Life in 3 Different Countries

When I first arrived in Australia, I was quite surprised of how friendly people (read: strangers) could be. They would greet me on the street and said, “Hi, how are you?” even though we never met before. They would also engage in conversation when waiting at the bus stop, train station, etc. They would ask me about my country, religion, and my purpose living here as if we know each other! They would tell me about their experiences, views on terrorism, and opinions about Islam. Unfortunately, don’t expect this “fun” conversation to happen in Indonesia. People would think that you are “sok kenal” or even worst, crazy! You’d probably be ignored :D. The same thing would happen in Saudi Arabia. Well, I was approached by a Saudi guy who pretended to ask for direction (to a woman?? that’s so unusual! ask the police, you idiot!). At the end, he asked me for my phone number… sigh. I was approached by a Saudi who asked me if I wanted to work for him… GOSH! It was on the street, come on!! Go to the employment agency, would ya??

Every single house and building in Australia have a smoke detector installed in almost every room. This device issues a LOUD alarm when the smoke is detected. If no one turns off the alarm quickly once it goes off, the firemen (complete with the fire equipment) come into the building to check if everything is alright. If the alarm turns out to be a false one (i.e. the smoke is from cooking or cigarettes), the owner of the building or the tenant (if it’s an apartment) will have to pay about 200 dollars fine. As a result of this, no one here is allowed to smoke cigarettes inside all buildings. It’s a good thing for me, for I hate the smell of cigarette’s smoke. And I always dream that this system is applied in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. I can only guess that all high-rise buildings in those two countries are equipped with either smoke detectors or perhaps fire sprinklers — but not the residential houses. Even if the alarm goes off, I don’t think the people there are willing to quickly evacuate the building!! I lived in an apartment located on level 11 before. The alarm went off quite frequently and all fire cases happened were a result of false alarms (it pissed me off, especially when I was still sleeping!). I had to walk down the stairs… yeah.. 11 floors! (Because we’re not allowed to take an elevator in emergency situation). But I was quite surprised to see how all of the residents there followed the evacuation procedure by going to the emergency exit and waiting in front of the building until the firemen came. They acted very quickly — which could be helpful for the firemen in case the real fire incident happened. I remember when I was in one of Jeddah’s malls, I heard a fire alarm went off. It was quite loud! It went off for few minutes. But amazingly… NO ONE seemed to bother to evacuate the building. The visitors there acted as if they were deaf! I’m pretty sure that they had no clue that it was, in fact, a fire alarm! Hahaha.

Whenever I’m in Jakarta, I use public transportation quite frequently. If my dad’s in the country, he’d voluntarily drive me to wherever place I want to go. But if he’s not around, I’d take buses and angkot (mini bus? yeah.. similar to that). One of the things I hate about Indonesian public transport is the drivers! They drive recklessly — especially when the other bus of the same route is trying to dominate the road. Money is the first thing that comes out of their minds. The safety of passengers is the last thing… or perhaps they never thought about it??? I once fell down on the road (yes! asphalt!) when I was about to get off the bus. The driver was soooo impatience that he started to accelerate the engine before my feet could even touch the road!!! On the other occasion, I saw an elderly woman screamed to the driver and asked him to stop the bus and wait until she got off the bus… it was very bad!!! How could he do that to her?? In Australia, all drivers would patiently wait elderly people until they get off the bus. When these people want to get on the bus, the drivers would not accelerate the engine until they sit down! I was quite amazed when I saw it at the first time. Seriously.

