Fun Useless Indonesian Facts to Surprise Your Friends With, When You’re an Indonesian Student Studying Abroad

by: Fida Amalia Fathimah

Many of Indonesian international students already know and take pride of these statistics: of how many islands we have, how many ethnic groups we have, not to mention all the ethnic languages (which will surprise anyone who asks, “So what language should I learn if I want to go/live in remote parts of Indonesia?”. “Well, it depends on where you want to go! We have 500 ethnic languages! I don’t even know what they are!”).

Photo Credit: timothylima.com
Photo Credit: timothylima.com

Outside of those important facts, we actually have so many things that we’ve taken for granted that will surprise your friends from other countries, such as (disclaimer: not all of the facts in this list are useless facts, I just use it to make a fun title):

  1. Our Socially Progressive National Language

Bahasa Indonesia, our beloved language (yes, I know how ironic it is that I write this in English), has things that set it apart from all other languages. Bahasa Indonesia doesn’t have tenses, which you can joke about as the reason why as a nation we have a “culture” of being late all the time. We also use repetition for plural form, which makes some words very funny (go tell your friends what the plural form of “butterfly” is in Bahasa Indonesia). But one of the weird characteristics of Indonesian language that can also be seen as socially progressive is how we don’t have gendered pronouns. Some Swedes, for example, have been trying to include gender-neutral pronoun in their official vocabularies, but so far it hasn’t really catch on to general use.

  1. How Many Hours of Sun We Get Each Day, All Year Round (And How It Gets Old After A While)

With how late the sun rises and how soon it sets on winter months, everyone gets a bit less lively and what another way to bring them down even further than to say, well, where I come from, we get 13, T-H-I-R-T-E-E-N hours of sun each day! And it doesn’t matter what time of the year, we still get that much sun! Because it’s always summer in Indonesia!

Though maybe some of us would prefer not that much sun, because too much of a good thing, you know?

  1. How Humid It Is and How It Affects Your Daily Life

The downside of living in a tropical climate is the humidity that usually reaches 70-90% of humidity on average which makes the temperature of 27˚C feels like 36˚C. Maybe it’s an exaggeration, but still, how can anyone live and work outside with what makes your shirts cling to your back after 15 minutes of physical activity and you’ll need to take a shower immediately? It is worse when you live in a coastal area, where the air is so stuffy. I lived in Indonesia my whole life before I came to Sweden and I never understand it either.

  1. No Family Names

Somehow, this fact always blows everyone’s mind. Yes, some Indonesian ethnic groups and families do use family names, but the majority don’t. Some questions that usually pop up, and some suggestions on how to answer:

Q           : “But then how do you know that you’re related?”

A            : “I don’t know, we’ve managed so far.”

Q           : “But you could have dated your cousin!”

A            : “I avoid that problem with not dating at all, ha-ha.”

  1. That We Had a Female President Once

Granted, Megawati Soekarnoputri didn’t win an election but rather had the presidency passed on to her while she was holding the vice president position. Still, it is something! In a way, she got legislatively elected as a vice president. And we’ve come quite a long way from the legislative election, now we have direct election for head of the state and the parliament. We’re one of the largest functioning democracy in the world! Let’s try not to let anyone ruin it for us!

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