Modest Indonesians?

A lot of things happened since my last thread. Most of them are too taboo or too kinky to be revealed in this such public place so if you are still interested you might send me an email asking what had happened, and I might answer your questions. Perhaps you might find some answers in my Facebook account, though I can’t guarantee 100%…

Anyway, after being back in Indonesia, I have noticed a thing about Indonesians which I haven’t thought before. We are so modest we always apologise about everything, even though it is absolutely unnecessary. One day Alison and I were following a guy who gave us a tour around the coffee plantation in Magelang, and even though he could speak English very well, as well as French and Italian, he still apologised for his skill. He didn’t see that most of us in the group are too lazy to learn other languages, (the French and Italian groups’ English are even worse than anyone I know), the guide who promised to speak only in English so he didn’t have to repeat himself three times, finally ended up explaining things over and over again.

Roos from Bugil’s Group, despite managed to provide a fantastic bar in our party, still apologised to me when she came up and cheeks-kissed me. Despite calculated the amount of drink we would consummate correctly, as well as managed to get everything ready on time although there was a time miscommunication between us – all was done easily whilst she was officially in holiday and taking care of two kids – she still apologised. I told her that what she had done was fabulous and we couldn’t thank her enough.

My mother is like a walking catalog. She knows places to go or things to do in most of areas in Indonesia. If you mention a certain place like Bali, or Yogya, she is able to come up with a long list, from where to eat local food, souvenirs to buy, shops to go, and of course, places to see. She developed a itinerary for me and my auntie-in-law, like six places to go in one day (yes, six! Talking about options!), all are interesting. Yet she still apologised to me and said that next time she could do better. Me, I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint where Semeru Mountain is, let alone know that there is a colossal Ramayana ballet in Prambanan Temple (which, she has arranged and booked prior to our arrival. All we had to do was turn up). She was so fantastic she could be a travel agent – yet she still apologises for her capabilities.

As Asians, we are taught and trained to be modest. We are trained to never boast what we have, or what we have had done or achieved. Showing off is frowned upon. But sometimes we forget that we are allowed to take credit of what we have done. And accepting gratitudes from people is not wrong. And most of the times when we are praised by others, they really mean it.

So there is no need to apologise!

What do you think?

PS: I’m back from hiatus, by the way. Hello, everybody…



  1. Rob Baiton says:

    Sounds interesting! 😀

  2. I have lived in Australia for around 6 years now~ I remember back when I start to work, I was ocassionally given credit or simply praised for what I have done.

    Of course, the default reaction would be trying to be modest by discounting the efforts I have put in my works by saying something like: “It’s really nothing.” or “I couldn’t have done it w/ Mr. xyz help.” To which my boss replied: “ah you’re just being modest.”
    However, I can see a slight hint of disappointment in my boss’s eyes which overtime I can understand where he’s coming from and where I was coming from.

    Nowadays: for me, the politically correct answer / response would be just a simple “Thank You.”

    Still, my boss considered me as the most polite subordinate he ever had — to which of course, I replied w/ just a simple: “Thank you”.

  3. istilahnya sih merendahkan diri sambil meninggikan mutu..

  4. I tend to be suspicious to people when they apologise profusely it’s because they’re secretly fishing for compliments LOL

  5. Anita,

    Welcome back!

    Do you mean Modest Javanese instead of Modest Indonesian? Because I recognize this also as an essence of Javanese Culture, unnecessarily excuses when you even don’t make any mistake.

    Wayang wong show @ Prambanan temple is really impressive, especially when there is a full moon.

  6. Ari Tamat says:

    Trouble with Indonesians: we apologize too much when it’s not a big deal, but we’re too proud to apologize when it really matters. Actually they both come from one thing: too much pride, and not thinking of others.

  7. Miss Lai Lai says:

    I was wondering where you have been, but of course..I bet you are enjoying yourself while you’re out here!

    As for the modest indonesian, I think I would say that is the Javanese style. In jakarta, I don’t know if people are modest..

    It all depends on their upbringing and culture I guess..=)

  8. wah bener banget nihhhhh….
    saya sering mikir gitu juga, tapi entah kenapa kok susah mau merubah diri sendiri ya. jadi nya masih sering bilang sorry, sampe orang2 bilang gak perlu sorry. hahahaha.

  9. treespotter says:

    it’s just a cultural thing. Apologies also mean different stuff over here.

  10. Yes, agree with Miss Lai Lai… it goes with how you are brought up. Like for me, my parents have been drilling to me the fact that I must always respect the elders even though they are wrong… so sometimes when I’m pissed off, I still can’t bring myself to shout at them and tell them what I think even though I wish I can!

  11. rimafauzi says:

    true..we do tend to over apologize even for nothing at all..

  12. Mulia Nurhasan says:

    oh..then, kindly apologize for asking too many apology, mba. 😀

  13. Andie Summerkiss says:

    Sometimes people apologise for all the wrong reasons. When they actually do something wrong, they wouldn’t bother apologizing. Weird world. Don’t you think?

  14. Hi Mbak, i know your blog from Toshihiko’s blog. Salam kenal :)

    Yes, I agree with you. I don’t think it was modest, I think it was an exaggeration. Such a lip service (basa basi) just to please others.

    Too much saying sorry is something makes me frowned. We have to say sorry if we make mistake not to please others moreover expecting to get compliments how polite and sweet we are :)

  15. Well .. apologize also means different things.

    Like Thiery said that behind the apologize they need a credit but they also realized that there’s nothing perfect in life.

    So, as a human, where English is not our mother language, or where the capability is not like a travel agent, the apologize is like sorry for the small mistakes.

    Yup, too much apologize in Indonesia but also easy to understand, since it is all relate to culture

  16. Being modest is not only Indonesian culture, but I think an Asian culture. Look at the Chinese, Korean, Japanese. They don’t boast themselves like, say, Americans. That’s why Americans can sell crappy stuff, but Japanese can only sell quality stuff!

    The new generation here, especially those who studied abroad, have pretty much know when to let others know your quality without sounding like an arsehole but being modest at the same time. And the younger generation, especially those who lives in Jakarta, are more open when I ask them, “So, which part of you are you proud of?” during interviews.

    parvitas last blog post..Fasting: Did God tell us to do More Harm than Benefit to our Body?

  17. Amazing site.
    Thanks, webmaster.

  18. Isn’t it also about one’s character? My french husband loves to apologize, and so do I. LOL.

    santi ds last blog post..Column ‘Anakku Berbahasa Indonesia’ on Wanita Online, and Finally Woken’s Great Blog!


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