On Cards

ist1_4836993_you_ve_got_mail_2A friend and I were talking about how much we spent just for the Christmas cards and the postal charges. She finally had to make some smart move by sending one card for everybody in the office back in Holland, because there are too many people on her list, and that means she could have easily spent fortune. Another friend from Indonesia sent numbers of cards in one package to his dad who will have to send them to designated addresses, and even that, due to the weight of the document he already spent a lot.

I have sent Christmas cards to my friends back in Indonesia. I know it will take at least 2 weeks, sometimes longer, or just like last year, one didn’t arrive at all, for the cards to arrive so I have sent them early this month. But then something struck me when I was queuing at the post office.

ist1_6937097-gold-gift-with-ribbon-xlI never get any cards from my friends in Indonesia. Not Christmas, not birthday, not Ied. The only person who sent me postcard was my grandmother – she received a postcard from me and immediately sent one back – and my parents, of couse, who make sure my birthday card arrive on time so they send it with DHL. The rest always say that I always go back to Indonesia anyway, so they’d wait me until I get there and they could give me the cards, or the presents. Never mind if it’s months late. I do get cards from friends who live elsewhere, but none from Indonesia.

Back in high school, I spent weeks of trying to find the perfect Ied and Christmas cards (Gunung Agung and Gramedia were the best choice back then, before Sogo and its Hallmark counters appeared) for everybody, to write the inspirational messages inside the cards, and to send them on time. Ied was easier because my parents send thousands of cards and I just needed to put my pile of cards on theirs and they would have someone to do it. But for other occasions I had to go to the post office myself. I still remember the particular post office I regularly visited back in Indonesia, the high ceiling that caused every words echoed back to our ears, the smell of cheap glue they put on big tables because the stamps aren’t sticky, the dirty tables and jars of glue I dared not to touch because it looked like pot of viruses but I had to since I always forgot to bring my U-hu, the sad looking officers who were neither rude or friendly, just bored, and the huge bill that forced me to dig deeper for the next month.

It was fun. Especially when I received the cards back from those friends. I collected them all and put them somewhere safe.

ist1_5879233-young-woman-waiting-for-his-callThen the era of mobile phone comes and I see it before my very eyes the culture is shifted. Everyone in Indonesia suddenly stops sending cards to each other. SMS and MMS are much cheaper, faster, and easier. We don’t need to spend time to find the cards and could go to spa instead. We don’t need to tip our office boy Rp 5,000 after sending him to the post office because we are too posh to do it ourselves. We don’t need to queue at the smelly dingy post office and we could sit down at the nice restaurant for our precious lunch break. And we don’t need to spend Rp 3,000 for postal charge to a friend who lives around the corner. SMS and MMS only cost less than Rp 5,000 and despite there is no guarantee our friend will receive the text, thanks to the brilliant service of our mobile providers, they are faster than the post.

It is in our blood. We always want something easy. If we can pay more to get our driving license, why bother stopping the corruption process and paying the normal price but having to take the test? If we can always get something to eat outside or by our maid whose monthly salary equals to one pair of shoes, why bother learning to cook? If we can live in the hotel during Ramadhan whilst our maid is in kampung (village), why bother risking our smooth hands to cleaning the house? If we can sit down in our living room, sending SMS and MMS, with the words copied from the text we receive before, and pretend we care, why bother jumping out of the air conditioned car to join the queue in the post office?

ist1_7097863-writingBut when I went to Australia I quickly adopted the the ‘Western’ culture back of sending cards, and the habit doesn’t stop when I was back in Jakarta. I must admit I did the SMS and MMS for Christmas and Ied for friends but birthday is always a special ocassion and I try to make sure I send the cards to those who celebrate their special days. And after moving to UK, I still think that it is important to show that I care even though I am 12 thousand kilometer away from them, so I keep sending postcards and birthday cards and gifts.

