Let’s talk about some of the differences in Indonesia.

The bathroom:

The Indonesians say “wet is clean” when it comes to bathrooms. So they will literally spray down the bathroom with water. Bathrooms are what you would call open. That means that the shower just sprays onto the floor (thus making the whole floor wet).

There are two different kinds of toilets here: western and squat.

In my house, we have a western toilet, but where I’ve been for the past week, we’ve had a squat toilet. Not a bad thing, just takes some getting used to.

There are two different kinds of showers: western (again) and bucket.

Let me extrapolate. In every Indonesian bathroom, they don’t have sinks. They have a tall and narrow tub of water. There is always a scoop next to it. You use the scoop to pour water on your hands when you wash them. When bathing, you use the scoop to pour water over your head. It actually is a very efficient way of showering. You use exactly the amount of water that you need. (At my house, however, we have a western shower).

The last thing: toilet paper is not a thing. There is often a hose by the toilet, and people will use that to clean themselves. Remember? Wet is clean.

In my house, we have a western shower, toilet, and toilet paper. I can use most of the above when I’m not in my house.

People shower twice a day: once in the morning, once in the afternoon. So I’ll be showering before school and after school.

I get to wear a uniform! I’m actually really happy about this because it means that I don’t have to worry about what I wear to school. Since we shower twice a day, we change clothes twice a day. This has made me go through my clothes a lot faster than I anticipated.

Call to prayer:
Call to prayer is different than what I’m used to. I previously have only heard call to prayer in Turkey. Here, I’m not sure if they’re singing in Indonesian or Arabic, but they don’t have the same style of singing as in Turkey. And a lot more people go to the mosque than I feel did in Turkey.

Ah yes. When I think about mosquitoes, I always remember something my dad said to me a long time ago. He said, “Everything lives in paradise.” Indonesia is a tropical place, and somewhat paradisical.. I’ve seen ants, large wasps, and mosquitoes. I’m pretty sure there are more than that and I’m sure I’ll find out. There are SO MANY MOSQUITOES, though. And I am a bule, meaning I’m a white (American) foreigner. I stick out like a sore thumb amongst people, and I’m absolutely a rare and delectable treat for the mosquitoes.

That’s a little unfortunate for me. I probably look sick or something because I have all these red dots all over my body. But not to fear! I just got my hands on mosquito repellent.

The food:
I haven’t been given names for all the food I’ve consumed, but we commonly eat rice (nasi) for every meal. As in 3 times a day. I don’t mind. I’ve eaten a boiled egg in sweet sauce, chicken or beef in some sort of sauce, stir fries, fish, etc. Dessert is mostly fruit of some sorts, such as watermelon (semangka), snake fruit (salak), mangosteen (manggis), passionfruit (markisa), rambutan, longan (kelengkeng), and many more. Some coconut water with ice is absolutely amazing.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all pretty similar. It takes some getting used to (seeing as I’m used to too-sugary cereals for breakfast).

This may seem like a somewhat strange section, but I’ve noticed some weird things about cat tails. They are either mid length (as opposed to what I would call full length in the States) or they are full length and really bushy. I know, it’s kind of random.

As in motorbikes. There. Are. So. Many.


Haha. I thought that Peruvian traffic was bad, but the traffic here rivals it. It is unorganized. In the US if we had traffic like this, there would be so many crashes. But Indonesians have incredible reflexes (or something else), so they are good defensive drivers. Sepedas weave in and out of the lines of cars, cars cut one another off, and to get across the street, pedestrians hold out their hand and just walk across.

To manage the mess that traffic is, there are police or self proclaimed traffic directors. Police have whistles, while only some traffic directors do, but both will stand in the line of traffic and hold up their hand. The police gesture in the direction that the traffic is supposed to go in. The directors will help a car get across a busy intersection. All they get for their work is maybe a coin or two.

To get across Jakarta the other day, it took two hours just because of the traffic.

Stop signs/lights:
I think I’ve seen two stop signs, and they were outside a railroad crossing. I was appalled, honestly. That’s why there are the traffic directors, I’ve decided.

I see stop lights at some intersections and, although they are present, they aren’t always heeded.


Being this close to the equator (or that’s what I think the reason is), the light stays the same all year. It gets dark at 6 and gets light 5:30/6.


This one is probably the most oppressive and most present on this list. There is no way to escape the Indonesian heat! It is commonly 32-28° Celsius (that ranges from 89-100°+ Fahrenheit, my American friends). That’s not that bad, except for the fact that it’s ridiculously humid. The heat is the reason Indonesians shower and change clothes twice a day. It doesn’t take very long for the clothes to get sweaty and stink.

It depends on the location, but there will often be air conditioners. Their level of effectiveness varies depending on if it’s a closed room or other factors.

Respect for elders:

In the U.S., we somewhat respect our elders, but it is nothing compared to here. You always salim (kiss their hand and touch it to your head) when you greet people older than you. I’ve had a difficult time remembering to do that. And then you salim them when you greet them and when you are saying goodbye.

Saying goodbye:

When one says goodbye, they say goodbye to everyone present. So if you are in a group of older people you salim each one of them.


There are some stations in Bahasa Indonesia, but there are also a lot of shows/stations in English. That really surprises me. We only have a couple Spanish stations at home, and definitely none in Bahasa Indonesia.

Although Indonesia is different in many different ways, it’s not bad. The AFS motto is, “It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just different.” I believe that that fully applies here.

Hope you enjoyed.


6 thoughts on “Differences

    • mike Reed says:

      Thanks for the pictures. It seems to put things in prespective. What an adventure. I love your Indonesian clothes. Did they have them made for you? I just wondered, because you are quite a bit taller than everyone that is around you, so the clothes don’t look like hand me downs clothes, or borrowed clothes from your host sister? Are you sleeping in a regular western bed, or a hammock?


  1. Deanna says:

    It is fun to read about the differences, Ruth. How is every day life? How is school? What about these parties we see pictures of on Facebook? Feel free to post more than once a week if you like 🙂


  2. Alison Snyder says:

    I just saw this! The bathrooms are weird. That always seems to be the most difficult thing when one goes to a foreign country. Do they sanitize them? And please eat endless amounts of rambutans for me!


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