Where’s My Mbak?

One of the first cultural confusions I encountered in Jakarta was these strangely dressed young girls wearing matching pink or green, or white with blue trimmings uniforms – sometimes hanging out together but more often alone.  Sometimes they were clutching a child, or carrying bags, other times they were to be found in kitchens or loungerooms or on the street with a straw broom endlessly sweeping.

In my first job here in an Early Childhood school, I met these women en masse carrying Ben 10 and Barbie backpacks, helping children with their shoes and sometimes even being yelled at by toddlers.  They would sit out the front of the school for hours eating gorengan and having their daily curhat until class time was over.  After school finished there was a buzz of children running to these women who were armed with a spoon and a lunchbox full of rice and they proceeded to chase after the kids shoveling as much rice as they could into their mouths.   When I went to the malls, this phenomenon continued.  Here were the uniformed young girls clutching the baby, and there was the mum wearing 5 inch heels and clutching an enormous handbag.  Let’s call this phenomenon ‘pembantu-itus’ or ‘Mbak Time’ or ‘the Art of Sitting Around Comfortably While Another Sweeps’ or ‘Ways To Have A Baby Without Having To Change All Those Pesky Nappies’.

Where we come from, nannies are a luxury only afforded by the rich, here in Jakarta it seems that everyone has one.  If not a nanny, then some kind of pembantu to look after you.  It was a strange thing to become accustomed to as I moved into my school lodgings.  Every morning as I got ready there was a woman in my room who could speak no English, and I could speak no Indonesian so conversation was limited.  It didn’t take me long to learn “sudah makan?” as it was the most common question asked and if I shook my head some toast would appear.  Then she would walk around the room shifting things and wiping things with a cloth.  I couldn’t work out what on earth she was doing there, surely I could add my own hot water to my 3-in-1 coffee and put the bread in the toaster?  But it seems that this wasn’t an option here.

In the beginning I felt like a neocolonialist having a woman cleaning up around me as I attempted to do work or be comfortable in my room.  I had never felt so uncomfortable in my life.  And I could never find anything.  Everything was tidied up into neat piles and put in some unlikely place never to be found again.  This woman was employed 6 days a week by the school to clean up after me, and I was only living in a single room.  It seemed totally absurd.   I would wander the streets after my working hours waiting until her working hours had finished so I could relax in my room.  I would speak to other bules who had been here for a while and they said it was a good thing, it gave many people jobs so they could send money back to their families.  But something didn’t feel right.

As I went into Indonesian friends’ houses, after my eyes started to adjust and I stopped trying to shake the hand of the ‘mbak’ when I was being introduced to everyone else, I saw that Indonesians were very comfortable asking this woman to make them a cup of tea or to pop down to the warung to pick up some nasi pecel.  And that chasing after a child (or someone seemingly big enough to feed themselves) with a giant spoon of rice wasn’t just done at preschools.

When we were growing up, we couldn’t ask even our mum to make us some tea, and if we did ask for anything it was met with a resounding “you have two arms and two legs, go and make it yourself”, so we would.  If you wanted someone to do something for you that made them get up from the couch you had to flip a coin or agree to do a different job later.  We had never heard of a land where you had a woman living in the tiny room of your house who would do stuff for you.  This only happened in fairy tales and she usually ended up married to the prince. Inconceivable.

Even after 3 years, I am not at all comfortable with the whole business.  There is an agreement in my house that I do not deal with the pembantu and that my boyfriend, who is Indonesian, takes care of her.  Experience has shown us that when I deal with her, the guilt and neocolonialist feeling grip me, I feel awful that I am sitting down while they are sweeping, I send them home, I give them money at random moments until after a while they are constantly asking for loans and spend most of the time sleeping in the upstairs room and telling me how their brother or sister can’t afford an education and could I pay for their school fees?  This feeling that I have too much while they have too little envelopes me and I don’t know what to do with that guilt.  So I try and push it to the back of my consciousness and enjoy this new feeling of ironed clothes.

There is a strange hierarchy in Indonesia, of which I am yet to understand, where it is okay to employ people for a tiny wage to do all the things you don’t want to do; drive your car, iron your clothes, clean your pool, feed your children.  I can’t work out if it is an effect of Javanese culture or 300 years of colonial rule or a combination of both.  I saw the movie “The Help” recently and had a little panicked feeling that 1950s America, looked a lot like 21st century Jakarta – just replace African American women with the country girls of Java and Sumatra.  Perhaps I am being over-dramatic. Perhaps it will just take some more time to adjust to this culture.

