Convenience for Indonesian-Chinese

I was discussing the question “Where I Belong” with a friend of mine who has very similar paths since young, but yet very different mindset. She’s currently in Indonesia and have been here almost 5 years now, I wanted to know her current thoughts because she wasn’t 100% in moving to Jakarta.

We touched a topic where her parents (and many other Indonesian parents) would say when they try and persuade their children to come back.

They say that it’s

  • Easy to do business, and easy to make money
  • Things are still relatively cheap such as food, house
  • Access to inexpensive labour for maids, nannies, drivers, lackeys

This got me thinking, and i asked her

Would your parents still be in Indonesia if all these conveniences were gone?

Without skipping a beat, she said no. I think for many Indonesians that have the means, or they already have another base outside of Jakarta, they would not be here for long. Look at the number of Indonesians-Chinese staying long term in Singapore. This pandemic illustrates that many of them fled to Singapore when the skies were still open and did not trust the government to handle this crisis well.

I then asked another question

If today, all the local Indonesians changed and become say Filipinos or Thais, and their conveniences are still intact, would they continue staying here?

She didn’t answer this quickly, and i can’t really remember her answer. But i think the answer would be yes, and it goes the same for most Indonesian- Chinese i think.

I guess i can summarize (albeit overgeneralizing) that the Indonesian-Chinese are here for the conveniences, and i can’t blame them. Our forefathers left China in search for a better life, it was the one and only reason for them to step foot outside of their home into the unknown.

But that was almost a century ago. Today we are relatively free from famine or poverty and have better access to things that the last emperor of china had.

Then why do Indonesian-Chinese still open most conversations with “tinggal dimana, kerja dimana?” I thought it was just them being lazy and following social norms, but now i realize they’re asking because they want to gauge how well we’re doing in Indonesian. After all, the only reason why we’re here is because of the conveniences and where you stay and what work you do is the barometer.

I do see that younger Indo-Chinese seem to be more involved and patriotic in Indonesia compared to their parents. But i believe that this “convenience” mindset has pervaded through many generations that it has inevitably affected us all (and including me, one of the younger Indo-Chinese).

What kind of a society or community would that create, where the main reason why we’re here is because of economic/material factors when our circumstances do not dictate the need for them? Do these factors weigh heavily on our decision making process when we think about our “life” and our “happiness”. I seriously can’t fathom the serious and deep repercussions of this pervading mindset that has been passed through generations and does not seem to be disappearing soon.

I thought about the immigrant Chinese else where, and i guess i can (albeit overgeneralizing again):

  • Thai-Chinese: Fully assimilated, same religion, same language, Chinese names have been localized, intermarrying is common
  • Indo-Chinese: Not assimilated, different religion, same language spoken, Chinese names been localized, intermarriage is very rare
  • Msian-Chinese: 2nd-class citizens, different religion, different language, Chinese names not localized, intermarriage is very rare

I asked my Thai-Chinese friends, and i posed the same questions to them. And on both accounts, they said no, they’re in Thailand because of the people. It doesn’t matter if they are more comfortable/richer else where, Thailand is their home.

One word: Wow.

I think it’s very hard to find an Indo-Chinese to say that.

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