Bules like pembantus?

Latest update (9 Oct): Treespotter had a bout of insomnia and has written a well-argued and balanced, if lengthy, piece on his taon all the blog discussions going on about bules and pembantus here.

Update: Now there are four blogs discussing the subject of Expat men and Indonesian women. Thang Nguyen’s blog, Indonesia Matters, JavaJive and here (see comments). I do not know why it is so but it makes for interesting discussions, with some participants overstating the case, others getting emotional and still others attempting to demonise others with labels such as racist. One fascinating aspect of these discussions for me is why there seems to be a difference in perception between Westerners and Asians/Indonesians on the partner preferences of some Westerners.

Have you heard an Indonesian, especially an Indonesian woman, wonder why it is that bules seem to go for women with pembantu looks?

If you have you might want to check out Thang D. Nguyen’s examination of the eyes of the beholder here.

Is he being honest or is he just being racist?

51 thoughts on “Bules like pembantus?

  1. Not very comfortable with the term ‘pembantu looks’.
    Maybe we can use the term ‘exotic look’, or ‘native-indonesian look’.

    I know that some indonesians do use that term in private. But maybe we should leave it at that.
    Just because someone uses the N word in private, for example, does not mean we ought to blog it literally.

    Not all pembantu-s look like how Mr. Nguyen described, and on the same token, not all indonesian women who have caucasian partner look like that either.

    As much as I appreciate Mr Nguyen’s honesty, I don’t see any good reason to blog such ‘prejudiced’ and ‘subjective’ opinion.

    But maybe that’s just me.


  2. That Thang sure seems to think he knows a lot about the tastes of “ALL” western men.. hmmmmm.

    The thing that so many people in this part of the world often fail to grasp is western individuality that pervades western societies. Meaning that each individual has his/her OWN likes and dislikes. It is not a societal thing where likes and dislikes are common throughout an entire society. You ask 10 westerners what they like in a partner and you will get 10 very different answers. I know a 30-something metrosexual Brit guy, who loves to date middle-aged Chinese housewives. Another guy likes fat girls, another likes ultra-skinny tall girls, another likes really dark ones like Maluku or Timor with kinky/curly hair. Other guys are so ‘un-charming’ and ‘un-handsome’ that they’ll “like” any girl who likes them… and the list goes on and on.

    As for me, as a westerner but long-time resident, I’ve sort of adopted some of the similar societal tastes, and the “pembantu look” is definitely NOT attractive in my eyes. Anyway, I don’t look at girls anymore, as I’m already married — to a gorgeous, educated Chinese gal from a great family.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s very simple really: Bules are with pembantu-looking girls because they can’t get the classier, fair-skinned, well-educated Indonesian girls. Let’s face it – many of these bules are considered losers back in their hometown and when they come to a country like Indonesia, all of a sudden they’re in demand by more women than they’d ever dared to look at. These women flaunt themselves at them, they make them feel wanted and desired. Do you think these guys would start questioning the women’s intentions? No, they lap up the attention like a starved cat lapping up cream.

    Yet I bet at the back of their minds they already know the disturbing truth, i.e. they’re settling for second best. The mind is clever though – it will sooner convince itself of a convenient lie than admit to a painful truth. Hence the birth of a cultural/socio-anthropological lie that white men find dark-skinned, pembantu-looking women attractive.


  4. ‘They’? Who is this amorphous ‘they’.

    If ‘we’ were to make similar public comments about Indonesians, such as ‘short brown people have small brains, and the men have tiny …….‘, ‘we’ would find ourselves in deep opprobium.

    Certainly, Thang’s remarks are ‘honest’ ~ he says so himself ~ but they are also misguided, racist, misogynist, and deeply offensive. And if he were to make those remarks in the UK, he could be prosecuted under criminal law.

    Bule is a racist word as it refers to a group of people based on their (our) skin colour. Educated societies refrain from using such terms ~ and I’m not referring to schooling. Education at its most effective is when a society cares for its citizens, of all classes, castes and creeds, granting them the same rights and priviliges. There is no first- or second-best .

    Folk who resort to separatist language are generally not content with their lot. Fernado sounds like a very frustrated young man who would steal a child’s toy in order to get attention. Get your own life, man, and stop flaunting your inadequacies.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Fernando’s wild conclusions are true, particularly this one:

    “Let’s face it – many of these bules are considered losers back in their hometown and when they come to a country like Indonesia, all of a sudden they’re in demand…”

    Now if we follow that to its logical conclusion, he’s saying that despite the fact these guys are total “losers” in western countries they are still much better than the alternative for local girls… meaning Indonesian men. OUCH!

    If that’s how he truly feels, he’s got some serious inferiority issues about his own manhood and his own country/culture — all rather sad, really.

    Maybe Fern and Thang need to come to one of our mixed-couple gatherings and see for themselves that indeed hundreds of very successful Indonesians (fair skin, straight teeth, educated, executive ones!) and Westerners (diplomats, entrepreneurs, executives!) are happily married.

