How the Life in the United States is Different from Life in Indonesia

by Joice Louhanapessy

I came from Indonesia two years ago because my husband works at the Indonesian embassy. Next year I will return home, stay two or three years, and then move on to a different country.

I find the people in the United States to be very independent. They will say "Hi, how you doing?," and I just answer, "Fine, thank you," or sometimes only, "Fine." But other times, people in the neighborhood will say "Hi!" and then hurry off to their next place to be.

In my country people are close with their neighbors. We go to each others' homes all the time without calling first (unless we want to make sure that a specific friend or relative is there to meet us). Although we are more informal than people from the United States when we visit, in the office you still have to make an appointment first.

I like my country because it is so beautiful. I like Indonesians because they are helpful, humble, and they still care for their parents when they get old.

Photo of Joice and her friends in traditional Indonesian dressOne thing about the United States I like is that children here are encouraged to talk. My son's teacher is always telling him to say what he believes. In my country, children have to be quiet, listen to their parents, and follow what they say (not all families do this, but more so than in the United States).

The special thing I brought with me from home is my traditional Indonesian costume. There are many different costumes in Indonesia representing different regions of the country. While I am here, we have many parties at the Embassy and other places where I wear my traditional clothing. We wear our traditional costumes to show people we meet from other countries what our culture is like, people will ask us questions about our clothes and we use this as an opening to tell them about life and culture in Indonesia.

Coming to the United States has given me a greater understanding and pride for my own country. When I lived there, I didn't think much about what it meant to be Indonesian. Now I think to myself, "My country is not so bad," because I have something to compare it to.

My country has changed a lot since I was a child. When I was young, our toys were made from orange juice cans. But now the children play with Legos and read good children's books. At school I learned languages, math, biology. Now the children can do sports, too, like swimming and karate.

Life has changed even more since the time my parents were young. When they were young, Indonesia was a Dutch colony. Marriages were arranged. A girl could not go out at night with a boy. Now life has become more modern in the cities, but it is still traditional in the villages.

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Last Updated By Gail Matthews-DeNatale: 10/08/96