Maybe I could buy a little bell to summon my mbak, maybe I should look forward to having children and have someone else to wake up in the middle of the night to soothe my child.  Maybe I will even let her come to the mall with me and hold my child while I enjoy a delicious meal that costs more than what I pay her for a month.

I have a fear that, if I return to Australia, I will have forgotten how to turn on the vacuum cleaner, or will have forgotten how to have an argument with my boyfriend about the unfairness of me always having to clean just because I am a woman.  I will have forgotten how to boil the kettle or drive a car.  I will have forgotten my belief that all people have a right to equality.  Or I will ask mum to make me a cup of tea and she won’t leave me her porcelain figurines in her will.  So many worries.  So futile. Hmm, now I am thirsty and my legs don’t seem to work…”Mbak..lagi di mana?”.

30 Responses to “Where’s My Mbak?”

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  1. Raiza Andini says:

    mbak lagi di dapur… masak nasi.. 😀

  2. Bima says:

    You got us smacked right down the middle with this post, gal. Can’t remember ever having a laugh this hard while feeling slapped all around reading to the end.

    To be honest, though, with our current “additional” modern culture where both husband and wife are working to support the family, it’s very hard not to fall to the needs to have at least a nanny to help watching our kids–although not necessarily feeding them all the time. I always try to feed, bath and put my son to bed–having an office at home as a professional translator left me with the trap to cater the household while my wife’s happily off to her downtown office. Leaving me juggling on the extreme between works and the kid. Thus the needs to have a nanny. The good thing about working at home? I can watch them both and avoid unnecessary horror stories of the potential consequence of leaving your kids alone with a nanny or maid all day long.


    In retrospect, I think the maid culture or "budaya pembantu" in Indonesia is indeed a leftover things from the 300 years of colonialist era, and/or even further back from our historical background as a kingdoms country. Thus having feudal mindset engraved rather heavily on the genetic social and culture blueprint–so to speak.

    I'm not saying it wrong or right, though. Everything has its place, imo.


    • welovejakarta says:

      I do agree that there is a middle ground with the whole nanny thing – and I know that in Australia it is the same where both of the parents have to work and the only option is to send their child to day care – there is no chance of affording a nanny in a place where you have to pay her correctly! And if people could, my god they would. At the same time, there is a something a little wrong with the hierarchy. I know that many people treat their mbaks very well so at least that is a bonus – while many who have moved abroad to find work opportunities end up jumping off balconies to escape the horror of abuse. The lady who worked for me when I first arrived, had worked for a family for 14 years, including a child with special needs who she basically raised, and was dismissed very easily to fend for herself when they wanted to move on. It’s a tricky balance.

      anyway, thanks so much for reading again. I love getting replies from you! Always a lot more clever than the posts 🙂

  3. Fendi says:

    That’s the social problem we have. They’ve became a pembantu because, usually, they have no (high) formal education. And they on their own, feel that they are destined as servant of others.

    We have no discreet social hierarchy here. It’s just in their mindset. A mother or a father will tell their children to be a good worker (servant). And they would say “ora sah neko-neko.” Javanese, which generally tells you not to take risks by trying to change your life.

    Even so, some good parents could make their children to change their life. They don’t want their children to take the same path. You may find someone with a master degree and his parent was a garbage-collector.

    Another reason is that some of us think that working in town as status. And without high education, they would take any job that would make them live there.

    And for the other side of the problem, pembantu‘s family, IMHO, the main problem here is the consumerism. People would buy motorcycle, car, mobile phone not because they really need it. But they do it for status. And here’s the problem. They would try hard to get it even they, actually, can’t afford it. And worst, they’ve gone to loan shark.

    • welovejakarta says:

      Thanks for your comment.

      You are right that there are many layers to this problem – education, cultural beliefs, consumerism, loan sharks – that is what makes this city a melting pot of beliefs and attitudes and it is also true that many people believe moving to the city is moving up in the world, even if their lives don’t actually improve.

      I hope that one day the Indonesian education system really improves so that people have the opportunity to make different choices in their life, and are educated about what choices they have. A good education also makes you feel as though you have the right to say “ah no, actually cleaning up after people isn’t the life I want”. Personally I cleaned up after people back in Australia to pay my bills while I was at uni and I dreamed of the day when I never had to do it again. To think that I would have to do it forever would have crushed my soul.