Saudi Arabia’s roads are one of the most dangerous roads in the world. People drive recklessly there; a bit MORE reckless than the Indonesian bus drivers. Driving rules and regulations are frequently ignored. Due to wide and long roads, people drive in excessive speed. Cars could unexpectedly overtake another vehicle and turn to the other direction. Rich youngsters could race with other cars on busy roads. Accidents occur every single day in the Kingdom. My father and I had been in an accident of 4 cars in a row. My relatives from Jakarta had their bus turned upside down and the bus was eventually positioned between two bridges in the middle of a desert (and they fell under the bridge!!!!). A friend of us passed away because his car struck a “crazy” recently-gave-birth camel. Another friend of us had his car rolled over for 3 or 4 times. It’s indeed scary. Taking a taxi sometimes almost turns me into a heart attack! My mom and I fought with a taxi drive once because he REFUSED to slow down (he screamed at us too! so rude!!!!!). That’s how the Saudi Arabian road looks like. How about Indonesia (particularly Jakarta)? Well, first of all, driving speed is not so much an issue, because most of the time you’ll be stuck in traffic jams. Second of all, most roads in Jakarta are too narrow, so there are not so much space to have a car race (except those bloody buses). One thing that disgusts me about Jakarta’s roads is motorcycles! There are so many of them; according to Top Speed, 64.1% of the vehicles are motorcycles. They occupy the roads, crossing lanes, and even pedestrian’s footpaths. They share the same lanes with other cars, trucks, bajaj, and buses. When they’re traffic jams, riders would operate their motorcycles between lanes and rows of vehicles until they reach the traffic light/crossing lane. They have no patience at all!! It was quite a surprising thing to see that in Brisbane, motorcyclists would “queue” behind other cars. They would not try to pass other cars between lanes. They would NOT stop on the crossing lane. Most people here obey the driving rules and regulations. Vehicles would not enter a roundabout when other vehicles are already on the roundabout. They would stop and remain stationary when pedestrians are on or about to enter the crossing lane. They would also give way and sometimes stop on the edge of the road when there is an ambulance or fire truck. Most drivers here are quite patient too. Drivers in Saudi Arabia (and Egypt) are the most impatience people I’ve known. You’d hear noisy car horns from so many vehicles! Sometimes, when there are traffic congestions (o yeah, we do have it there… but only a few), people would create these noisy horns over and over again although they stupidly know that there’s no way the vehicles in front of them would move!!!

Brisbane can be quite scary at night. Shops close quite early; at 6 pm! Streets would suddenly become so quiet. As I mentioned before, there are rape incidents occur every month in this city. In addition, people on the street can turn very wild! I was thrown cubes of ice and cans of beer for separate occasions. I was yelled at so many times. That’s why, for me… walking alone at night in Brisbane is not very safe. In Jeddah, the centre of our life occurs at night. Visitors begin to fill into shops and malls after Maghrib prayer (i.e. after the sun sets). Restaurants won’t be busy until around 10 pm (dinner time for Saudi people). Shops won’t be closed until 12 am. Guests who visit other people’s houses won’t return to their own until 1 am or even 2 am. On the month of Ramadhan, shops close at 4 am — that means, most people are still awake until the sun rises. They sleep after Fajr Prayer and wake up before Dzuhur Prayer (around 12 pm).

Jakarta is not a safe place — thieves are everywhere! I don’t know if I’m being paranoid or not, but I have to closely watch my belonging every time I go out of the house; and especially when I’m on the bus. An unexpected person might slip his hand into other people’s bags and take their wallets. Unattended bags would disappear in a matter of seconds. Thieves try so many different ways to steal and snatch other people’s belongings. In Jeddah, street crime is believed to be increasing, as there are so many illegal immigrants living there. During busy months (Ramadhan and Hajj), people must take an extra care of their belongings (even when they are in Masjidil Haram) as thieves and robbers take advantage of these Holy months. My dad lost his wallet right after he finished stoning the Jamarat. He lost so many important IDs, cards, and documents, including driver license. But he never put his money in the wallet hahaha… a big loss for the thief!! ๐Ÿ˜› . In Brisbane, I never heard any theft incident occurs on the street. On every bus, there’s a container located on the front so that you can put your bags. People sometimes leave their bags there although they sit on the back of the bus (which is quite far to look after the bags!!). But no one would steal those. At least, I’ve never heard people complaining about it :). If you do that in Jakarta, I’m 100% sure that your bag will quickly be stolen!!!

Read Part 2 here.

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18 Responses

  • I have to say money is indeed what’s on the mind of Indonesia’s public transport driver. You can’t blame them since they made roughly $100-$200 each months.

    Compare that to the Aussie’s driver (even if you have adjusted the number with living cost, inflation, etc), the numbers in Indonesia is still a lot smaller.

  • ehm….I dream too, in the future Indonesia will become a very nice place. But, you’re lucky, you’ve been in three different countries at least giving us a glimpse how great to live in solidarity and peace. Have a wonderful day!

  • Sous

    Thanks for an intersting post. You cracked me up when u wrote about the part that shops close at six in Brisbane. It’s the same in Sweden and the street life just dies within minutes. It’s really boring and I prefer how it is in Lebanon where many shops are open after six.

  • Very interesting story, thanks for sharing your perspectives. Very funny too ๐Ÿ˜€

    Regarding the bus drivers in Indonesia, the biggest fault is the system.

    The near-monopolistic public transport system refuses to pay monthly salary to the drivers – instead, the drivers must fulfill a quota.
    If they managed to obtain more that their quota, then they can keep it. If less, then they’ll have to pay the quota anyway with their own money.

    No wonder they’re so enraged every day.