I forget that we are generation of SMS and MMS. Unless we are the important enough in the company – with the obligation to send cards to colleagues, partners, and clients (I have seen my dad spending the whole Sunday just to sign Ied and Christmas cards, he has a list of cards he received the year before and makes sure he sends the cards back, and another list of people he has to send cards to), SMS and MMS are considered ‘enough’. We will receive the actual cards if we are important enough to our clients or vendors. My drawer in the office was usually full of Ied and Christmas cards from my suppliers and contractors. But not from my friends and peers. Just SMS and MMS.

ist1_7054570-classic-santa-holding-a-signBut isn’t it sad, having spent money and time to ensure our bosses, partners and clients to receive the cards, but forget that those will be around as long as we are the boss of the company, as long as we matter to them? If we change jobs, if we move, if we die, we will be off their list quicker than yesterday’s newspaper. Friends, on the other hand, whom we treat by SMS and MMS, will be there for us, whether we are still having the shiny thick name cards or not.

Last year and this year I made sure my close friends to receive their birthday cards and gifts from UK. I don’t see the reason why I have to wait until I am back in Indonesia if their big day is now (can we have the same reason, like holding Christmas card until March when we are back in our home country and give them to our friends in person. Three months late is nothing, right?).

This month, which isn’t particularly sunny, with rains and cold wind, I have to push myself to queue at the post office for at least 45 minutes before getting served (yeah, no office boy, no driver, no courier). But I think it is worthy. Because my friends are important to me. Because they matter.

And, as usual, I am holding my breath if I would get SMS, email, and e-cards in return.










  1. Probably you are right, things changed lately and we don’t use card anymore but the thing is what ever the medium we use the most important thing is the heart, I personally think that SMS/MMS is acceptable especially if you mean it and you put your heart into it.

    On the particular post service here in Indonesia, well I have to admit that I’m a bit sceptical about their service, there is no guarantee that the package will arrive safe and sound, and what if the package is something precious and it got lost somewhere somehow? We will be devastated for sure. To be honest, I don’t know where is the post office here in Jakarta, and I never go there. The last time I come to post office were when I was still live in Tangerang long time ago, that was because the post office was right in front of my elementary school.

    It’s just the matter of perspective and how you see things differently with others.

    Eckys last blog post..Malaysian fatwa agency forbids Yoga for Muslims

  2. Ecky: I don’t mind SMS, MMS, or e-cards, even a message left in Facebook’s ‘wall’ is still nice. But I still think the physical cards are important to show how much we care about the recipient. It’s what is unwritten that counts, the time they spend to find the cards and the effort they make to send them is something I value. As far as I know, 99% mails and packages I send from UK to Indonesia arrive safely. And when I was back in Indonesia, 100% cards and mails I sent abroad to friends and family in Singapore, the States, Holland and Germany, arrived safely. I don’t see why you don’t trust them, especially when you never use them :).

  3. I am in the similar situation. I usually send greeting cards to my friends but they never have the courtesy to send back. So lama-lama jadi males juga, jadinya saya kirim SMS saja sekarang. I used to send cute baby clothes to my sis-in-law in Holand but she hardly sends anything back. Orang Indonesia susah, maunya take take take saja, tapi giliran waktunya giving back, perhitungan sekali.

    Why don’t you ask your friends if they prefer SMS than greeting cards, pasti jawabnya card dong, hehehe. Next year send SMS saja. Cukup kan.

    Salam kenal dari Aspen

  4. Tongue Twister says:

    Yeah, Indonesians are weird. In many countries like Australia, UK, or US, families are more important so we’d send cards to those who are really close to us. But in Indonesia, we send cards to our boss who doesn’t even know our middle name and forget to send cards to those who care.

    Just wonder, if your friends think it’s enough to show that they care by sending SMS, then why bother sending cards to them? You’re just wasting your time. Send them SMS and see if they miss your cards 😀

  5. You forget one thing the reason Indonesians generally don’t send greeting cards: money. The card itself, if you buy from Sogo or Metro, is already the same amount as some people spend for his lunch. The cost, if it’s local, probably not so expensive, but it will be much more to send it abroad.