      Anyway, thanks for your comment, it was very interesting. I love to get insights into Javanese culture and strangely, they mostly come from comments from this website rather than my Javanese friends who more often than not say “oh it’s just like that because”.

      • Fendi says:

        Please excuse my Javanese fellows, no. 😀 (they said that because they think that its something common to us).

        Just wanna add a bit.

        If you, or other bules, care about them, and you have patient, you may consider to give something important to them: education. Educate them with simple live knowledge so they can improve their live. Open up another world for them.

        It’s hard, I know. Not because it’s hard to do, but because the mindsets those pembantu already have.

        And probably you could find a talent in one. If you could and if you want, why not give her a chance to start a small business. Please note, even they know they have the talent, they have no confidence to start any business. I’ve heard some good nyonya who have turned their pembantu into business successful owners.

  4. Erdal says:

    Such a great post! Totally agree with you. It is soooo embarassing these younger or older ladies are carriying the 10 yo kid with the all stuff behind the MUM!!!!!

  5. Bima says:

    Choices. Such a luxury and expensive–even alien for some people.

    Sadly, many people only understand and passionate about the rights to choose, and blind their eyes off the consequences–or even completely ignorant of it.

    Choice leads to consequence leads to solution. Abuse or not to abuse? That is the question.

    Heheh. Sorry, just thinking out loud.


  6. Edward says:

    Well, let us see this as general employment. Think about your office. Do you think messenger, typewriter, secretary, are different than nanny and driver? Minimum wage earners will have net cash not too different from what they get.

    Do you think office environment is where we can find RIGHT TO EQUALITY? Where you are not too lazy to setup your own meeting, type your own memo, get your own coffee, analyze the data yourself?

    Nanny and driver and mbak are professions. Instead of eliminating this ‘service’, why don’t we share to other how to respect them. I believe many employers are not relating this to slavery, colonialism, or something like that.

    It’s simply a proffesional arrangement.

    • welovejakarta says:

      I certainly did not mean to denigrate the idea of the profession of being a nanny or a driver, that was certainly not my point and I am sorry if you think that it was. I respect all people, whatever they do, and I believe that everyone is equal, although we do not always have equal opportunities. The post was more of a social comment on the use of nannies for tasks that could be done independently as well as the sadness of the wages of these nannies, that are barely enough to survive. There is a massive amount of inequality and little job protection in Indonesian – there is barely any safety net for nannies or drivers or security in Jakarta. They are not treated as though it is a professional arrangement.

      I said that I myself have a pembantu and of course I respect her and am thankful for her every day. One man from my workplace helped me find a pembantu from his kampung. He recommended that she work for 6 days a week, 12 hours a day for 600,000 rph. I said that was crazy and he insisted it was fair, and he is Indonesian! And while there is a professional arrangement involved, often it is not a fair arrangement. Professionals should be paid fairly and treated with respect, no matter what they do.

  7. rijo says:

    I’m a home-maker who quit my job 3 years ago to care for my first child. My family was against the decision. They peferred i hire a mbak to care for my child while i was to pursue my career. Fortunately my husband supported my decision and we went through the ups and downs of doing everything by ourselves together. Even when i stay at home some relatives suggest us to hire a house-keeper to sweep,mop,cook,do the laundry,etc. Or to hire a driver to cope with jakarta’s traffic hell. Nevertheless we’re proud to drive our own car,cook our own meals,even iron our own underwears!it sets good example to our child that you need to be independent,and it’s not always smooth road ahead.

    • welovejakarta says:

      What a big decision you and your husband made – and to go against what has become normal can be difficult for families to understand. Life is certainly made easier when you have someone to help but you are so right that you need to teach your children to be independent and take care of themselves. And life is not always easy! At the same time, I hope that you get some time to yourself and can at least ask your family to look after your bubs while you treat yourself to some solo time. Thanks so much for responding to our blog.

      • rijo says:

        No worries here,my husband will baby-sit on the weekends so I can have some massage-time. Whenever I come home my husband and baby are too busy playing angry birds on ipad they hardly realize I’m not around for a few hours!By the way, I’m currently teaching an english conversation class for professionals. Would you mind if I quote your post to start up class discussion? Thanks! 🙂

        • welovejakarta says:

          Ah men and their iPads – haha! We all become invisible with Angry Birds, damn it! Of course you can use the blog for anything you like! Thanks for your comment.