    As my wise old granddad use to say: water finds it own level with relationships as well — and that means only people in similar social classes can be compatible. So yes, if some guy’s an uneducated oil boy roughneck, he’ll gravitate toward the uneducated, bucked tooth gals — but the successful educated guy will attract and be attracted to successful educated women – and that goes for Indonesia or anywhere else on God’s planet because water indeed finds its own level.


  6. Ben: exotic or slutty?
    Riccardo: Fernando is female. Does this mean that some or many Asian women think along these lines? What do the Indonesian women have to say?


  7. Doesn’t matter what sex Fernando is, close-minded stereotyping, based on skin color, definitely demonstrates some serious inferiority problems. And it doesn’t matter what sex, race or nationality anyone is; water will find its own level. Successful, classy people will always dig each other as will the lower class people of the world.

    I’m really shocked at the ignorance and racism that is rearing its hideous head here. All of you should be ashamed. How can you take something so pure and natural like love and relationships and crassly reduce it to skin color and dental records and nationalities? That is beyond nauseating.

    I’m done with this B.S., you’ve just lost one regular reader.


  8. Riccardo and KuKuKaChu (or are you one and the same person?): Oh Phulese Boys! Demonising me as racist will not win you any arguments in this blog.
    If there is any testament to bigotry and intolerance you guys are living examples. In your world there is no possibility that Asians can have a different, unflattering view of a class of bule men. Since you are so thick and quick to get your knickers in a twist, let me emphasise: A CLASS of bule men, not ALL bule men.
    This class is very visible in Asia. They are usually made up of aging divorced miners, social misfits back home, acned geeks and other losers who would probably not get a second glance from a woman back home. And they stand out because they are white boys in a town of brown boys. This class is often downright vexatious to both Asians and Westerners by thier lack of class, taste and discretion.
    Do other races have such hoi polloi? Yes, they do but if they are Malaysians or Singaporeans, for instance, they do not stand out in a crowd like a white guy. Black guys, even if they stand out, just do not have the numbers in Jakarta to stand out as prominently as the low class bules.
    So while many bules have very beautiful and respectable Indonesian partners, it is nonetheless understandable that many Asians and Indonesians (such as Oka in Thang’s blog)– and sensitive bules I would venture — find it unsavory and disgusting, this union between looser types and slutty ayams (again for the slow witted: slutty ayams is not race specific) who show little discretion and taste in public.
    You guys are trying to defend the indefensible by distorting the discussion into one of racism. Instead of being shrill about it you should be condemning that particular class of bule that gives a bad name to other bules. I would do the same if they were Chinese or Malaysians.
    That is why I asked if any Indonesians would share their thoughts on this discussion. I would not, at any point presume to carry the White Man’s Burden and speak for the rest of humanity. I believe too much in diversity for that. So far it has been expatriates – Asian or Western, and I include myself here – mouthing off.


  9. Riccardo, Ben, and Jakartass –

    What’s my article got to do with racism? Did I discuss anything about this issue in it?

    No! All I discussed was the relative views of beauty, namely that in Asian societies vs. that in Western ones.

    If you want to read my writing on racism itself, please click on the following links to read what I have to say and what other readers think:



    What is more, I find it unfair that you called Unspun a racist when all he said was:

    “Ben: exotic or slutty?

    “Riccardo: Fernando is female. Does this mean that some or many Asian women think along these lines? What do the Indonesian women have to say?”

    What is racist about it?

    Or, are you trying to shift your own racism onto him?

    Either way, it is cheap and shows that you are not at the level to discuss issues with pundits like him.


  10. Unspun & Thang D. Nguyen,

    Just to make it perfectly clear: I didn’t call anybody a racist, so don’t put me together with those who do.

    Again, I was just not comfortable with the terms: the ‘maid-look’ or the ‘pembantu-look’.
    If that is not prejudice then what is it?

    And why go even lower by using the word ‘slutty’ ?
    You are not going to call good hardworking honest people who happen to work in domestic help profession as slutty, are you?

    I NEVER see this as a race issue. More your choices of words.
    Don’t get me wrong. I admire your work, both of you. I always do.
    And for sure you both have a lot better vocabulary up your sleeves than a pembantu-faced, dark-skinned, buck-teethed slutty indonesian such as I am.


  11. Ben,

    I appreciate your response to my comment, mate, and your kind words about my writing and that of Unspun. You are right: You did not call anyone a racist here.

    But, you didn’t have to call yourself a “a pembantu-faced, dark-skinned, buck-teethed slutty indonesian such as I am”.




  12. Thang: You need to be fair and accurate.

    Jakartass was taking exception to you so he was calling you a racist, not me.

    Ben I asked the provocative question “exotic or slutty?” but he did not call me a racist. He called you prejudiced and subjective but not racist. And thanks for the kind words Ben although we’d probably have a healthy discussion on what consitiutes slutty and what exotic.