    The second reason is the post office location. The post office is not everywhere like where you live, and it’s such a pain to get there. So it’s another transportation cost just to get there.

    The other private provider like Fedex or DHL are absolutely expensive and out of most people’s reach – they are mainly used to send important documents or packages by companies.

    Not everyone has money (like you). At least your friends care about you even though just by SMS. If you think it isn’t fair because you have gone through more effort, just stop doing it and send SMS instead. Or, do what they do, hold their card and presents until you come home (and see if they don’t comment about it).

  6. I used to send greeting cards back in high school and always had in return cos it was the deal; to exchange greeting cards LOL. After that, I was too lazy to do so. I’d rather text them or send e-cards 😀

    Devi Girsangs last blog post..Movie Marathon

  7. TongueTwister: I don’t think we are “weird”. But then again, I’m Indonesian so I’m probably bias.
    It’s just different. Why would you send cards to your close relatives when you make time to visit each other and celebrate special religiuos holidays together? I guess people send cards to their bosses etc precisely because bosses are not close families. Likewise, I don’t think it’s “weird” that some people in Australia are so anti extended family gatherings. It’s just different. :)

    Chloe: I’ve been very lucky to have post offices in handy locations in Jkt: in Taman Puring, and in Pondok Indah Mall.

    Anita, this posting brings back memory of what lebaran was like in junior high school! :) Cards are so very nice. I love them. Sending them, getting them. I hate those bulk SMS greetings and having to reply to each and everyone with a template :D. But yeah, in this age where the banks are encouraging us to use paper-less e-records, I guess less paper cards would be a good thing for the environmentalists. :)

    katadias last blog post..Swamped

  8. Sweetmama: a bril idea, will apply it next year. Everybody gets precious SMS from me :)

    Tongue Twister: I bother sending them cards because I think it’s a nice gesture, nicer than just SMS. I always like to receive cards rather than SMS, and I suppose my friends also like to receive actual cards rather than just SMS. Maybe Christmas or Ied is ok. But birthday is different altogether.

    Chloe: you’re absolutely right. Sending thing from Indonesia is more expensive than sending thing from abroad to Indonesia – even with the conversion rate. This August I sent an invitation card from Indonesia to UK that cost me about Rp 30,000 (GBP 1.50) and if I send the same thing from UK to Indonesia it will cost half. And yeah, sadly post offices are not everywhere.

    Devi: I guess most Indonesians are like that.

    Katadia: there’s a different from paper-less bank statement and greeting cards. I might settle for SMS on Christmas and Ied. But birthday? If my parents just text me and don’t send me cards on my birthday, I’d be mad! 😀

  9. I think e-card is fine, especially if you took the picture yourself or created it yourself. But hey… I’m a cheap-o. I sent ecards for free from sites such as Hallmark [dot] com and enjoyed receiving any.

    Dinys last blog post..Drama of the Year (Vacation Gone Wild) – Part 1

  10. Diny: Aren’t we all excited every time we see our mailbox is filled with greeting cards? Those square little things warm our hearts instantly. I do (free) hallmark e-card too, by the way :)

  11. I’m one of those who doesn’t send cards anymore. I think I cover it all though. For families in Jakarta, we visit and gather so no need for cards. For relatives outside Jakarta, I give them a call, so better communication than cards. For my gang bang or network, halal bihalal gatherings. We meet, instead of sending cards. Which, I think, is more meaningful, seeing for myself how, especially, my aunts and uncles, are doing. I don’t mind getting only emails, too. That already shows that I’m in their mind.

    Exception for birthdays, for those who are in my inner circle, I give them birthday presents WITH a card. Note: GIVE, not SEND.

    On top of that, with email, SMS and phone calls, don’t you think we save the forests? Isn’t it a bit ironic, when people from the west promote “save energy, save the planet, save the forest etc”, yet there are tons of papers wasted during Christmas for the card-sending tradition, which, I sense, is still a big deal in the west? And where do those paper come from? Where are the trees chopped from? Isn’t Borneo forests one of those that Indonesians and other environment activists around the world trying to save?

