The Bali Expat, Part 4

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.

The Well-Dressed Expat
Issues of dress are an important part of expat life. Most expats who blog or have websites make a point of having a photograph of them dressed in the local gear prominently displayed on their site. The Sartorial Expat has a wardrobe of local traditional clothes that s/he can wear comfortably and stylishly. However, those in the know only wear these clothes on the proper ceremonial occasions. If they make a habit of wearing them regularly, they take the risk of being mistaken for a backpacker or a Westerner who has gone native.

Under all circumstances, the Well-Dressed Expat should not wear: Hawaiian shirts, shorts with socks, baseball caps, pith helmets, cheap Batik shirts, singlets or heavy gold chains. Wearing any of these items, or even worse, some of them in combination, immediately labels the Sartorial Expat as a neo-tourist or a non-acclimated Westerner.
The Well-Dressed Expat in Bali who also considers him/herself a multi-culturalist will have the proper dress for each of the major religions represented in the population of Bali.

While an Indonesian Muslim can acceptably show up at a Hindu wedding in Muslim clothes, it’s considered a display of bad taste for the Well-Dressed Expat to show up in the wrong outfit. In addition to wearing the proper clothes for the occasion, the Well-Dressed Expat also needs to know how to wear the clothes properly; that includes tying the sarong in the proper manner, not wearing your pants to short if you attend a Muslim ceremony (it signifies that you either belong to one of the extreme streams of Islam in the country or you’re too poor to wear proper fitting pants), and not showing any bare shoulders in a Muslim ceremony. This can prove to be a bit daunting for some sartorially challenged expats; in that case, it’s safest to fall back on wearing Western attire as many Indonesians have adopted Western dress for formal occasions. However, in this case, the Well-Dressed Expat should have a new set of black pants, polished shoes, and a pressed dress shirt. I’m going to abstain from offering suggestions on dress for women, as I’m well known for not being considered a Well-Dressed Expat.

So, if your idea of life in the tropics is lazing around in whatever you happen to have around the house, you’d better think again unless you want to be considered a slob like me.


~ by drbrucepk on April 2, 2009.

4 Responses to “The Bali Expat, Part 4”

  1. Bruce – Thanks for this. Trying to interpret the unspoken dress code in Bali for the guest who wants to be culture-honoring has not been easy for me. -Sam

  2. Thanks Sam,

    I hope that you had a good time in Bali.

  3. you got me where it hurts,,,im a slob.I live Puerto Vallarta Mexico,and wear the most wore out cloths i can find .Why ,,so the venders will leave me alone. Moving Bali next year.Why cant I find cheap apartments in Bali over internet. LEE

  4. Hi dear BALI EXPATS…!! Are u guys fed up with some thing those not working properly in the house. just ring/ text the fixing man KETUT at 087 863 286 896. We will come with speaking English and skilled technician to solve your problem. From mechanical to electrical. From sanitary problem to blocked plumbing. Even freelance pool treatment and all kind of home appliances. Affordable and reasonable prices offered

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