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Living Abroad in Indonesia

By Stephen Kim

People say to me all the time: “Have you ever thought about studying abroad? Don’t you ever want to experience living in another country? Think about it. College is the only time for you to go out and do something like this!” I’m sure everyone has been asked this before. But my response to them is: “I already have! For six years of my life!”

After being born and raised in southern California for the first twelve years of my life, I moved to Indonesia and attended an international school during my junior high and high school years. Living in Indonesia has impacted my life tremendously, providing me with a broader cultural perspective and worldview, and has made me the person I am today.

One aspect of Indonesian culture that I experienced and was fortunate enough to learn was about good manners when you enter into another person’s home. Upon being welcomed in, guests will usually be offered some food or some sort of tea or coffee. However, you must kindly decline their offer. A little while later, they will generously offer food, tea, or coffee again for the second time. Once again, you must respectfully decline their kind gesture. Finally, some time later, they will offer it to you for the third time. By this time, however, you are free to accept it. The reason for this long and complex process is that the first and second times they offer you food and drink, they might not actually have anything in their kitchen to offer you! They are just trying to be good hosts. If you say yes to their first or second offers, you will put them to shame for not having anything to present you. This is an example of a small cultural lesson that I had to learn in my daily Indonesian life but, big lessons were also presented to me in various ways, one of which I’ll remember for my whole life.

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