    So far I’m only able to complain once – a Blue Bird bus once overtook me from the LEFT and forced me to hit the lane divider in the middle.
    It was only 6 am for God’s sake, and somebody’s already drunk ?! Very scary stuff.

    I managed to stop before that happened, noted the bus’ registration number, then I called Blue Bird’s customer service.
    The rep I talked to was shaken to hear my story, and he promised that the driver will be punished.

    And oh btw; I got the Blue Bird driver’s behaviour everyday from motorcyclists – they’re overtaking from left and right but positioning themselves to be hit by me.
    Crazy… I had to brake everytime somebody is doing that, or I’ll hit them and then people will kill me for hitting a motorcyclist.
    Jakarta’s streets is a lawless place.

    One day a friend told me how a father taught his child to drive a bike – he said that people WILL give way to him, so feel free to drive as recklessly as possible.

    I felt like killing this stupid father ๐Ÿ˜€ anyhow, that explains everything….

  • Haha looks like OZ & NZ are very much alike ๐Ÿ™‚
    Oh yay i finally dont have to put in all the name & URL etc when i comment on ur blog ๐Ÿ˜€

    Oh btw did u receive my email reply? Gw reply langsung dr hotmail, nyampe gk ya?

  • Eh iya gua iseng ke wikipedia yg ttg Bajaj itu. Lucu jg trnyata bhs inggrisnya “auto rickshaw”, hihi.

  • katanya Jakarta, monorailnya udh mo kelar… lalu mo dibikin MRT… beneran nggak..
    Jakarta, perlu trandportasi yg nyaman deh…
    lalu Jakarta tingkat stress emang tinggi mangkanya supir jadi gahar gitu dan pada nggak ramah lalu kurang tau diri juga,…

  • amellie

    sufehmi: I didn’t know that bus drivers in Indo are not paid!!! That’s really sad!!

    Dessy: I received your email.. thanks. I just don’t have time to reply it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    ctrlz: Pas gw ke jkt juli 2006, kerangka MRTnya udah keliatan.. kalo gak salah waktu itu gw liat di Rasuna Said ato di mana gitu.. lupa.

  • arif

    Mel, yang di Rasuna itu green light proyek monorail. ni proyek sempat mandek karena Dubai Islamic Bank yang meminjamkan dana US$500 juta belum dapat kepastian jaminan utang dari pemerintah pusat.

    “I was approached by a Saudi who asked me if I wanted to work for himโ€ฆ

    Pas itu, kamu lagi bawa stof-map ya? jangan-jangan kamu dikira lagi cari kerja, Mel. XD

  • My Friend told the same story about Saudi Arabia Speed ^_*

    *Possibly Related Articles?
    What plugin do you use? I try to Install Related Post by wasabi and never succeeded, can you help me? thanks

  • @ctrlz – another problem with the public transport system in Jakarta is this :

    1. build a new, good, mass transport system
    2. get glorious applause and kudos from everyone
    3. silently increase price, until it no longer affordable by average joes; or go straight to 4
    4. in the mean time, service deteriorates
    5. goto 1 ๐Ÿ˜€

    It happened with the toll roads, bus way, patas (cePAT terbatAS – not anymore).

    I kinda expect the same with MRT, but I may be bitter, he he.

  • Ich

    about the conversations with strangers: it actually happens in Indonesia, but only with bule… western tourists are always so impressed by the nice and friendly conversations with local people they just met on the street or in the bus/angkot… and they usually compare it to their own countries in the west, where such thing is said to be impossible…
    It’s interesting, because western tourists seem to generalize from “how western tourists are treated by Indonesians” to “that’s how Indonesians treat themselves, too”…
    viele Grรƒยผรƒลธe… ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Mel, salam kenal yah. I always find it amazing to read stories about somebody’s perspective on living in another country. Great story, Mel!

  • Hello Amellie,
    I remember when I was a kid, old people–read teachers, especially, also many passages I read–said that Indonesia is a country that is full of friendly people. That’s why foreigners love to come to Indonesia.
    However, in the reality, it is not really like that, is it? Or perhaps because people are getting more selfish and busier and that they think greeting “strangers” is no longer necessary to do. Emang kurang kerjaan? LOL. But, I think this is really sad, isn’t it?

  • hallo, nice blog…. proficiat.

  • amellie

    Ich: I just told my Australian friend about how friendly Aussies here… e.g. say hello on the street, etc. He told me it never happened to him! Maybe because I’m a foreigner, they treat me nicely. Same like in indo.. The people there “only” nice to the Westerners.. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Diny: Thanks… salam kenal juga ๐Ÿ™‚

    Apollo Harazaki: Thanks for visiting my blog ๐Ÿ™‚

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