  8. MrsWright says:

    He he he

    We used nanny for Ethan, my oldest son while we r in Asia(singapore-Bangkok-Medan)
    Well hubby’s doesnt like the idea for the first time bcause he only prefer a cleaner
    He doesnt like the idea his kid raised by a stranger
    But he agreed bacuse i need the nanny to look after Ethan so i can go banana doin yoga-pilates bcause i was sooo obsessed and love those exercise he he
    But u know what i STILL incharge with Ethan, i cooked his food,feed him,changed his nappy,play with him
    I paid their salary a fair amount of money descent salary bacuse they r very good and also i only hire nanny who can speaks english very well and used to work with expats family,lucky me i always can find the nanny from mommies group at my son’s international school..also they r only parttime not a live in nanny, bcause my husband is not comfortable lives with ‘stranger’ he he
    Nanny only helped me when i need to do my thing he he

    Well i think having nany just like drinking alcohol use them with moderation lol
    If it tooo much, isnt hurts ur feeling when ur kid get hurt, they run to the nanny to kiss it better instead to u which is their mum??

    Thats NOT NICE! He he he

    • welovejakarta says:

      There is nothing that breaks a mum’s heart more than the child wanting their nanny first! I saw it a lot at the preschool I worked at and the ‘bule’ mums who were experiencing the nanny culture for the first time would just feel terrible about themselves. I know that it is so great for mums to be able to have their own time as looking after children is so time consuming that you can lose a sense of who you are and what you love – and being able to have a nanny is a great thing in these circumstances. Once when I offered to look after my friend’s baby who wouldn’t stop crying and she was going crazy, so I took the baby for a walk and it was screaming until we came across a shop full of Indonesian women who went crazy over this baby – just loved it so much, gave him cuddles and love and by the time I took him home he was the happiest baby ever and the grandmother said to me “wow, you should let Treen look after him more, look how happy he is” and I had to tell her later that it had nothing to do with me – oops. Anyway, I think you and your husband have worked out a good system that suits you both, and take good care of your nanny, and your baby which is amazing. Thanks for reading 🙂

  9. ordinary girl says:

    Interesting post! But there is something I don’t agree with you : you said “I will have forgotten my belief that all people have a right to equality.”

    I am a Javanese, when I was a little girl my family had 2 mbak. Never came in my mind they were different from others or treated them unequal. Pembantu/baby sitter/nanny is a common worker, now called “household Assistant”. There is a law demand in economy; in this case as well. People need them, here they are. You pay them with various wage, depends on their skill. I have friends whom pay their baby sitters with the salaray range of fresh graduate of under graduate students. Also you may not forget that usually household Assistants have no living cost as ours. They get free lodging and meals, thus saving their expenditure alot.

    Household Assistants are not slave. They should not work for 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. They are professional workers, part of human kind. Generally, nowadays Indonesians have driven their own mind set to respect more to “mbak/mas”. We prefer call them as a household Assistant than a pembantu. But actually, the word “pembantu” means “helper”. They help you, helping to deal with things that you can’t do. If you can make your own tea, then why don’t you make it? 🙂 It’s also good for your health because your body is exercising.

    Thank you for love Jakarta, Indonesia and its culture. I live in suburb but spend over than 12 hours of my daily routine in Jakarta. I love the food and its culture as well 🙂

    • welovejakarta says:

      Thank you for not agreeing with me 🙂
      I agree with you that many people treat their pembantus like a member of the family, and that pembantus, as helpers, are central to the running of the Indonesian economy. They look after the children while the parents work and many are paid a fair salary. All of this makes me happy and shows a respect for the women and men who keep the household together. I do think though, that many pembantus do too much for some families, so that even when children of 4 came to the preschool I worked at, they couldn’t carry their own bags and didn’t know how to feed themselves, and expected the teachers to clean up after them. Some of the teenagers I teach now are the same; they wait for their mbak to pick them up and carry their bags. This makes me crazy. I am always saying “hey, you are old enough to do this yourself” – and there is a sense of these kids getting too much help. And being able to boss around someone older than you just seems wrong to me. They should be taught respect for their pembantus. Independence and the ability to take care of yourself also has to be valued. Anyway, I am glad that there are so many instances of people treating others equally. I cannot say if it is the norm in this country (or in any country including my own) but I wish it was. Again, thanks for reading.

