The “Indonesianisation” of Bali

Soapbox | Written By, NOW! BALI |

Welcome to Bali. I really hope you have a great stay and enjoy some good interactions with the local people who are very charming and welcoming. But when you are speaking to them, especially for the first time, don’t assume they are Balinese. Better ask them where they are from first. Indonesia comprises some 13,000 islands of  which  you probably have heard of the largest Sumatera, and the most populous Java, and maybe Sulawesi and Kalimantan, but there for most people (not just you!) the list stops. But Bali, with its meagre native population of just 4 milllion, is a tiny part of the huge archipelago of Indonesia, while probably being the best known around the world. 

Welcome to Bali. I really hope you have a great stay and enjoy some good interactions with the local people who are very charming and welcoming. But when you are speaking to them, especially for the first time, don’t assume they are Balinese. Better ask them where they are from first. Indonesia comprises some 13,000 islands of  which  you probably have heard of the largest Sumatera, and the most populous Java, and maybe Sulawesi and Kalimantan, but there for most people (not just you!) the list stops. But Bali, with its meagre native population of just 4 milllion, is a tiny part of the huge archipelago of Indonesia, while probably being the best known around the world. 

Now up to just a few short years ago, most people were born, lived and died within the confines of their local village, much as life in most developed countries was lived in centuries past.  But with the Indonesian economy developing and the lure of the city increasing, people started to move to where the money was, and suddenly the whole process of urbanisation began. 

To begin with Bali wasn’t really on the radar, it was all Jakarta, but as the tourism trade made its dramatic increase, and jobs started becoming available – and attractive – the migration began, and continues to this day, not only for employees, but also entrepreneurs, developers, and the real estate industry.

Now we have a new phenomenon, the wealthy business people (and quite a few government officials…) from Jakarta and other big cities, building villas in Bali for weekends, holidays and retirement. So the dilution of the Balinese proportion of their own island population continues. 

Of course this is neither against the law, nor necessarily a bad thing. Texans can move to New York, and Romans to Venice. The Scots have not only headed to London for better opportunities for centuries, but have spread all over the world. The introduction of new blood, ambitious people with abilities and skills is always good for a country or region, as long as they adapt to their adopted home and respect the traditions and cultures they have come to join. 

This seems to have happened in Bali up to about ten years ago, but the acceleration of development has really made this hard to sustain as people come and impose their way of life and their values on a system that has worked so well and protected itself by its strong traditions for a thousand years. Now the breakdown has begun and the influx of outsiders, both foreign and Indonesian, is a tide. 

Let us hope that along with their skills and hard works, they also help to preserve Bali and keep it true to its culture. It is a unique and wonderful part of Indonesia.  

Confusing?  Perhaps, but better to be aware and ready. 

 

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NOW! BALI

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