“I really fell in love with Bali the first time I came here”, said one American lady I know, and she has been here a long time now. What’s surprising perhaps is that she doesn’t speak Balinese, nor Indonesian, and isn’t really up to speed on Balinese customs, rituals, beliefs, ceremonies and well, really everything truly Balinese!
You hear this all the time here, “I Love Bali” echoes around the bars or yoga studios. “I love the Balinese people” is the recurring murmur in fashionable, socialite soirees and cocktail parties. But these tax émigrés and dot.com millionaires, and their modern counterparts the digital nomads who can ‘work from anywhere, for anyone, at any time’ don’t actually know anything about Bali or the Balinese people! They know vegan restaurants in Canggu, coffee shops in Petitenget, they hang out with Balinese who know New York better than Denpasar and they think that ‘Nyepi, the Balinese Day of Silence, is “charming”.
So what is it that they love, really? It’s the way of life that they live in Bail. The freedom to walk their pooches on the beach, the liberty to drive their classic vespa with no helmet on, the great escape from the tax (including leaving every 60 days), and yes the freedom of choice to choose organic foods and vegetarian diets.
But as wonderful as it sounds – and it is wonderful – this is not ‘loving Bail’, and to be honest isn’t what we really want from people who come to live on the island. We want people to understand the history, the culture and the religion. To honestly respect their new home’s traditions. To try their hardest to protect it from excessive Western influence and consumerism, and to be an active and willing participant of real life on the island.
If you are someone who says “I Love Bali”, please learn more about the one you love and please dedicate just a little more of your time to making sure Bali is cared for. Because that’s what we do for our loved ones.
Love and peace always.
Alistair G. Speirs, OBE