      • sa says:

        Yes, it does confuse me how some people spoiled their children to that extend, having other people carrying their bags, let them bossing around, not only to their nanny or pembantu, but also to their parents, it just doesnt make any sense… i think it’ll only jeopadize the kids future
        anyway i think im oot here ^^

  10. Anne says:

    When I was at college, I had my Bibi around me to help me with errands, and sometimes I also babysit her youngest child while she was working. We love to chit-chat, she was part of my family. She has worked with my family for more than 10 years.

    I love to read your blog here, but I have to say that comparing ‘The Help’ with pembantu issues are a way too dramatic, and I think it’s quite different point of view. Pembantu as helpers have no issue of races like America in 1950’s.

    • welovejakarta says:

      Luckily not for everyone it is issues of race! But why do so many Indonesian pembantus commit suicide in Malaysia and abroad? It’s true that that does not seem to be a problem in Jakarta but not everyone has your forward thinking, and many of these women do earn less than a few dollars a day to care for other people’s children while their own children wait for them at home 6 days a week, or their own children live in their kampung in central java with the grandma. I am not blaming you or any person that hires a Pembantu. I think it is a systemic problem. Including the fact that people have to move away from their home towns in order to make a living because all of the money to be made is mostly in the already congested Jakarta. I mostly compared it to the help because of the wages. Anyway, it is only my opinion on this little blog and I do appreciate you taking the time to read an comment and to disagree. All I want to do is have a forum like this where you can state your opinion and I can state mine and we can learn from each other. I am after all only a visitor to your home country and my opinions are formed from what I see and read and I don’t have a lifetime of experience living here as you do. Sorry! My thoughts are everywhere today and I am trying to type this on my phone! Thanks again for reading 🙂

  11. arya says:

    Very well written article (and responses too)!

    Going slightly off-topic here, you did mention that “there is a strange hierarchy in Indonesia, of which I am yet to understand.” Do you think that this ‘strange hierarchy’ also extends to other aspects of Indonesian lives, e.g. in the work place, or other places too?

    • welovejakarta says:

      To be honest, I have to do a lot of guess work living in Indonesia – after all, my understanding of the language is limited and I rely mostly on my observations. I notice the way waiters and pembantus lower their shoulders as they walk by to get past – I notice the way different staff members are treated at work and how one pembantu treats another pembantu – and I try and understand it – or how people communicate and what style of language they use. It’s all guess work, but I do believe that there are many hierarchies here, as in many cultures. When my boyfriend came to Australia for the first time, as an Indonesian he couldn’t believe how relaxed waiters were, or how conversations could flow between any type of people from shop assistants to street sweepers – all equal – even street musicians. Of course, Australia isn’t without massive problems but I think that there are many unspoken rules of how a person treats another. Families decide if their child’s partner is ok for them to marry – depending on culture, family, work. A friend from work told me that I wouldn’t believe how badly people are treated here if they have no money – they are turned away from hospitals if they have no shoes, or mistreated. I don’t know. I just know that I live in a bubble here, but it isn’t really real. Does any of this make sense? I can’t tell anymore 😉

  12. NCV says:

    We have precisely the same situation in the Philippines and there is definitely that general sense of disapproval from more developed countries. I completely agree it fosters a feudalistic society that makes it much more difficult for people to break out of the poverty cycle. On the other hand in the US, there is a growing reliance on service-focused companies, such as TaskRabbit or even specific sections of Cragislist.

    From my perspective there’s a cultural disconnect because what is lauded in the press as innovative start-ups look like a shift towards a similar societal model (maybe the nanny from TaskRabbit doesn’t carry your bag but you can hire a driver etc.) but one without the emotional connection that I see in developing countries. I don’t think these self-sustaining cycles with your amahs are any good for the country but it’s also hard to swallow the criticism we often hear.

    • welovejakarta says:

      I suppose that often in the west, we have been injected with the American ideal of meritocracy – where everyone can be equal and achieve anything if they really want it. Of course this isn’t actually true for many people, but it injects into the culture a feeling of “if your life isn’t good, it is your fault, and your responsibility to fix it” and then we are given examples of people who started with nothing and became online billionaires. I don’t think there is any such teachings in Indonesia. Of course people want great things for their children and want them to have better lives than they have, as all parents do across the world, but the options are limited. With international companies using Asians as a cheap labour force, with a pretty lousy education system, with mass corruption and international debt – the cycles in Indonesia continue with the poor staying poor and getting poorer. The population is so big that even with a rising middle class, the majority of people remain voiceless under the poverty line.

