- One of my co-teachers insisted on living at my home in Toraja for the first two nights because she thought I'd be scared. It became a problem when on day three she was still planning on sleeping over. That's when I knew it was time to be blunt and set boundaries.
- The students often ask me for my phone number, address, facebook and email. They also ask my religion, marital status, who I live with, what I wear when I get home from school, what I do just before going to bed and why I don't go to church.
- Yesterday six of my male students surprised me at my house and asked if they could come in to practice their English. 1. This is a major boundary issue and 2. A major cultural taboo given the gender breakdown. I didn't want to be rude so I agreed to spend some time with them practicing English if it was a public place. The only option really available was to hang out in the rice paddies. I thought I had handled the situation appropriately until a neighbor joked in the Torajan language: "Are you boys trying to marry her?" Yikes. I suggested they bring some female friends next time they decide to knock on my door.
- Ooh recent update: I'm sitting in an internet cafe in a little cubbie where you sit on the floor. A boy just peered over into my cubbie. He then came back a few minutes later and stepped into my cubbie to take a look at my computer screen. No words. Hello cultural understanding
26 September 2010
In my opinion, the biggest cultural difference between America and Indonesia is the idea of boundaries. Indonesian society has a very communal nature and therefore there isn't really a concept of boundaries or personal space. Being from America--the land of individualism--this takes some getting used to. Now since this is my third time living in Indonesia, I'm largely used to it. However, there are a few occasions when I'm still caught off guard. These examples all come from a good place but...