    Riccardo and KuKuKaChu, however, were the ones who chose to wield a racist label in their arguments.

    In any following postings, can I request that for reasons of accuracy Unspun and Thang’s comments be addressed separately? We may agree on some points but just as easily disagree in others.


  13. Unspun –

    Thanks for the note.

    Lady and gentlemen –

    As Unspun suggested, if you have anything to say to me–racist or otherwise–separate it from comments you intend for Unspun; send it my way!


  14. It is possibly unfortunate that Ong decided to link to Thang’s blog, but if it affords us the opportunity to ‘unspin’ racism, then he has done us a service.

    Except, Ong, I am beginning to suspect that you have fallen into the trap of condemning ALL white male expats. Of course we stick out in a crowd, not least because we’re taller. We don’t ask to be noticed, let alone be pigeon-holed as upper or lower class. Being tarred with the same brush as the class you describe as being usually … aging divorced miners, social misfits back home, acned geeks and other losers is not on, even if that did describe me/us.

    They may be losers in your terms, but who are you to judge? How do you pick and choose?

    More to the point, what do you do to ameliorate the condition of the losers closer to home? Or do you only respect those “sensitive bules” ~ a racist term ~ who run and manage pesantran, drug addiction rehab centres, HIV/AIDS programmes, education projects for street children etc. etc.? Or are you happy that Indonesia is still dependent to a degree on handouts and altruistic bules?

    Thang (the ill-informed columnist) replies to a comment: “I was defending western men’s right to liking dark-skinned Indonesian women with hard-on-the-eyes features.

    No you weren’t, Thang. In your blog and subsequent comments you keep referring to skin-colour and this reinforces the notion that you have racist tendencies. Otherwise you would restrict yourself to saying that you don’t find Indonesian women particularly attractive and would then set out your own sexual preferences. And no-one would give a damn.

    Instead, you created a forum for other woodchucks in the woodpile to come creeping out and boost your visitor hits.

    It could be argued that we all have prejudices against races. Mine is residual in that I don’t particularly like Germans ~ my grandfather and father used to tell me that they fought in two major wars “for the likes of me“. That is, they fought for a world rid of exclusivity based on race. A forlorn hope, but, hey, they were prepared to die for the right to live in harmony with the great variety of peoples the world over.

    That you should consider repeating the racist tendencies of your friend is pomposity of the first degree. (The all-encompassing) we can live with that without bothering with you. However, that you should, by inference, malign me and my Indonesian family without ever having met me, or the hundreds of other non-Indonesians who have, post colonial era, contributed so much to this country, is totally unacceptable and demands a response.

    To repeat the Anonymous comment in your blog: Thang, you are very wrong and disrespectful.


  15. Jakartass –

    It is ridiculous that you accuse me of being a racist just because I kept referring to skin colors in my comments. Well, in case you have not noticed by now, the theme of my article was beauty, of which one’s skin color is key feature.

    Furthermore, only because one refers to skin colors, it does not – by any means – makes one a racist. Is it reasonable, to use your implausible assumption or logic, to call you a sexist because your pen-name has the word “ass” in it?

    Or, consider this: You happen to write an article in which you discuss the various needs of people with disabilities and you use the word “blind” to refer to a blind person. Does that make you a racist? Of course not!

    Having received a lot of comments like yours, I find that they share one character: they are written by the faint-hearted and thin-skinned (no racism perceived here, I hope) who argue not with reason and logic, but rather by feeling indignant. That is no way to wage a debate – let alone winning it – mate!

    And how could you tell me and readers in this thread that you and other bule like you who who are married to Indonesians (I’ll refrain myself from asking about their skin colors or facial and body features)have contributed so much to Indonesia?

    Give me some concrete examples! And please don’t tell me that being assigned to Indonesia with a fat salary and other lucrative benefits is your contribution to this nation!

    As for expats with good qualifications, say a Ph.D. in economics, who work for international agencies here, I am not sure if I would call their works a contribution to Indonesia. Have you read “The Economic Hitman” yet? If you have not, I do urge you to do so because it tells how foreign consultants and economists suck the big bucks out of Indonesia in the name of help. Oh, remember how the IMF screwed Indonesia so hard and how Indonesia had to take a bitter pill from it after the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98?

    And for many white-trash “losers” that have been mentioned here, Indonesia is a heaven for them because, back home in the US or Europe, they would not have a job back home – never mind a decent apartment, a car, and a maid (I’ll refrain from asking them if they have ever desired their maids here). It is worth mentioning here that some of these “losers” cannot write or speak English properly, but they can get away with it and make a living as English teachers just because they are “native speakers”. It is no wonder, then, that their Indonesian students still cannot write or speak English after taking lessons from them.

    Here is an example from an Indonesian named Baby:

    “Mr.Thang, each woman even maid they have they own pretty and dont said that maid is meaning ugly. Please think twice before you put this article.

    “Don’t forget God create all the human, dont jugde ‘maid; dark skin; buck teeth; etc.’ is meaning bad; maybe they are more good, better than you to apreciate another human being. (Who knows !!!!)

