Monday, February 28, 2011

Mau Ke Mana?

Whenever an Indonesian sits down to eat, he will announce "makan" to everyone who is nearby ("eat") in a gesture of offering his own food for all. This is a bit confusing the first few times you hear it, as they really seem to be asking you to share their food. Of course they're not really. It's a custom. Nonetheless, should one accept the offer, the person eating would be constrained to actually share. In a like manner, whenever an Indonesia person is about to go somewhere, he will announce that he is about to do so, almost as if asking permission. An answer is also expected, for the sense is that he may not depart until given leave. "Pulang dulu," he will say (or something similar) -- I'm going home now. At that point you must say "See you later," or "be careful," or give some other form of acknowledgement. The person simply will not leave until he receives the acknowledgement. If you yourself are walking somewhere, or preparing to go somewhere on your bike or in your car, you will invariably be asked "Mau ke mana?" -- Where are you going? If you are coming back from somewhere, they will ask "Dari mana?" -- Where have you been? To a Westerner it seems almost nosy; but, again, it is a custom. And, again, you must answer, or appear quite rude.


imascatterbrain said...

Isn't it generally considered well-mannered to respond to others, no matter what they say, even here, in the wilderness of the US?

R.W. Boughton said...

Well yes, of course. I don't mean to suggest that people in the US are without manners, only that the manners of people in different cultures are ... well, different. In addition, how much in this showing of manners is genuine is also in question, both here and there. Moreover, whereas elders here in Bali recieve special honor (at least out of habit), the culture suffers from a lack of respect toward women, who are clearly on a lower rung of the ladder. So yeah, I don't mean to elevate the Eastern culture above the Western, but only to address curious mannerisms and social habits.