The Expat Life in Bali

Expats can be incredibly difficult people to deal with. I say this after almost 20 years of expat life, and I include myself as someone that can be difficult at times even though I generally make an effort not to be difficult. The internet has made expat life even more bizarre than it has historically been because now expats can act out in public for large (or small) groups of strangers without taking even the least bit of responsibility for their weirdness.

What brought this topic up? A few paragraphs in Paul Theroux’s latest travel book about his meeting with some expats in Thailand and the recent shenanigans over at an expat forum. So what about expats? Here are a few observations that I’ve made over the years, and for those who know me you’ll see that I include a number of my own habits and foibles in these comments.

The Weirdness of Expat Life #1: The Invisible Expat

Expats like to pretend that they don’t notice other foreigners around them. This stems from the early childhood

Photo by Michale Dunn. Creative Commons license

Photo by Michale Dunn. Creative Commons license

belief that if you don’t see someone, they won’t see you. This invisibility paradigm is particularly true when visiting shops that specialize in selling imported items like ABD in Singaraja or Ace Hardware in Kuta. (Note that this does not apply to Expat friends, only to unknown foreigners.)

If Expats make their Expatness known to other Expats in these situations, it could damage their status as an Acculturated Expat in the future when they make statements like “I never shop in those kinds of stores, I buy Indonesian and support the local economy. I like living the simple life like the Balinese.”

The above only applies to Acculturated Expats. Those Expats who insist on retaining their national habits in such activities as language, eating, drinking, socializing, child rearing, and driving make a point of being highly visible wherever they go, especially if they have a large Balinese or Indonesian entourage with them. This is especially true of Americans, Australians and Germans who are fond of speaking as loudly as possible in their national language in order to make sure that no one misses their entrance, performance and exit.


~ by drbrucepk on January 26, 2009.

4 Responses to “The Expat Life in Bali”

  1. This is sounding good – would you continue one day.

    may I insert a question about another group – I was recently told about a secretive remote tribe of light-skinned papuans who may in fact be tree dwellers. Do you know of any such group?? Or is this another story that shows how ignorant even Indonesian are about their most easterly province??

    thanks in advance

  2. Yes, John,
    I plan on doing 15 of these. It passes the long evenings in the jungle.

    I’ve never heard about the light-skinned Papuans although there is a high incidence of Albinos in Papua. I met more Albinos in Papua than I have anywhere else in the world.

    Thanks for commenting.

  3. […] that you won’t be able to avoid conflict with them. Difficult people make causing conflict The Expat Life in Bali – 01/26/2009 Expats can be incredibly difficult people to deal with. […]

  4. I was an expat in Belize for a year and love to hear more about expat life in other parts of the world. Is it difficult to enter Bali as an expat? In Belize you could come in under the QRP program, where you paid about $1,000 per person to stay and only work, if you hire locals. You couldn’t get a work permit. Would you recommend expat life in Bali. Sounds like it’s getting very crowded.

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