I’ve noticed that many Indonesian women, wherever they reside, still carry ‘small town mentality‘. I’ve noticed that:
Small town mentality is: family value.
It means that we are all a big happy family, that your friend is my friend. It’s very normal for an Indonesian to invite a person over to her house just after meeting her once. As a result, Indonesian women can hardly do things in a small scale. Every lunch, dinner, and gathering, will be attended by a lot of ladies. My non-Indonesian friends, especially Westerners, are normally amazed to hear my stories of luncheon with 5 to 10 ladies, and sometimes more, on almost weekly basis.
However, this also will create a bitter feeling when we decide to have a smaller, intimate gathering or meetup, and decide not to invite a certain person, who will take it so personally become very upset about it. Because for many people, being invited means they are included in the “family and friends circle” and by not being invited they think they are rejected by the society in general. Instead of asking why directly to the event creator (and might get a straight answer, i.e. I only invite those who have autistic children like mine because we are going to plan for a gala dinner, etc.), they think the worst, that the people don’t invite them to talk about them behind their backs, or decide to stop talking to everyone altogether, or to retaliate – create an event and invite everyone but the person who fails to invite them before.
Small town mentality is: everyone knows everyone, or everyone knows everyone who knows everyone.
On one side, it’s a good thing. We could move to the corner of the earth and easily find another Indonesian woman who turns out to be a friend of our friend’s and happily welcomes us and helps us settling down in the new city or country. On the other side, we cannot escape the fact that wherever we are, people will know about us, especially the bad things! There are two ladies who live in one of the countries in Europe and have been engaged in a fight which has been dragged to Indonesia and back, and I’ve been hearing about this news from 3 different friends. I don’t know these two ladies, but I hear about them regardless!
Small town mentality: a mindset that we look out for each other.
Indonesian society is famous for their generosity. When an incident happens to an Indonesian, we normally would move quickly to help as much as we can. Unfortunately it also means that we think we deserve to know what’s going on in everybody’s lives and anybody’s business is also our business.
This normally starts from a meet-up between ladies, and the conversation soon turns into other ladies who are not present. Soon the conversation will be carried forward by others who think that the rest of the world needs to know, and tell it to others, who will then add some spices and so on until the person of interest hears about it and – yes, guess what – goes mad, because it’s not true, or somewhat true but it’s not what she means, or partly true. Anyway, all hell breaks loose and everyone now is mad at each other.
Small town mentality is: reluctance to adapt.
I think the closer people to their home, the bigger is their resistance to adapt. I’m talking about food, which would be the hardest thing to compromise, for many Indonesians anyway. Back in UK, I noticed that because Asian spices are either limited or expensive, most of us have no choice but to compromise. Like substituting our favourite brands of spices or sauces with those which are available in the country. Or opting out eating chilli with every food available, for example. Last month when I had dinner with my friends back in Scotland in a Turkish restaurant, I noticed that none of us asked for chili, something that is very unusual for Indonesians! Either because we understand how to appreciate the food as it is, or because we have learned that not all food needs chili. But in Perth, Australia, where I live now, I hear that some still prefer to buy “Blue Band” margarine rather than getting the nice, real butter which is easily available everywhere. We also prefer to have Indonesian food on every single gathering rather than exploring food from different countries, that we will go all the way to buy the food that tastes like the original back home, that we will get others to send or bring the food over from Indonesia, even though it cost us an arm and a leg.
I’ve discussed this… phenomenon… with several other friends, and some wonder if those who carry small town mentality are indeed from small towns in Indonesia, and even though now they live abroad, they still have the mindset and the attitude. But I disagree. We don’t have to come from a small town to have a small town attitude. I’ve got friends who are not from Jakarta or other big cities in Indonesia and they are the wisest girls I’ve ever met. And I’ve met people who allegedly were born and bread in Jakarta and despite have been living abroad for years, they hardly change.
I wonder though if other societies have the same issues like us Indonesians?