    “So no mistake with ‘white bule’ and ‘dark Indonesian’… because it is good combination..for human.”

    I hope you can see the grammatical and punctuation errors Baby made in her comment. If you can’t or don’t, let me know, and I will be more than happy to point them out to you.



  16. Jakartass: First, thanks for keeping your disagreement rational. It is difficult to get rationality in this topic which often digresses into emotional outbursts.

    Perhaps I had not made myself very clear. The point I was trying to make is that many Indonesians and Asians have this perception that many bule men go for the slutty, cheap looking ones. That perception is a fact. The reality may be different.

    I think we should ask why they harbor such a perception. My explanation was that, asked or not, white guys stand out in Asia. Not anybody’s fault but if you’re the minority you stick out. Just as I would stick out if, say, I was in Sweden.

    Sticking out invites scrutiny. It so happens that the loud and boorish often attract the most attention. It also so happens that the loud and the boorish often frequent pubs of ill repute or salubrious nature. They are very visible. Correct me if I am wrong but the patrons of, say, Jaya Club, 30 and others do fall into the class of miners, losers etc that I describe.

    These are people that, if you have a daughter, you’d hope they won’t bring them back to the house and introduce as your future son in laws.

    If so happens that in Indonesia, like so much of Asia, the image of Western men are conditioned by the likes of these people. They, in short, give decent Western men (like you I hope Jakartass) a bad name that they do not deserve.

    My point is that the thinking Western man (or any man for that matter) should not get their knickers in a twist when such plain truths are pointed out to them and spend their time trying to defend the class/grouping of boorish Western man.

    On the charge of being racist, I would deny. On the charge of being judgemental, I fully agree.


  17. I’m not Indonesian, but have been following this discussion over multiple blogs with some interest. What I find disturbing is the level of class prejudice that is on display by some of the commentators here.

    Fernando – Way to go my Asian sista, completely conflating skin colour, desirability and class. How such disgusting racism and classism is expressed so casually is beyond me.

    Riccardo – Aren’t you the guy who said in your first comment how Western society is all about individuality and so on? And you’re practically soaking in class and race prejudices that doesn’t sound like Western liberalism to me.

    Can you wrap your head around the idea that some men may actually be genuinely fond of women with limited education and income, but enough wisdom, common sense and affection to make excellent companions? It’s not always about education, money, blah, blah.

    Unspun – Two consenting adults can choose to be with whomever they want to be with, and not give a flying fuck as to who finds it distasteful or who’s getting their knickers in a bunch. And if someone’s marrying someone because she’s slutty and he’s horny, more power to them. It’s not as if the ones marrying successful, educated women expect to discuss Nietzsche in bed.

    And oh, your repeated use of slutty, ayam, pembantu, etc., etc. is distasteful, and as Ben very correctly pointed out, very insulting to domestic workers and poor women in general.


  18. I have read this thread of comments with great interest. Let me say up front that I am of white caucasian extraction (or ‘bule’ in the local vernacular), have lived and worked in Indonesia for many years, and have an Indonesian partner.

    I also happen to be a trained linguist with a special interest in semantics and semiotics.

    First off, let me congratulate Mr Thang D. Nguyen on his excellent command of English and his formidable literary skills. However, these very qualities may be at the root of the misunderstandings which are plaguing this discussion. Because no matter how good a user of a language one may be, if you are not a native speaker you cannot get inside the feelings that haunt words, the attitudes and emotions they convey to native speakers. Fluent, even bilingual, users of a tongue that is not their native language may use words with great technical precision (denotation), but be unaware of the shades of feeling they convey (connotation).

    The fact is that many of the words in this thread have caused offence not because of the intention of the writer, but his (or her) excusable ignorance of their connotations. And we each react in very different ways. My friend Jakartass is upset by, and eschews the use of, the expression ‘bule’ – which for me is a perfectly acceptable word.

    Much of the discussion here is depressingly based on cheap and easy stereotypes; it causes offence and bad feeling because of the underlying attitudes it reveals. In my own writings I have one golden rule: observe and comment with admitted subjectivity. Anyone who claims to write ‘objectively’ is merely deluding himself! My guiding principle is summed up in the French saying “tout savoir, c’est tout pardonner” – to know everything is to forgive everything.


  19. Thalassa: I think you are getting things mixed up. I have never attributed slutiness to uneducated and domestic workers. If you read my posting carefully you would see that I asked the question as to whether you might have heard Indonesians, especially Indonesian women wonder why it is that bules seem to go for women with pembantu looks. Third party attribution.

    To me slutiness is democratic: you can be rich, educated and still be a slut, as can you if you are poor and uneducated. Sol while you are free to exercise your right to distaste, I think you need to get your facts right as well.

    I first used the word “slutty” as a question to Ben’s euphemisms of “exotic or native-Indonesian look”, which I thought was a bit over the top.

