Wednesday, February 23, 2011
People here in Indonesia commonly misuse the word "mister." They want to use it in the sense that they themselves use the word "Bapak," which is a respectful way of addressing a male. So while it would be common for them to say "Bapak Richard," it is of course weird to say "Mister Richard." There is a politeness and respect in this culture that just doesn't really exist in America anymore. When I was young, for instance, we would pretty commonly use the term "Sir" if addressing someone older or someone in authority, but even this is uncommon these days. Nonetheless, Indonesian people are just very reticent to use first names unless they know someone intimately. In the case of women, it is either Ibu or Mbak (for a married or older woman, or a single or younger woman respectively). So I am either Bapak or Tuan (the latter being used only for a foreigner), but almost never Richard.