Culture Shock or Just an Old Git?
At the age of twenty-six, I had little idea where I was heading in life. I had clung onto the rebellious, don’t care attitude that I had nurtured in my teens. Everything was a chore. Nothing seemed to make any sense. People got up early and complained about it. People drove to work (well, intermittently drove and stopped, if attempting to get on the northbound M6 from the M5 at 7:20 in the morning, on a weekday) and complained about it. People left work late; scrounged together enough cash to afford, in my opinion, a well deserved pint or two and complained about it. Discussions around the pub table started to sound reminiscent of Monty Python’s four Yorkshiremen, only using present tense, “oh, YOU’re lucky!”
Arriving in Jakarta Soekarno–Hatta airport was a culture shock “This ain’t Kansas, Toto!” That day onwards has been a long and slow learning curve on how the people raised in a completely different country, with a totally different history, and a very different attitude get by. After the initial shock, I slowly came to terms with the fact that ‘that’s how it is’. Don’t fight it. Don’t swim against the current – go with the flow.
I only intended on staying in Indonesia for 12 months. “Maybe South America… India sounds amazing” would be my cliché response when pressed as to my plans after my first contract. Things changed and I am now in my fourth year, at the company I originally came to work for. I still enjoy my job and two years ago I met a woman I have fallen deeply in love with. We have been married for 18 months now, and have the cutest, most adorable, intelligent (I am biased, I am her dad) 8 month old daughter. So why, now, am I grumbling at every minor inconvenience that used to just be part of Indonesian life?
In the mall I have to take a ticket to multiple desks to buy a shirt. Why? In the ‘convenience’ store (the word being used in the loosest possible term) there are seven shop assistants standing around, one till open with the cashier methodically examining every item before slowly swiping it through the scanner and carefully placing it into individual bags. Meanwhile, I’m stuck at the back of a queue for twenty minutes. Why? Trust me, I could go on. I find myself getting rather frustrated. Is this part of culture shock? Has the honeymoon period finished? Have I been here so long that Indonesia has become home? Or maybe, I just woke up after turning thirty, married with children and have overnight turned into a grumpy old man. Any suggestions as to the reason or similar experiences would be much appreciated.
I haven’t been back to the UK since I arrived over three years ago. I’m planning a trip back this year with my family and I am apprehensive about what to expect. Have I slowly over my time here painted a very obscure, distorted picture of England? Who knows? Either way, I only plan to visit for a few weeks and regardless of the minor annoyances here in Indonesia, I will return. I have made a home, a family, and a career here and despite my pet hates, I am very happy.
© James Dixon, Grumpy Old Git, Jakarta