    Reveler: You bring up very interesting points which will take us into a whole different thread of discussion, so I will attempt to frame what I think you are trying to say in a new posting and others can comment (please see Insightful or patronizing?).

    You points about choice of words being a result of underlying feelings and candour about writing with admitted subjectivity are well taken though.


  20. Holy Cows!!!

    I can’t believe i entirely missed this! This is the most fun blog post since the miserable expat business.

    however, since i am late, and i suspect that everybody here are already a bit tired, i will reserve my say for later.

    This calls for a deep and cool headed insightful analysis. how colourful.


  21. Reveller –

    Thank you for your kind words on my command of the English language. I disagree, however, with your argument that

    “Because no matter how good a user of a language one may be, if you are not a native speaker you cannot get inside the feelings that haunt words, the attitudes and emotions they convey to native speakers. Fluent, even bilingual, users of a tongue that is not their native language may use words with great technical precision (denotation), but be unaware of the shades of feeling they convey (connotation).”

    Not for me, mate! I know the power of every word I choose and the emotional impact it has on a reader–especially someone who happens to be my opponent in a debate like this. My pen is, indeed, a double-edged knife: I use it to spread butter on a piece of bread and serve it nicely to you, or I can stab it right into your heart (or rectum, for that matter) and twist it.

    Unlike most average persons, writers like myself don’t have much space in print publications to say what we have to say clearly; we can’t afford to be wordy (who wants to be, really?). Therefore, we choose our words selectively and use them effectively. So, every word I use in my writing is there for a reason.



  22. I don’t think “bule” is a “racist word”. It’s not like “nigger” in American English at all.

    If anything, bule is an informal word.

    “Pembantu looks”? I don’t like this word. It’s just not to my taste.


  23. Thang, a very good counter-argument. Yes, you know the power and the emotional impact of your words – that’s clear from the cut and thrust of your posts! – but from your own linguistic bacground and perspective, not necessarily from that of your interlocutors. My point, to develop it further, is that a native speaker may have sensitivities that differ qualitatively from a non-native speaker, and are a product of their culture, class, education and life experiences.

    An interesting question that I’ve been pondering for quite some time is this; if someone (through adoption, parent’s emigration, change in family circumstances or whatever) becomes a national of another country in late childhood or young adulthood, what is their status as a native speaker? What do other readers of this thread think?


  24. Just for some nit-picking, Reveller, (perhaps you’re hungover from Blok M last night with all the other English teachers).

    Sentences should start with capitals, my friend: “…thrust of your posts! – but from…” Your but should be “But”.


  25. Sudogiman, I was indeed out on the Blok last night – but alas, being but a humble teacher I can’t afford the amount of booze required to induce a respectable hangover! 🙂

    Actually, the sentence is correct. but from your own linguistic bacground and perspective, not necessarily from that of your interlocutors is not a sentence as it doesn’t contain a finite verb.

    However, mea culpa for the typo in spelling background incorrectly!


  26. Dear Reveller,

    Now we can only be impressed with your courage and commitment in venturing into the Blok this month. 🙂 Only recently I hear that a certain floor in the Melawai Hotel was raided (by police not the FPI). Is nothing sacred ?

    Curious – did you study grammar and syntax in your linguistics training or on-the-job ? It can be surprising to have Indonesian friends ask you as a ‘native speaker’ to explain split infinitives, gerunds, and variations of ‘be’ without knowing what they’re talking about !.

    Yours sincerely,




  27. Hi Sudogiman,

    I learnt the basics of English grammar and syntax at school. Yes, I’m old enough to have been educated at the time when English language lessons really were English language lessons, and dealt with the nuts and bolts of our language. I recall long hours spent parsing and punctuating sentences, analyzing clauses into their respective types, and studying simple, complex and compound sentence structures. Happy days!

    Oh, and the reason the police raided the Melawai Five Plus One is that they hadn’t been paying enough sin tax. 🙂




  28. I just don’t get it.

    I saw something like this when I lived in Japan. The second thing any Japanese male would ask me, after “do you like Japan”, would be “do you like Japanese girls”.

    They had some moth like fascination with my involvement with various Japanese girls, often asking me very detailed questions about sexual practices etc.

    On the streets, especially in the more rural towns, local men would stare in an unthreatening but uncomfortable way as I walked with a local girl on my arm.

    I suggest these threads on a common topic are a variation on this theme. For the record I will tell you. Indonesian girls are great in bed. Apparently Indonesian men dislike performing cunnilingus, and are smaller in the trouser zone. They don’t treat girls in the same way they Westerners do, and to be honest most Indonesian men have the style and fashion sense of a hippopotamus. Most Indonesian girls seem to know this. I am surprised so many educated Indonesian men do not.


