How to be polite in Bali

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As everyone who knows me or has ever read anything I’ve written knows well, I love Bali – a lot. I’m privileged to have a little villa here and I consider it my second home and feel very protective of it, like it’s somehow mine.

I spent the day today wandering the streets of Ubud as I enjoy doing and some of the things I saw and have seen this trip and on previous visits made me feel like I want to talk a little bit about manners. If I am completely honest, and I usually am, I sometimes feel embarrassed to be an Australian visitor to this glorious place.

So, here are a few things I would like to suggest to do and not to do when visiting the magical island of the gods, to make your holiday enjoyable and leave the locals smiling after you leave.

Manners-Cost-You-Nothing-But-Ignorance-Will-Cost-You-Everything.-Ryan-Swain

  1. Please do not walk around in shorts that show parts of your anatomy that should be kept private, and that goes for boys and girls. Believe me when I say I am no prude, but seriously we don’t need to see butt cheeks and other bits and pieces hanging out. I saw a girl wearing a pair of shorts the other day that looked and fitted like underpants that were a few sizes too small, and half of her backside was hanging out, it was so not a good look. Oh and girls, please wear more than a bra or bather top when walking around the streets of Ubud. I find it very disrespectful to see some of the scraps of material barely covering anything on the streets. Yes it’s hot, but a tank top and shorts or skirt are just fine too and probably just as cool.
  2. Please barter, but don’t go over the top. I hate seeing people haggling for the sake of 50 cents or $1. Really? Let it go. I enjoy haggling, it’s good to treat it like a bit of sport and fun and always stay good natured about it. Be fair.
  3. Please use your manners. Please and thank you are not hard to say and they go a long way. If you really want to go the extra mile, say thank you in the local language. Everyone here speaks Bahasa Indonesian so you can say terima kasih for thank you. If you know for sure that the person you are talking with is Balinese, then try saying suksma (sook some mah) and you will really make their day. They will respond with a happy smile and suksma mewali. If you really want to build rapport you can say sing ken ken when you want to say no worries or no problem.
  4. Please tip where you can. I know we Aussies don’t come from a tipping culture but it’s a lovely thing to do to leave a little extra if you have the means. I have been horribly embarrassed when I have been with people waiting for the waitress to return with their $1 or $1.50 balance from the meal. Seriously, what’s a dollar or two a day on the average two week holiday? Not much to us, but a lot for them. So round it up by a dollar or two if and when you can.
  5. Yes I know the constant cries for ‘transport’ ‘taxi’ ‘massage’ and the rest can be overwhelming after a long day of it, but remember this is someone’s livelihood. I have seen so many people be disrespectful and rude, and it’s unnecessary. I try to smile politely and say thank you where I can. Trust me it’s appreciated. Can you imagine trying to get a job all day and being completely ignored or attacked? Be kind.
  6. Remember you are in a developing country where things will never be the same as home, no matter how many Starbucks or McDonalds pop up. Also when communicating, remember English is not the native tongue, so please bring your patience, understanding and respect. I heard some women outraged they weren’t able to get a coffee somewhere the other day and another time a woman was horrified there was no wifi in a tiny ice cream shop. I’ve seen a woman screaming at a confused attendant in a supermarket as she herself didn’t understand the currency and I had to intervene. Enjoy what is available, when and where it is available, and hey why not try something new – you never know, you just might like it.
  7. While wifi is common here, we certainly don’t have it at home, so don’t act like it’s the end of the world if it’s not available. If it’s important to be connected, buy a sim card, they are only a few dollars.
  8. When the toilet has a sign asking you not to flush, please respect it. The plumbing systems are not built to cope with our copious use of toilet paper as the locals use water. In fact, why not give the bum hose a go, I am a complete convert and have bought my own. Read about my experiences with it here. There is nothing quite like having cool nether regions when you are stinking hot everywhere else.

I’d like to finish with the most important thing of all. Enjoy, relax, take a load off. Look around and appreciate the beauty of this magical island of the gods and it’s incredible people.

It’s paradise.

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