes me feel safer that they think I'm a local and I'm less likely to be fleeced by traders and taxi drivers. I do get quizzical looks from time to time when I'm out wandering in shopping malls in the afternoons and I know just what they're thinking. "Oh, she's out here shopping at this time of the day, so she's got to have money enough not to work. But how come she doesn't have BIG-BIG hair and wears comfy flat shoes???" Sorry, I'm not that type of Jakartan!

The sales staff at various shops I go to are usually very friendly and they love to talk to their customers. When I'm out with other expat friends (read Caucasians), the staff will usually greet us in English. But when I'm out on my own, I get the local treatment - a string of words in rapid-fire Indonesian accompanied by a wide, friendly smile.
While I do speak enough Malay to converse with the locals, they use a lot of words that aren't in use in Malaysia and they speak far too quickly for me to catch the gist of it. I hate it when they've finished speaking because that means they'll flash me a wide grin and wait for a response and I'll be thinking "Now what do I do!" After a day or so of smiling weakly at them and shrugging my shoulders in a non-committal gesture and then beating it out of the shops at top speed, I finally decided on Day 3 in Jakarta that I would tell them in my Malaysian-accented speech that I am je ne comprende pas their speech and to please slow down and use less Indonesian slang words that me, the silly foreigner, does not understand.

And when I do that, something strange happens: They gasp in shock because they can't believe I'm not local!

Can't win, really. :)))

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