10 Signs You’ve Been In Bali Too Long

Acquired Quirks of a Foreigner Living in Bali

Bali, undoubtedly a melting pot of cultures, has a steady flow of visitors from around the world, who are attracted to this island’s exoticism, hospitality, culture and natural beauty. Some come for long stays and others come for short stays. There are even repeat visitors who call it their second home, and others who feel they don’t want to leave.

If you’ve been on this island for quite a while you’ll eventually find yourself inadvertently assimilating a bit of the local ways – not only in the culture and the chatter, but also your taste for local cuisine. Here are just some of the quirks that you might have caught on after being in Bali for ‘too long’.

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    1. You answer the door in a sarong…

    Climate change is real… especially if you come to Bali from a country with a colder climate. This affects your dress code, and you will opt for how the Balinese village locals casually dress up at home: a sarong or light cloth around the waist, maybe tied with a sash, and probably nothing the waist up (if you’re a guy). Over time, living in Bali for too long, you will find such casual fashion truly acceptable, logical even, and adopt it as your home attire.

    2. You know proper Balinese attire

    Most likely, you’ve also been invited to a formal Balinese social event or attended a temple ceremony, which requires you to dress up in proper Balinese attire – with the complete bits and pieces. These include the typical male headdress called an ‘udeng’ or ‘destar’, folded and tied from a square piece of cloth, and a finer waist cloth with another silken outer wrap called ‘saput’, together with a safari style shirt. For the ladies, it’s a tighter waist cloth and a kebaya.

    3. Have rice and sambal with almost everything you eat

    The Balinese in general are known for their affinity of hot chillies and spices, hence their wide variety of sambal sauces and mixtures that go for almost every type of dish – even for plain and innocent fruits! (see no.6). While debatable, the notorious ‘Bali belly’ is believed to owe much to the spiciness levels of the local cuisine, which takes time for foreign bellies to get accustomed to. Nevertheless, by the time you’ve been in Bali for too long, you might have already passed the test, acquired new tastes and preference to local dishes, and even have sambal with every meal you have! Only then will you understand the pleasant excitement of perspiring heavily while relishing in a dish of ‘nasi babi guling’ or ‘rujak’. Rice? It’s the staple food you can’t live without.

    4. Know more of Bali’s highlights than the Balinese themselves

    The first time you visited the island might still be fresh in your memory… initially drawn to the most famous or most touristy areas, be it the beach resort areas of Kuta, Nusa Dua, Sanur and Ubud. Then at some point you headed off exploring elsewhere to see more what Bali has to offer, to the remote and less explored regions. As a surfer, you’ve tried out all of the major surf spots of the Bukit Peninsula. As a hiking enthusiast, you’ve climbed the tallest peaks. And as a culture lover, you’ve seen all the far-flung temples, from coastline to heartland. It is well known that the Balinese in general tend to stick to their own home villages, and during religious pilgrimages only visit certain temples related to their family lineage.

    5. Used to being a ‘millionaire’, but always carrying small change

    If you’ve been in Bali for too long, then most likely you’re already used to being a ‘millionaire’ here. The hyperinflation of the Rupiah over the years in Indonesia has resulted in the smallest banknote denomination of IDR 1,000 (under 10 cents). You might have grown up with Euros or dollars, but over the time of living here, you will know the rough conversion estimates by heart and no longer get confused for paying ‘two hundred thousand’ for a light dinner meal. You will also get used to carrying small change for purchases in local vendors who don’t accept credit cards, or paying for taxi fares who claim they don’t have change.

    6. Rediscovered ‘fruit salad’ – as slices of mixed fruit with chilli and salt or spicy shrimp paste!

    Yes, it’s called ‘rujak’, and the Balinese love it. It’s not your average ‘fruit salad’ though. There are different versions of ‘rujak’, a dry ‘rujak buah’ comprising slices of common tropical fruits such as young papaya, young mango, pineapples, ambarella, starfruit, jicama and water apple – dominantly sour and barely ripe fruits – and served with a thick blend of shrimp paste, palm sugar, chillies, tamarind and salt. And there’s the drenched version called ‘rujak kuah’ with the sauce including a considerable amount of fish stock. All are dangerously spicy and barely bearable by first-timers. But over time, your curiosity overpowers you and eventually you acquire the taste for this surprisingly (and literally) ‘mouth-watering’ snack.

    7. Adopted a Balinese name, of some sort…

    By the time you’ve been in Bali ‘too long’, you’ll most likely have made many Balinese friends and even have become acquainted with some Balinese families. You’ll realise that the Balinese are named Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut, a cyclic naming system that is uniquely Balinese, which sees each of these first names given to the first, second, third and fourth child respectively. If a fifth child were born, it would have ‘Wayan’ as its first name again and so forth. Traditionally, the Balinese don’t have shared family names or surnames. Your acquaintance with your friend and his extensive family might land you the same fate, mostly as a sign of acceptance. If you’re name was John Carpenter and you happened to be the first son in your family, your ‘adopted’ Balinese family here would call you Wayan, or affectionately ‘yan John’. Consider yourself lucky.

    8. Tolerate ‘rubber time’: a sense of unhurriedness over punctuality

    They call it ‘jam karet’ aka ‘rubber clock’ – or simply put, the flexibility of time. It’s not only a Bali thing, but an Indonesian thing in general. The idea is that time is a flexible and irregular commodity. Being late to an invitation event or a meeting is widely common, and in turn widely accepted and tolerated with much patience. By the time you’ve been ‘too long’ in Bali, you will eventually grasp the idea of unhurriedness and see that life here revolves at a slow and laidback pace. If in recent history you were a high strung business person with a ‘time is money’ philosophy, this might be a little frustrating. Relax… this is Bali after all…

    9. Always interacting with your right hand, even though you’re a lefty

    In Bali, it is unacceptable to interact with others with your left hand. The left hand is considered ‘unclean’ as it used mainly for personal hygienic purposes. The right hand is what carries out most of the tasks, from shaking hands, waving, handing over or receiving gifts, to pointing and eating. Therefore, lefties might become ambidextrous by the time they’ve been here for quite a while.

    10. Early morning riser, without a need for an alarm clock!

    Dawn breaks are very audible in Bali. Just before the sun rises, at around 05:00 the call to morning prayers for Muslims, referred to as ‘adzan subuh’, fill the air for well under three minutes. Most mosques have loudspeakers in all directions from the muezzin. If that didn’t serve you as a good morning wake up call, or an alarm clock substitute, consider you’ve pushed the ‘snooze’ button, for an hour. At around 06:00 it’s turn for the pre-recorded Hindu ‘puja tri sandhya’ chants, comprising a deep and sombre hymns by a Hindu priest accompanied by the continuous sound of his ceremonial bell, also from loudspeakers placed at local community halls, and which go on for a good five minutes. Good morning, Bali!

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