      So, although I may voice my disapproval from a comparatively easy position, I certainly don’t blame anyone for the situation – apart from corruption – not just in Indonesia but more importantly from those countries who got rich by keeping others poor. My country is at fault here of course. Mostly though, as always, I blame the American government. 🙂

      Thanks for reading our blog. Keep commenting!

      • NCV says:

        Yep, that’s my default strategy too 🙂 With an American husband though, it sometimes isn’t the most effective!

        • welovejakarta says:

          Haha, yes that’s a difficult one – just remember, it’s the government that is to blame, not the people! Even in a so-called democracy, the people don’t get the person they voted for – the person they voted for is usually controlled by their minders and big businesses and banks and debt.

  13. Ginny says:

    I grew up in Jakarta and moved to Melbourne 10 years ago. I’ve been living in Melbourne ever since, so I guess the experience I had is the opposite of what you went through =) Just like every other Jakartans, I grew up with maids. I remember when I was small, I didn’t understand the hierarchy or status difference between employers and maids. I would ask to have meals with them and sit on the dining table with them. When my grandma came to visit us, she would scold me for asking to sit on the dining table with the maids. There was one particular maid that worked with us for a long time, and I came to consider her as my friend. I would confide in her, sometimes teaching her English, and she in return would tell me stories about her kampung, her family and friends. She eventually moved on and I’ve lost contact with her, but it was a wonderful relationship, and I still cherish that friendship until now.
    Now that I have been living in Melbourne for some years, everytime I go back to Jakarta to visit my family, I would feel really awkward with the mbak’s at home. I don’t know how I should treat them. On one hand I feel bad to ask them to do simple things for me (like washing my clothes, or preparing my lunch), but on the other hand I like the convenience of not having to do chores. In the end, I resort to asking very politely if they wouldn’t mind doing things for me, and thanking them afterwards. The entire process feels awkward, especially as the maids are much older than me (it’s like asking someone my mum’s age to help me to do things!). I marvel at my mum, aunts, cousins etc who seem so comfortable at ordering maids around, often without even a “thanks” at the end. I guess people who always live in that system consider it natural to have maids do things for them. Does it need to be changed? I don’t know. Sure, we sometimes hear about maids being abused or employers being harmed by angered maids. But those are the exceptions. More often, employers and maids form a unique relationship where both parties accept, and are happy with, the situation, and sometimes employers even treat their maids as part of the family.
    As an aside, it is interesting that many women in Jakarta call themselves “housewives” but they don’t do any house chores by themselves. I think it would be more appropriate to refer them as “managers” as that is what they do – they manage the maids, the drivers, the gardeners and many other people to do the house work for them.

    • welovejakarta says:

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, these housewives of Jakarta are more interesting than the housewives of New York. I dream to be such a housewife! haha.

      I suppose you are facing the difficulty that many people who live abroad from their home countries face in that you go out into the world and see how things can be different, and form new ideas about what is right and wrong, or what is comfortable for you or not, and then come back to your home place and have to either accept the way things are, or adapt your behaviour as you are doing, or try and make a change to your family – which is impossible because it is just normal for them to ask people to do things for them. When we go away from where we are from, our minds expand to the possibilities, but when we go back, our culture tries to squeeze us back in to where we were before. It’s a conundrum!

      I hope you are enjoying living in Melbourne. You will have to write to us about the funny things that you find about the strange people of Australia – though after 10 years I am sure some of the strange behaviours seem more normal now. When I took my boyfriend there for christmas, I didn’t realise how confused he would be (as I am here) about the every day things like hot water bottles, electric blankets (any warming devices as obviously they are not needed in Jakarta!), ticket machines and of course the unbelievably expensive prices of everything.

      Hope to hear more of your life in Melbourne soon.

  14. Kadenza says:

    Good one! Even growing up in middle class family, it feels very normal to have a pembantu. Never even realized that it’s such a spoiling luxury!

    But is it a social problem? Is it an unnecessary luxury, or is it a necessary one?

    In fact, it creates employment opportunities for many. It’s essentially the basic tenet of division of labor. For those who can spend their time on higher value adding activities, why should they waste time doing the lower value adding activities? I would go even further by saying, why should they be a cheapskate by doing the pembantu work themselves, if they can hire a pembantu and bring her out of unemployment?

    The key here is not being overreliant to them, and not seeing them as “slaves”, but as other fellow human being who’s doing it as a profession.