  29. Most of my expat friends (i’m retired now at age 40 but also bule) have middle class or even high class indonesian girlfriends. A big proportion of these girls are fair skinned and tall and gorgeous (some are chinese indonesian) and obviously high class. To be seen from the way they behave and the way they dress. An indonesian person can see from a mile if a girl is an ayam or a normal girl. Granted many of my friends who have a high class girlfriend often like to dine outside also in the Blok M or CJ’s or aformentioned Ayam locations. I don’t know how they manage to keep this secret from their girlfriends or whether their girlfriends approve (i would be surprised if they did) but fact is the relationships seem to be stable.

    I can honestly say that an average of 60% of all expats or pensioners living in Indonesia sport one or more (some have more than one) high class girlfriends a good proportion of which doesn’t have the so called pembantu looks.

    Reason that some bule like pembantu??? Well it is normal that many western guys are more attracted to or find the darker skinned girls more attractive. Also most of the girls working in the naughty nighlife areas are the eastern Javanese girls who are shorter and often darker (sometimes because they used to work on the rice fields before making their way to the honey pots of Jakarta) Many of these girls are immensely sexy and aggresively chasing the bule guys, more agressive then some of the high class girls do (however this is changing very fast now). So their looks combined with the fact that they congregate in bule visited nightlife areas and their bule hunting approach makes them an easier target for some fun, but most bule don’t consider them girlfriend material. For a real girlfriend they ask their high class indo friends to introduce them or they find one through the internet, or they find a co-worker

    My 2 cents worth, trust my my observation is pretty correct, i should know after 11 years


  30. I agree with this. Most western guys when first arriving in indonesia they get impressed and mesmerized by the sheer endless crowd of women that fancy them and want to be with them. A large part of these so called bule hunters are the pembantu type (what indonesian people see as lower class both in looks, behaviour, education and manners)But especially the expats who stay a longer time will soon find out that some of these women don´t alltogether have respectable reasons to like them. When they have been burned a few times or have gotten some bad experiences, many expats tend to shift their attention to the more invisible girls, the girls that don´t really seem to chase them or don´t really seem to be interested in them. Also the novelty of those easy to get women wears off and the guys go to look for the harder targets. Many upper class or respectable indonesian girls are not particularly interested in a bule.
    They might be interested but they have never thought of taking a bule husband, for many of them an indonesian guy would be just as fine. Dating and getting these girls (even getting to meet them) is not easy and it can take up to over a year before they finally submit to the avances of the bule (depending on his looks and charm). Many Indosian guys are really jealous when a bule manages to get such a price woman. They are in high demand and would, if they date indonesian guys only date guys from the same class or financial background. When dating bule guys financial background and class become irrelevant as the social structure and class system in Europe and the USA is not clear to Indonesians.

    Indeed more and more expats and foreigners who stay in Indonesia are dating the Hi-So classes of especially Jakarta. The society becomes more open it gets easier each day for bule to meet the higher class women and traditional and religional barriers (that used to be one of the reasons that many bule used to have limited acces to these women)are already brought down or being brought down as i´m typing this.


  31. It’s is quite hilarious, from a female perspective, reading the stupid arguments men are having about what is attractive, what is not and the level of hysteria surrounding the western male/indonesian female liason. Basically it just reaffirms my opinion that most men spend their time arguing about stupid idiotic things, that is why the world is in such a bad shape. I say get over yourselves!


  32. Suzanne,

    It’s all too true. We men do need to get over ourselves. There are an embarrassingly large number of global problems related to the male ego.

    At the same time, I do have to question the motives of the Western women who “disapprove” of Indonesia female-Western male liasons in Jakarta. I’m reminded of the writings of an African-American feminist writer who explained her sistas’ resentment of white women going out with successful African American (she said black) men: it’s about competition.


  33. Maaf Sudogiman, but nowhere in my post did I disapprove of these liasons. I merely pointed to the stupidity of the argument between the men. In fact my policy is live and let live. I have no problems with such liasons. I fact know a number of Indonesian women who are married to Indonesian men and vice versa.I myself have spent much time in indonesia and in fact in the 1990’s went out with an Indonesian actor and activist for about three years. However I would like to say my relationship was borne out of a mutual interest in the arts and my endeavours to discover more about Indonesian society. That person, though no longer my boyfriend, remains a friend today.
    As to the motives of other Western Women who disapprove of Indonesian female/western male liasons, well I cannot speak for them. But I would like to venture that it is a little bit simplistic lumping them all in the competition basket. i am sure there are a variety of reasons, not just one, to account for that attitude.
    Lastly on the topic ‘Bule’ mentioned throughout this thread- I too have use the term jokingly but tend more towards using the term orang barat. Bule means means albino, it is a term defining someone by their skin colour. It is a derogatory term and therefore discriminatory. But its not the only example of widely accepted discriminatory language in Indonesia : In Medan there is an area called Kampung Kling.. which means Kampung Black. It was so named because of the large Indian community that lived there (and to an extent still does).


  34. Suzanne: Touche.

    I think the concept of “widely accepted discriminatiry language” is an interesting one. Should the be accepted because they are “widely accepted”, should they be banished in the name of political correctness? I’d like to open up a new discussionthread on this if you don’t mind?


