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The Latest Trend: Date a Bule?

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Some members of white society in Indonesia get so upset with the use of the term 'bule', which can be translated one of two ways - as a blatant insult or a plain harmless naïve term. Let's just use the word 'foreigner' in this short article about mixed marriages. The 'f' word also carries more general meanings; it embraces all types of non-native Indonesians: Caucasian, African, Chinese and other races.

When you ask normal, well-educated people in a healthy state of mind why they decide to have a foreigner as their spouse, they probably would give you an acceptable answer. But who needs other people's approval or acceptance anyway? What are the acceptable terms? That people marry their partners based on mutual love despite the difference of their skin colour? It's sweet, true, absolutely the smart and the right answer - though it sounds corny. But isn't marriage all about give and take?

Trying not to be skeptical, let's take a look at a few cases. This article is not going to discuss a lot of flourishing cases to bore you. There are a lot of unique and interesting backgrounds behind these international partnerships. As there aren't a wide variety of single white females in this city, most cases encountered are local females with their foreign partners.

Dating or marrying foreigners has become a trend for some young relatively low-paid or unemployed native women. They put seeking 'professional whiteys' on their agenda when they go clubbing or simply hang out in the malls. The curiosity to peek into what they think is the full-of-Glam glittery life of expatriate society has driven them to act a little tacky sometimes. As mentioned in previous articles about this subject, love could come second. But that's not a big deal. Most of the guys who fall for these chicks' tricks are middle aged or even older men who still end up winning anyway. The ladies get the new status (Mrs. Something; the last name of their husband's which they often can't even pronounce) and flashy gold Amex cards in their wallets, while the lucky gentlemen get spouses half their age. Good deal.

Chat rooms in the cyber world have also attracted these love seekers. A local guy who frequented an English medium chat site confided to me about a heart-breaking scene he stumbled into. He apparently found his sweetheart on the Internet. After the would-be couple finally decided to meet up at a café somewhere, she told him that she was shocked to find out that she'd been cyber dating an Indonesian.

"You communicate in English really well. I had no idea that you were Indonesian. I'm sorry, but I'm only interested in having a relationship with a white guy," explained the twenty-something year old Javanese lady.

What is it with these people? Why has suddenly dating a foreigner becomes such a trendy thing to do? Is it money, sex, romance or status? Don't get so pumped up and defensive, it is a fact that sometimes love hasn't got anything to do with it.

Money is definitely one reason. I remember Siti's case. She was a servant for one of my white colleagues. She had herself prepped up - wearing six-inch high heel shoes that Saturday evening.

"I am going to Blok M, Madam," she said when I asked her where she was going. "I'm tired of being a penniless servant. I've watched my master bringing home girls from that area before. And those girls are not any prettier than I am. I want to find a white boyfriend too Ma'am. Maybe then I can live abroad and get out of poverty."

Is it sex? No. Believe me. From a trustworthy source, it is proven that cross-cultural sex is not always better than the domestic version. But please children, don't do this experiment at home.

Is it romance then? It is common knowledge that a lot of Indonesian males are not very fond of showing off their romantic side. It could be because of the high level of ego in their bloodlines or the influence of the 'bapak-ism' syndrome they inherited from their ancestors, nobody knows for sure. Some of them admit that to say 'I love you' to their loyal wives of ten years shows a sign of weakness, a flaw in their manhood. While for many male foreigners saying the three magic words is a very easy thing to do, especially when it widens their chances to get laid that night.

A lot of highly educated Indonesians, often graduated from universities abroad, confessed that their reasons to get involved romantically with their foreign partners are based on similarities in perception of life. Open minded-ness and the willingness to accept women's equal rights in the relationship are just a few of the intellectual explanations.

For whatever reasons, inter-racial marriages are mushrooming in this city. It doesn't really matter how it started or what backgrounds people have in choosing their life partners - as long as it happens for the good. Nothing is better than when you go to international cities like Amsterdam or Sydney, for instance; and see how the streets are packed with different coloured people walking hand in hand, without anybody making a fuss about it (except Pauline Hanson perhaps).

A friend of mine Jenny, whose dating list evolves around the male expatriate community in this city, gave me her straight-to-the-point answer. "It's all about individual taste. Black hair, dark eyes and coloured skin just don't turn me on." There you go. She thinks it's all about appearance.

But like a wise man said, beauty is only skin deep. When the once pale, taut surface goes wrinkled, the wavy sun-kissed blond hair falls out (what a nightmare) and the once gorgeous He-man look alike guy starts uncontrollable drooling and wearing diapers, what's left behind? His personality - something that could be covered by any skin colour - white, brown, yellow or black.

First published in The Jakarta Post on Sunday, November 5, 2000.

Housing and schooling information for expats in Indonesia expatriate website for Indonesia Indonesian language translation of article

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