This post is inspired by an article in Vice (in Bahasa Indonesia) titled “Ongkos Menjaga Pertemanan di Negara Ini Kenapa Harus Mahal Banget Ya?!”. You can read the article here.
The article left me smiling at the end. I left Indonesia at the age of 24 years old to continue studying. In that age, I had no one in my circle of friends that got married. My hangout plans were mostly filled with coffee afternoons followed by ramen dinner with a best friend.
When I arrived and stayed in the Netherlands, my friends began to start new chapters in their life, such as getting married. This affects my Instagram feed which slowly filled with bridal shower pictures, pre-wedding pictures, etc. Bridal shower is something new in Indonesia, a trend that began merely one or two years ago. For me, it’s nothing more than an event where you book a nice cafe with Instagrammable aesthetics, invite your close girl friends, wear the same clothes or the same colour palette, and the bride-to-be will have to undergo several challenges which are often cringy and borderline rude jokes, which involves penis, boobs, vagina, condoms, you name it. Not in an educational way, but in a funny way. Which I think is not funny at all.
I don’t know how much it costs to set up a bridal shower in Indonesia, but what I know is that this event starts to find its’ own niche and market: Instagrammable, social media-conscious young women. I can only imagine the budget to set up such events, which I think I can allocate for my honeymoon budget instead.
However, I deeply relate to other issues being brought up in the article. For example: Having to treat others on your birthday. When I still lived in Indonesia, I had to think days before my birthday about who to treat and where to bring them for lunch/dinner. At that time, I didn’t know that it’s not a mandatory thing to treat people on your birthdays. Hell, it’s your day, why should you spend money on others? It’s them who have to spend money on you!
I also had to made up reasons if people ask me, “Oh, it’s your birthday? Where are we going to have lunch today?”, especially if I didn’t invite them to my birthday lunch. There were also people who made small talk such as, “Happy birthday! I’m waiting for the treat, ok?” but these people weren’t close to me at all.
In the Netherlands, I don’t have to think about how to spend my birthday and who to treat on my birthday. If I want to, I can not celebrate my birthday at all. Three years ago, I spent my birthday by going to a salon to have my hair dyed, to Van Gogh Museum, and ended my day by eating ramen. All by myself. It was a really good day because I didn’t have to care about who to treat. Last month, I spent it by having a beer and lunch with R. He gave me a gift card for a movie, which I used at the same day to watch ‘Jurassic World’ with him. His mom gave me a box of chocolate and a skin care product. No one gave me small talks “What are we going to do for your birthday”. Everyone congratulated me with all their heart and wishing me to have a good day.
In the Western world (at least the Netherlands), you don’t have to do expensive activities with your friends to still be friends. Very different than in Indonesia. I can only imagine spending your weekend alone and not with friends. Moreover, in Indonesia, at least in the big cities, you always spend your time with your friends in the shopping mall. Hanging out in your friends’ houses are very uncommon. I remember my friends cringed when I suggested to hang out in their house during my first visit to Jakarta. Spending time in the shopping mall equals more money to spend, right? In here, you can spend your good time by hanging out with your friends in the park, bring your own foods, and have a small picnic. Or do a movie night at your house or your friend’s house.
We also don’t see them every week. I have a group of friends here whom I only met two to three times a year. We have our Whatsapp group, but we don’t flood each other with unimportant group chats. However, when we meet face to face, it feels like we’ve only met yesterday. We understand that each of us have our own lives, and that we’d like to spend weekends with other group of people or just hanging out with close friends or partners.
To be honest, I like my life here. I don’t have to have a lot of friends, and I am not obliged to spend my money on hangouts. I can be honest if I’m tight on budget and I can’t hang out, and I can suggest budget-friendly options to hang out with friends. Maintaining friendships doesn’t have to be expensive. Then again, you can’t buy friendship, can you?