  35. Suzanne is right.

    It’s not a question of whether or not we should ban it, or a self-appointed clique of language police should determine whether or not we use the term “bule”.

    Some Indonesians and Westerners such as the trained linguist with an interest in Semiotics Mr. Reveller, that they do not find “Bule” to be derogatory. In fact, some say, there is still a post-colonial hangover associating Caucasian people, or “bule”, with superior qualities.

    The problem, as Ms. Suzanne points out, is Bule’s racial meaning. “Bule” means Albino, a person with a deficiency of melanin, the pigment that gives skin its colour. (Jemaah Islamiah activists might say that pigs give Bules their true colour- pink).

    So to talk about the qualities of “Orang Bule”, or “Bules in Jakarta,” strictly speaking, you’re talking about “white people”. Some opponents of PC-dom might say that’s not what people mean by Bule, but words have meanings. That’s why we have dictionaries. “Bule” means a Caucasian with white skin.

    “Bule” also exists in relation to other skin colours, various shades of brown, yellow, or hitam as Indonesians described the dark-skinned.

    While “Bule” might usually be a neutral term, what about “Inlander”, “Pri”, or “Cina”. Taken beyond this country’s borders, how about “Bule” terms for other races or ethnic groups, like Nigger, Gook, Dago, Wop, Slope, Coon or Abbo. Not quite so pleasant.

    The point is, “Bule” exists on an invisible continuum of racial terms and categories, mostly festering about in the subconscious. There was a time in Indonesia when it wasn’t so good to be an Asiatic or Pribumi. Batavia, Bandung and other Indonesian cities were once divided into quarters for each of the races. A different European colony, South Africa, did likewise, setting up that nice system called Apartheid that’s so fashionable now.

    Another point is that racial terms are about a century behind biology, science, and anthropology. Biologically, a Swede might have more in common with an Indonesian than another Indonesian, given DNA chains and the other chemical factors that make us human. (If you don’t believe me look up race on Wikipedia).

    I, for example, am a “Bule”, but can’t donate blood to other bules (unless I want to kill them), because my blood type is more common in Asia because of my Kazakh great-great-great grandparents.

    So when Lee Kuan Yew gets on his bully pulpit to preach about eugenics and the laziness of the Malay race, or industrious ness Chinese race, he’s talking about very nasty political – not biological – definitions.

    If you’re interested in joining the ranks of people who use these definitions, go ahead. They include the Adolf Hitler, his racial higene scientists and the “phrenologists”, the notorious skull-measurers of the 19th century who provide American Indians were inferior because of the shape of their skulls.

    Finally, there are those who’d complain that “Bule” is just a word. As mentioned about the words like Nigger, Gook, or Coon ? Words obviously matter to some people. Fratricide in this country was “pembersihan komunis”, civilian deaths in war are “collateral damage,”; the list goes on.

    It’s not a question of banning words. Just maybe using better ones like “Londo” (Javanese term for whities), or “Orang Barat” westerner.

    Still feel good about being “Orang Bule” ? Maybe we need some resident phrenologists.

    Bejizzlement Humpid-Humpidiam


  36. Halo !

    I like you !

    My name is the Borat. I am T.V. journalist from Kazakhstan. My hobby is disco-dancing, table tennis and incest. I am make very documentary about Indonesia.

    I am have many friend the Bule. They are very strong to make the sex in the Anus !

    But do not think Kazakhstan is not modern country. No the homosexual do not have to wear the blue hat, women can ride on the inside of bus, and we have real sit-down toilet in Astana !

    Please you are come to see my film in November. “Culural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”

    Chengkui !



  37. Hm. As I’m probably the youngest “bule” male here by a good few years, did the teaching thing for way too long, and am now doing the professional thing, I’m going to weigh in. No way in hell am I reading every word of every post above so if I repeat something that’s already been said, just sue me. It’ll be less painful.

    Many westerners in Jakarta are “immoral.” Many aren’t. Some pick up girls from the most horrid dives imaginable, some don’t. The ones who do hang out in places where the drinks are cheap enough for poor girls to enjoy while they’re waiting for the guy who is going to marry them and whisk them away to germany, england, the states or wherever, or at least let them live in his apartment instead of a tiny kosan in an urban village in a giant, filthy concrete jungle. The ones who don’t pick up girls of that sort tend to eschew the earthly delights of Blok M and Stadium, and hang out in more expensive places where the entertainment is more highbrow and they won’t be hassled by barfly girls. Either that or they stay at home. There are various degrees in between the two extremens, but you tell me who’s more visible of the two groups, and who is therefore more likely to be representative of what appears to be a fairly homogenous group.

    Thang – not too many teachers live in fancy apartments. Trust me – I was one. Most teachers outside international schools are making less than the quivalent of a McDonalds assistant manager in their home country. The ones a little up the food chain live in apartments in the expat ghettos like Rasuna and Mediterranean, not quite ‘flashy’ by western standards.

