Special: Europeans in Jakarta

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.

Independence Place

In Kuala Lumpur, we were asked for photos just once

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.

A bike from colonial times

The colonial heritage seems to play a role till today

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.

At the harbor, everyone greeted us friendly and waved us

At the harbor, everyone greeted us friendly and waved 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.

The National Museum is one of the largest in Asia

At the National Museum we hardly had any free minutes: Everyone wanted to take a photo with us

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.

National Monument

Happy faces and many smiles made our time in Jakarta memorable

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.

If you are interested in more articles about Jakarta, be sure to check out our overview page!


5 Comments on “Special: Europeans in Jakarta”

  1. We were in China last summer and had a very similar experience. Although there were a few Europeans, there are so many people there that we stood out. We lived an almost “pop star” existence (without the money) for a week, I’ve never had my photograph taken with complete strangers so many times in my life. Quite a strange week really.

    • I know that feeling from China, too, but in Jakarta it was way more intense. Anyway, it was really weird for me when I was in Shanghai (I was just 18 years old at the time) as I didn’t have experiences like this before. I can fully agree with the “pop star existence”. Very strange 😀

      • Maybe its cos I’m old and fat but i never got that feeling in Jarkarta. Beijing was incredible. I must have had 50 photos taken in the Forbidden City, muchas odd.

  2. Pingback: Looking back on week 21 | travelux

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