Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Life envinroment, cultures in the big cities and small towns are differ from one place to another. Lived in Jakarta metropolitan city with multi ethnics, fast moving citizen, individualism, may be differ compare to a smaller cities, towns and we will find out interesting or surprising experiences.

My surprising experiences in Palembang nothing to do with Empek empek, a special deli Palembang cuisine, Musi river current or well known Ampera bridge, Palembang city icon. My new experiences talking about culture and people character..

In 2002, I spend a week as a Bank SUMSEL consultant in IT at Palembang, South Sumatra capital and stayed at the Hotel downtown Palembang city. On early morning Sunday, I intend to  visit my relative, but unfortunately, the address and phone number leaved at home in Jakarta. Instantly, I search in a Palembang phone book at my room, but couldn’t find it.

I made my mind to pick up and dial somebody with Situmeang family name at Pertamina compound, Plaju town. “May I speak to Mr Situmeang please”, I said politely. In the other side, a women, acknowledged herself as his wife, answered curiosity :”My husband had nothing to do with someone at the Hotel”, she said in negative judgment.

The sound of Hotel leaved a bad image for housewife in Palembang ( or in a small town as well ?). This culture shocked me who spend a lot of time in business trip to a small towns when I was on the trip all over Indonesia. Housewife tend to had a bad images of Hotel environment.

                                          My family tree

I spend a while to explain in details :”Bu, I just want to ask if you know my relative address, named Barain Situmeang”, “ If he is a senior, the father of Mr.X, I knew him”, she said in a softer voice. After she is sure I told the truth, then she gave me a direction in details. “Just take a small Bus and stop at Y market and then take a beca”. To get a proper rate not necessarily negotiate with a beca driver, I asked her :“How much the beca charge”, I said. “Just pay Rp.500”, she said for sure.

Since  its early morning Sunday, I used to take an exercise with a short and tennis shoes. So I preferred to take a walk than a Bus. I spend around 40 minutes to reach Y market place. Without a negotiation, I step up in a beca to drive me near by. Just a few  minutes, I stepped down and hand him Rp. 500 bill, as a women told me previously.

For my surprise, he took the money and throw it away and he turn his beca leaved me wonder why. I told a women in a small vendor the story, why I paid him Rp.500. She told me :”Rp. 500 is a humiliation for him”, she said. The cost should be Rp.1.000”. When I want to apologized and and add more, the becak driver has gone away. This is my second surprise.

I entered a small road and find my relative house, the youngest brother of my father, I called him Bapak Uda, who lived with his son in law family. They surprised to see me show up unnoticed early Sunday morning  with a short and tennis shoes. They amused to hear my bad experience with beca driver and surprised as  well that I took an exercise by walking 40 minutes.

Palembang surprises continue with another 2 interesting stories. My relatives worry so much if I go back to Hotel alone and decided to accompany me drive a Big Bus. I asked :”What is the problem if I go alone ?. My relative said :”Many bandits in the Bus”, he said and asked me back :”Why do you used Rolex watch”. By surprised I answered plainly :“I never aware if its not save to used an expensive accessories in the public”.

The last surprises before leaving Palembang back to Jakarta, my enviroment. A Hotel  receptionist told me that my relatives called the Hotel several times, but the receptionist answered that I wasn’t available. The Hotel say the truth, I was away in my work. I really confused, really don’t understand why my relatives didn’t believe what the Hotel words.

Travel everywhere, locally in Indonesia, we may open a Phone book and find someone name that we related with us long before or have a similar family name and called them if they could located someone we knew, related or relatives.

Travel to another places locally in Indonesia even more to abroad, we should be ready for cultural changes or cultural shock and try to ajust our self and never judge the cultures, tradition of the new place.

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