Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Top 10 Questions An Indonesian Will Likely Encounter In His/Her Lifetime

As much as I don't like stereotyping, I couldn't help noticing that many Indonesians (if not all of them) tend to ask personal (and nagging) questions, even to people they barely know. They may sound innocent and harmless, but they are usually followed by a series of (even more nagging) questions.

Some may argue that they do it out of courtesy, but during the sensitive times, these questions (and the follow-up ones) are not a good way to kick start a conversation. Indonesians are people-oriented and want to know more about other people. Perhaps this is why we have so many infotainment shows on the TVs.
Here are some questions that I gather based on my own and my friends' experiences.
1. Which school did you go to?
I've got this question all the way from elementary school to university. While this question seems harmless, there are follow-up questions that may tickle some sensitive nerves, such as "What is your ranking/GPA?", "Which year are you now?" or "When are you graduating?" (and then they will compare you with someone's kid who can finish university in 3.5 years. Ouch.)

2. Where do you work?
Remember this post? Again, this question sounds innocent. But if a random person sitting next to you in TransJakarta asks this question, you may wonder: why would they need to know? My friend @alfianindris says,"Sometimes people ask this question not because they care but because they see you wearing very casual clothes yet holding the latest gadget, so they are just curious."

3. On marital status
There are two versions for this category: "When are you getting married?" (usually asked by close relatives, friends) or "Are you married?" (by people who just know you). And if you are single, be prepare for the judgmental closing statement:"You're picky, that's why you stay single." Ack! I've written a counter-attack reply on this post.

4. Where do you live?
In Indonesia, if you are single, it is considered normal to live at your parents' home. After you're married, it is also still normal to stay in the parents' home but the society deem that the right answer for this question would be anywhere but there. I'm sure everyone would love to have a space on their own but there are circumstances that force people to stay, such as rising home mortgages and ailing parents.

5. Are you pregnant (yet)? 
When asked to a single woman with a chubby tummy (points to self), this is a serious case of defamation. I've learned to not ask this question, even to a married friend who is very dear to me. Another version of this question is "Are you planning to have children?" Hmm.

6. Pregnancy-related questions
My pregnant friends say that the questions they get during the nine-month period include "How far along are you?", "What is the baby's gender?", "When is it due?" and "How come you do not have big belly yet?" (for expecting mothers in the first or second trimester).

7. Post-partum questions
The most infamous questions that fall in this category are...(can you guess?) "So when are you planning to have another child?" and "Are you going back to work after the parental leave is over?" (usually to the working moms).

8. When are you planning to go on a pilgrimage (or any religious place according to your belief)?
I seriously don't know why people even bother to ask this question. They are not going to pay the air fare anyway.

9. Are you celebrating Idul Fitri or Christmas?
I haven't gotten this question since I wore hijab. But in the past, I got this a lot. Sometimes, when I was hanging out with my Catholic friends, a guy would ask which parochial I went to. Perhaps wanting to go to church together? :P

10. Where do you come from?
You may think that they are asking your hometown, but they are actually asking your ethnicity. I've been getting this question many many times because I don't have any accent and I have a generic Indonesian face. Indonesia has more than 300 ethnic groups, with each group having its own language, so it's only natural that each person come from a different place. But instead of finding differences, we should just focus on the similarities. My answer to this question? I'm an Indonesian.

Has anyone asked you one of the questions above? Which annoys you most? Do you have other annoying questions people ask you?

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