Bali is undoubtedly a melting pot of cultures and has a steady flow of visitors from around the world. Many are attracted to this island’s exoticism, hospitality, culture and natural beauty. Some come for long stays and others come for short stays. There are even repeat visitors who call the island their 2nd home, together with those just refuse to leave.

    If you’ve been on this island for quite a while you’ll eventually find yourself inadvertently assimilating a bit of the local ways – not only in the culture and the chatter, but also your taste for local cuisine. Here are just some of the quirks that you might have caught on after being in Bali for ‘too long’.


    You answer the door in a sarong

    Climate change is real, especially if you come to Bali from somewhere with freezing temperatures. This affects your dress code, and you will opt for how the Balinese village locals casually dress up at home: in a sarong or with a light cloth around the waist, maybe tied with a sash, and probably nothing from waist up (if you’re a guy).

    Over time, living in Bali for too long, you will find such casual fashion truly acceptable, logical even, and adopt it as your daily wear.


    You know proper Balinese attire

    After being in Bali for a considerable amount of time, you'll most likely be invited to a formal Balinese social event or attend a temple ceremony. This requires you to dress up in proper Balinese attire – with the complete bits and pieces.

    These include the typical male headdress called an udeng or destar, folded and tied from a square piece of cloth, together with a finer waistcloth with another silken outer wrap called saput, together with a safari-style shirt. For the ladies, it’s a tighter waistcloth and a kebaya.

    photo by shankar s. (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Have rice and sambal with almost everything you eat

    When it comes to flavours, the Balinese, in general, are known for their affinity of hot chillies and spices. Their wide variety of sambal sauces and mixtures go for almost every type of dish – even for plain, sliced fruits! It takes time for foreign bellies to get accustomed to the level of spiciness in authentic cuisine. 

    By the time you’ve realised you’ve been in Bali for too long, you’ll most likely already have passed the ‘test’, acquired new tastes and even have sambal with every meal you have! Only then will you understand the pleasant excitement of perspiring heavily while relishing in a serving of babi guling (roast pork). Rice will also be a staple food you ‘can’t live without’.


    Know more of Bali’s highlights than most locals do

    • History

    Your first time in Bali might still be fresh in memory, most likely of famous and touristy areas like Kuta or the lush central highland regions like Ubud. Then at some point, you headed off exploring elsewhere to see more what Bali has to offer. As a surfer, you might've tried out all of the major surf spots of the Bukit Peninsula.

    As a hiking enthusiast, you’ve climbed the island’s tallest peaks. As a culture lover, you’ve seen all the far-flung temples, from coastline to heartland. It’s well known that the Balinese, in general, tend to stick to their own home villages, and during religious pilgrimages only visit certain temples relating to their family lineage.


    You're used to being a ‘millionaire’ but still always carry small change

    If you’ve been in Bali for quite a long time, most likely you’re already used to being a ‘millionaire’ here. The hyperinflation of the rupiah over the years in Indonesia has resulted in the smallest banknote denomination of Rp 2,000, which is worth less than $1.

    You might’ve grown up with euros or dollars, but over the time of living here, you’ll know the rough conversion estimates by heart and no longer get confused for paying ‘200,000’ for a light meal. You will also get used to carrying small change for purchases in local vendors that don’t accept credit cards or paying taxi drivers who claim they don’t have change.


    You've enjoyed mixed fruit with chilli and salt or spicy shrimp paste!

    Rujak is not your average fruit salad. The Balinese love it, though. There are different versions of rujak, a 'dry' rujak buah that has slices of common tropical fruits such as young papaya, young mango, pineapples, ambarella, starfruit, jicama and water apple – dominantly sour and barely ripe fruits. The colourful dish is served with a thick blend of shrimp paste, palm sugar, chillies, tamarind and salt.

    Then, there’s the 'wet' rujak kuah where the fruit is doused with the sauce with a considerable amount of fish stock added. Both versions can be very spicy – barely bearable for first-timers. But over time, your curiosity overpowers you and eventually, you acquire the taste for this surprisingly (and literally) ‘mouthwatering’ snack.


    You've adopted a Balinese name

    By the time you’ve been in Bali ‘too long’, you’ll most likely have made many Balinese friends and probably have become acquainted with some Balinese families. You’ll realise that the Balinese are named Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut – a cyclic naming system that is uniquely Balinese. It sees each of these 1st names given to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th child, respectively.

    If a 5th child were born, it would have ‘Wayan’ as its first name again, and so forth. Traditionally, the Balinese don’t have shared family names or surnames. If your name was ‘John Carpenter’ and you happened to be the first son in your family, your ‘adopted’ Balinese family here would call you Wayan – affectionately, ‘yan John’.


    You tolerate ‘rubber time’ or a sense of unhurriedness

    They refer to unpunctuality as jam karet or ‘rubber time’ in Indonesia. That’s also true in Bali. The idea is that time is a flexible and irregular commodity. Being late to an invitation event or a meeting is widely common, accepted, and tolerated with patience.

    After spending some considerable time in Bali, you’ll eventually grasp the idea of unhurriedness and see that life here revolves at a rather laidback pace. If you’re a high-strung business person embracing the ‘time is money’ philosophy, this can be a little frustrating. So, try to relax… this is Bali after all.


    You interact with your right hand, even though you’re a lefty

    In Bali, it's unacceptable and considered impolite to gesture with your left hand. The left hand is considered ‘unclean’ as it’s used mainly for things related to personal hygiene. The right hand is what carries out most of the interactive tasks, from shaking hands, waving, handing over or receiving gifts, to pointing and eating. That’s why lefties might become ambidextrous by the time they’ve been in Bali for quite a while.


    You're an early-morning riser – alarm clocks not required

    The breaking of dawn can be very ‘audible’ in Bali. Just before the sun rises (around 5am), the call to morning prayers for Muslims, referred to as adzan subuh, fills the air for about 3 minutes. Most mosques have loudspeakers in all directions from the muezzin. If that wasn't enough to jolt you awake, you’ve practically pushed the ‘snooze’ button' for an hour.

    Around 6am, it’s time for prerecorded Hindu puja tri sandhya chants, comprising sombre hymns by a Hindu priest and accompanied by the continuous sound of his ceremonial bell, also from loudspeakers placed at local community halls and which go on for a good 5 minutes.

    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller

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