The title of this cartoon is “Makan di Restoran Internasional”. From the pictures it is apparent that Pak and Bu Bei have an unpleasant experience. What happened? Can you guess? Fill in the bubbles in Indonesian.
Menurut Anda, apa yang terjadi? Tulislah dialog antara Bu bei dan Pak Bei yang sedang makan di rumah makan internasional.
Why are Pak Bei and Bu Bei eating in an international restaurant? They probably want to be seen as being cosmopolitan, experienced and sophisticated. These are all characteristics that enhance a person’s gengsi. Why do they not ask the waiter for assistance? Because they would loose face by admitting that they don’t speak English. Loosing face is the worst thing that can happen to someone’s gengsi.
The word gengsi is translated in Echols-Shadily’s dictionary as “prestige”. This definition does not sufficiently convey the complex underlying cultural concept of gengsi, and the Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia (KBBI) uses four words to roughly circumscribe what gengsi entails: “kehormatan dan pengaruh; harga diri; martabat”.
The first three words are “respect”, “influence”, and “self-esteem” while the latter is roughly equivalent with “social status”. Gengsi is indeed all about prestige, respect, esteem, social status, stature, rank, and pride.
Things that are “bergengsi”: wearing dark sunglasses, speaking English, wearing a Rolex, driving a nice car, wearing designer clothes, holding lavish birthday parties, rejecting help from others, refusing to go by becak, shop at markets or discounter shops, and so on.
It does not matter (unless someone finds out!) that the Rolex is a $7.50 counterfeit made in China, and that the Armani sunglasses, and the Gucci bags are fake.
In Indonesia, houses are often cheaper than cars. In Medan, which is a big city with some of the more expensive house prices, you can get a four bedroom house for about €40,000, but even for a modest Toyota Corolla you pay more. Of course, the house will be situated on a small section of only 150m2, but nevertheless it is a solid investment into the future. Yet, many people prefer living in a small house, or renting, just to be able to buy a car. After all, while it does add (a little) to someone’s gengsi being a homeowner, but being seen leaving your little mansion on a motorbike or even taking public transport – what a shame.
You have to select a meal for a farewell party that includes children and vegetarians. In a group of 3-4 students discuss what items should be included. Make deliberate use of the phrases “Menurut saya, sebaiknya /maunya /hendaknya /seharusnya Anda; Sebaiknya Anda jangan …; Sebaiknya Anda …, etc.” You should also use “saya kira” and “saya rasa” (I think).
We all know that there are considerable cultural differences between Germans and Italians, or Australians and Americans. Don’t expect Indonesians to know that. To most Indonesians, all Westerners are alike. They all speak English and their names are John, and they are all bule.
Although the word bule can be used in a derogatory manner, it is in the vast majority of cases used without any intent to cause offence. At a website called “pacar bule” we can read:
“Kalau kamu seorang cewek mau cari teman, pacar atau suami bule, pertanyaannya adalah bule dari negara mana yang lebih baik?”
If you’re a girl, and you’re looking for a white friend, boyfriend, or husband, the first question is, a white guy from what country is better?
The author continues that Europeans are more civilised because Americans are descendants of British criminals… Well, here he probably confuses American with Australian history, but our point is that in this context the word bule is used with absolutely no negative connotations.
Outside the beaten track where the sight of foreigners are rare, it happens quite often that someone may exclaim “Look, there’s a bule!” – even when the bule can clearly hear it. Here too, it is used neutrally.
The word bule can also be used in a derogative sense. A certain Afrizal from Lampung writes at Kaskus, one of the most popular Indonesian social media sites:
“Aku benci bule dari dulu…. mulai dari kulit mereka yang albino seperti warna kulit babi sampai gaya rambut mereka…. kedengeran rasis emang …”
I’ve always hated white people… beginning from their albino skin that looks like the hide of a pig until the style of their hair… I know it may sound racist…
Well, yes, it’s not only racist, but blatantly stupid too. Clearly, the term bule is used here in a derogatory manner. Bule-bashing is in vogue in certain circles, but even outside these circles you may hear exclamations such as “dasar bule!” which approximately means “What do you expect from a foreigner!”
And, last but not least, there is BUGIL. The word by itself means ‘naked’ but it can also be an acronym consisting of the first few letters of the two words bule and gila (mad). So what is a “crazy Westerner”? It is the name of a popular Indonesian TV show! This comedy reality show hires white foreigners and make them do local things. In one episode, for instance, they dressed two young Westerners in shorts and faded t-shirts, with a shabby towel across their shoulders. They then had to act as polisi cepek (10 cents policemen) as they are mockingly called. These are young local lads who earn a few bucks by helping regulating the chaotic Jakarta traffic. The passing motorists then give them either a cigarette or 100 rupiah (the colloquial term for 100 is cepek). For Indonesians it is of course totally hilarious seeing a bunch of Westerners – representatives of the former superior ruling race – carrying out one of the lowest jobs imaginable.
You can check out one silly episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/0OpBjr1TpkI.
The word bule is semantically very closely related to the the terms haole and pākehā from the Hawaiian and Maori language respectively. Just as bule, pākehā and haole can carry a lot of negative connotations depending on the context in which they are used, but they can also be used in a more or less neutral way.
Bule can, just as Haole and Pākehā, be used in a derogatory way, totally depending on the context and the intentions of the author.
Other words in Indonesian denoting Caucasians are orang Barat (Westener), and Londo. The latter is, as bule, restricted to colloquial speech and also has no implicit negative connotation. Londo is most commonly used on the island of Java where it originally was coined. It is derived from Javanese Walanda, a loan word from Portuguese Holanda (Holland). Even though it originally denoted the Dutch, it is used as a generic term for all Westerner.
So, what is the origin of the word Bule? Interestingly, Indonesians typically don’t know. The original meaning of the word has been completely forgotten.
Words with final -é have a strong tendency to be derived from final -ai, e.g. capé (occasionally even spelled capek), which is derived from capai. As final ai, such as in sungai, satai etc. is usually rendered e (sunge, sate), the bule derived from bulai. This word is listed in Wilkinson’s Malay dictionary under the entry bulai ‘albino’. The same meaning is also given in the contemporary KBBI (Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia) where we find two entries: 1) bulai – the definition given here is ‘albino’, and 2) bule (coll), 1. = bulai, 2. white skinned person (or animal), 3. white person (especially European or American), Westerner.
Even though East Asians tend to be whiter than Europeans, they are never included in the category orang putih (white person), but they are occasionally included in the bule category as testified by the following examples:
“Tidak suka pedas?”, tanyaku pada si bule Jepang.
“You don’t like spicy [food]?” I asked the Japanese.
Bule Korea juga gabung acara.
Koreans also took part in the activities.
Buatlah sebuah karangan sepanjang 100-200 kata tentang pengalaman Anda yang berhubung- an dengan ungkapan “Malu bertanya, sesat di jalan.” Jawablah pertanyaan berikut:
A smiling face denotes that the word is a colloquialism.
|sekali, se-||occasionally, now and then|
|kan?||🙂||short for bukan: isn’t it?|
|2||serah, ter-||up to you|
|walah||🙂||an expression of surprise: wow!; oh! =ah|
|ganti, meng-||to substitute; change; replace; swap|
|aja||just = saja|
|bule||🙂||Westerner; a foreigner = orang barat; orang asing|
|tadi||just now; before; earlier; a short while ago|
|minta||ask for, request|
|bilang||🙂||to say, to tell = mengatakan|
|kok||🙂||particle expressing surprise: why? how come?|
|kasih||🙂||give = memberi|
|tolol||stupid; foolish; idiot = bodoh|