Some moments on the road are really strange. Our time in Jakarta was a little weird from the beginning. Why? Because Europeans in Jakarta seem to be something really special. It is not like there wouldn’t be European businessmen in the city, but there are only few tourists. As we are also very young, everyone seemed to be really curious about who we are and what we do.
When we decided to fly over to Jakarta, we didn’t think about any special treatment we may get in Indonesia. When we’ve been to Kuala Lumpur, we didn’t have the feeling that the Malaysian people would treat us like something special. Okay, it was weird that we were asked to take photos with some local kids as if we would be celebrities, but apart from that, everything was kind of normal.
Not so in Jakarta, where everyone had an eye on us. Why? Because we were not only European tourists, but also very young. Most people must have thought: Who are these guys and what are they doing here?
Colonial heritage is not gone yet
What was a little in sad in my opinion is the fact that we were treated like “gods” to some degree. Everyone greeted us, many even bowed or lifted the hat for us. As we later learned, that is a matter of colonial heritage. Neither the city of Jakarta nor Indonesia are independent for a long time.
Yet, the country suffers from a huge diversity and a big contrast between rich and poor. Due to that, it seems that many people have kept the feeling that Europeans are superior. Even though this is not true it all, the wealth of tourists that come to Jakarta from Europe and stay at luxury hotels may have even strengthened that feeling.
Big differences in rich and poor areas
That is illustrated by the fact that especially the poor people tend to treat Europeans like they are superior. When we roamed around in the harbor area (we didn’t see any tourists there, so it seemed like we were doing something that is off the usual track), everyone was extremely friendly, waved and greeted us. In the beginning, it was tough for us as we didn’t know if anyone wanted to sell something, but after some time, we learned that everyone was just happy to see us.
Weird enough that we arrived at a “Harbor Club” just minutes later. Nobody cared about us there. Same situation in the big mall we visited and in the two hotels we stayed at, the Mandarin Oriental Jakarta and the Hermitage Jakarta.
Friendly kids and many photos
Yet, it may not only be the colonial heritage that plays a role in the weird (weird in a positive sense) treatment that Europeans get in Jakarta. Also, it is something like fascination. When we visited the National Museum, several school classes were present as well. After a few minutes, the first girl asked us with a big smile if she could take a photo with us. We agreed for sure.
A mistake? Maybe, because we pretty much spend an hour taking photos with all the kids in the National Museum. Everyone asked us, even with broken English and with fear. The fascination for young European tourists was extremely strange in the beginning, but we got used to it after some time in the city.
Happy faces and friendly people
When we had a conversation about the situation back home, we agreed that in the end, we don’t have to feel bad about visiting Jakarta as “rich” Europeans. I had the feeling that we were able to make many people smile, for whatever reason.
Also, it was really nice to see all the school children that giggled and laughed a lot after they took photos with us. All in all, everyone in Jakarta seemed to be happy about seeing us. For us, that made the stay in the at times overwhelming city really unique.