    I guess I’m just a practical gal.

    parvitas last blog post..Aging: When do we just accept it? (I’m 40, single and living in Jakarta part 10)

  12. Parvita: if you’re the kind of human race who concerns about the green planet, there’s an option for recycled papers, which are heavily promoted here. Those which are produced by charity also a big hit.

    To GIVE a birthday present is only practical if you live in the same city, right? I don’t have such luxury anymore so I have to SEND it, which is quite costly as well – but never mind, as long as my friends can receive their gift on their birthdays.

  13. Hey Anita, nothing against you, but a bit of a criticizm for those who think Indonesians are wierd because they don’t send cards. We meet instead (which is another waste of fuel but hey, it’s worth it if they are your good relatives and good friends, right?).

    Unfortunately, the recycled paper thingy are pricy here and not too easy to find, same for those that are sponsored by UN. Add up queuing and gasoline plus the mail system here just doesn’t work out like in the west, e-card and sms is the safest and quickest, efficient way of showing that we care. With the sms and e-mail, those who don’t have the luxury of time and space communicate more during the festives. It’s just the matter of different ways of doing things.

    ps: you know how costly it is for average Indonesians to send cards abroad, right? I mean, if one uses the economic logic, e-cards versus conventional card…for me, it’s the thought that counts :)

    parvitas last blog post..Aging: When do we just accept it? (I’m 40, single and living in Jakarta part 10)

  14. Parvita: You and I are talking about the same thing from different angle. My Dutch friend and I both are expats and we are faced by the possibility of spending a fortune just to keep in touch with our friends and relatives at our home country. But those who are left do not think it is necessary to do the same thing, or do not take extra effort to keep in touch with us, and think it is perfectly normal for us to spend more for them than the vice versa.

    To be perfectly honest the cost of cards and postal charge here also kill me, but I do it anyway because I love my friends. And (unfortunately), beside yearly Christmas & Ied, there’s always someone’s birthday or someone’s baby was just born. And on top of the card and gift, I still have to buy the packaging and pay for the postal charge, which now doesn’t only measure the cost by weight but also by size. So the bigger the more expensive. And to talk about wasting money for fuel, you know how expensive the petrol here ( GBP 0.90/litre), and the parking fee is expensive too (GBP 2.50/2 hours). So to save some penny, I either have to walk or to take the bus. It takes extra will to do it, especially when it was pouring rain or windy cold.

    When I was in Indonesia, even though it was expensive for me, I still did send cards and gifts to my friends abroad or outside Jakarta. Those are the friends whom I cannot see in person. Those who were around me would have gotten their gift when I saw them, of course. Just like when you said you give, not send. If I was too busy I thankfully could ask my company driver or courier to help me posting the cards or packages (with extra tip). If it’s valuable I usually went to RPX (national courier for DHL) or DHL in Kuningan. However, when I now live in a different place from my friends, those who receive the cards and gifts do not do the same thing with millions of reasons which I think are lame as there’s a will, there’s a way. And I get SMS and e-cards, as a return of cards and gifts 😛

  15. I’m an american living in the netherlands for almost 2 years now and it’s like everyone back home has forgotten about me. I make my own cards and send them to friends back home and it isnt cheap..last year I spent 45 euros shipping off cards and small packages..wat did I get back? e-cards that were sent as a mass e-mail or a card here and there. I no longer feel in the loop with things. It’s hard enough living in another country but when you dont even have your friends from back home to help you along,it makes everything seem that much harder. I paid attention this year though and the amount of cards I sent off was less than half…alot of them can’t handle me living away..it’s to much work to keep a long distance friendship going I was told.
    So I do understand where you are coming from.

  16. Sonya: I am like you now, the amount of cards I send this year is less than last year. And I know for sure next year will be much less. It’s a bit difficult though since it’s not my nature, but what I have done is not cost efficient and not appreciated so why bother?

  17. i love to receive birthday cards specially if they are custom built birthday cards `.~

  18. Hey there wonderful publish , Appreciate your giving this information

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