    The biggest of the “lower classes” of expat are the ones looking for a different future for themselves. Some of these are mentally derelict, some are not. Some teachers at bare-bones “language institutions” like EF are former computer systems topologists (I don’t even know what that is), former world news editors of top-three news agencies, music majors, and former U.S. coast guard colonels. Some are former spray-painters, mechanics and factory workers. Some are in Jakarta because their job was boring or the market for jobs in their field back home were too tight, some are here because they like picking up cheap hookers with or without muka pembantu. Some are here so they can launch a musical career. Some are considered unattractive by the girls back home and enjoy life here because of the availability of women they find attractive — this is almost always a bonus factor for the teachers I know, but usually not a decisive one.

    In the middle of the salary scale are consultants, engineers and miscellaneous. Often middle-aged, some young, some ancient. Some enjoy hitting blok m, some don’t. At the top end of the salary scale.. well I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.

    Jakarta is a city of extreme contrasts, and those that choose to live here reflect that to some extent. It’s difficult to have a middle-of-the-road lifestyle because it doesn’t really exist. The stay-at-home good-husband group are less visible to the rest of society, the hit-Mybar-and-take-home-a-cheap-hooker types are more visible.

    The attractions Jakarta offers are few and far between. There are few cities less polluted in the world than this one, and surely none with less natural charm. That’s right, I’m going to paint in absurdly broad strokes – just because I can – and say that as an expat either you’re here to get away from something, here because your company posted you here, here to get into something, or here for the women. The ones who are here for the women are here for “Indonesian” women. If they weren’t they’d be in Thailand or South America. That usually means dark skin, smooth features, big round eyes and an “innocent” look. That corresponds to the bare bones of the “pembantu” look pretty well. But the pembantu look usually combines those features with the slightly-worn appearance of — wait for it — exactly the type of poverty-stricken lifestyle that’s likely to drive a girl to wind up in Mybar looking for a boyfriend, husband, or cash. Those who are here for the women are more likely to want to be free to sample many of the women, and therefore less likely to get involved with someone who requires more commitment. Some guys get a dirty kick out of mistreating poverty-stricken ayam, some don’t. The ayam remain as ayam because the wage is better than sewing Nikes together in Bekasi for 70 hours a week.

    The term “muka pembantu” is common among Indonesians to describe someone who looks like a “typical maid”. Also quite common with Indonesians is the general statement “Chinese people are arrogant and they smell,” and “Westerners are immoral and rich and they like Indonesian girls with muka pembantu.” See a pattern there? Indonesia is traditionally populated by distinct ethnic groups about who generalizations can be made because of a greater degree of homogenity in their various cultures — for example Bataks enjoy arguing (look for christian “christian” names and family names like Simatupang on law offices), Betawis enjoy sitting next to the road in groups shouting at other groups of Betawis in the other prime sitting spots within earshot, Solonese tiptoe around fearing to offend anyone, and Indonesian Chinese tend to be business-savvy and stick to their tight little groups. If you’ve always been able to classify every group of people, how long is it going to take to change that attitude when another group who are mostly tall, have lighter skin hair and eyes and all seem to speak english come to town? It’s not racism if it’s true, it’s not racist to point it out and it’s not intentionally racist when they laugh at bule guys for picking the maid-faced girls.

    And that’s my go-cheng on the matter.


  38. All these comments are very insightful for my essay which talks about ..well.. everything you people have been talking about. Thanks people! Keep the great and emotional comments coming! This is definitely the most fun I’ve had while researching for an essay.


  39. I don’t care what Thang has to say as he clearly is a racist and not even an Indonesian (he’s Vietnamese, but maybe he’s forgotten that and thinks he can speak on behalf of Indonesian people), but beside that, there’s nothing wrong with being a maid.

    A maid is not a person, it’s a _job_ and a hard job at that. Imagine having to clean an entire house at least twice a day, raise the kids there and put up with crap from an abusive majikan.. AND only get paid Rp 400.000 per month if they are lucky.

    I have respect for maids in Indonesia and while I don’t have one now (and when I did I paid her more than others paid theirs and didn’t give her much work to do) I do feel upset when I see people throw around terms like “muka pembantu”, as if maids are ugly and cheap, when they aren’t. They’re just trying to make a living like you and I.

    This kind of attitude needs to change.


  40. OMG, this is like JAKCHAT with riccardo and KUKU, and God knows who else.

    Kuku you should know, you have what is it 4 wives?


  41. Stop identifying groups of people as a word denoting their race or gender. People are not objects, we are ALL individuals and you don’t know anyone until you meet them face to face and spend time getting to know them, listening to them and opening up to them. We only know very few people, let’s stop categorising, estimating, evaluating, imagining and respectfully ask if we want to know or let other people be with tolerance. There should be no words in any language for any group of people. Put yourself in another soul’s shoes because it does not feel good to be identified as an empty notion of a racial term, it is a term that strips a person of their personhood and soul. It is the birthplace of violence for those inclined to take it further because that person has become an object.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s