You can learn a lot about the culture just by looking at what the houses are like.
Houses here, like everywhere else, come in all kinds of varieties. You have the big fancy palaces, and then you have the sheds. We will try to focus on the more “average” houses.
An Indonesian person told us that the facade is very important for the local people. We would agree to that after having spent a lot of time looking for a house for ourselves. What we have learnt is that you cannot judge a house from the outside…( we would say that you cannot judge a house until you have seen the kitchen and the bathroom…) Our house is no exception to this rule; quite fancy on the outside but the standard inside is not that great.
The first room you come to is the nicest room in the house. This is the room for receiving and entertaining guests. This is a quite formal room, often with chairs and couches all along the wall and maybe also a few tables.
The next room you come to is the family room. This is a more relaxed area and it often includes a dining area. If you are invited into this part of the house you are considered as part of the family. The bedrooms are often connected to this room. At the back of the house you have the kitchen and the bathroom, often quite neglected areas of the house. The kitchen is sometimes partly outside, because of cooking with gas and having no ventilation inside. The fridge is often inside, in the dining area.
The room that is the most different from western style houses is the bathroom. Every bathroom has a `bak mandi` which is a big basin filled up with water. This is used for having a bath, washing yourself after going to the toilet, and often also to flush the toilet. You do NOT get into the bak mandi, a mistake that has been made by foreigners we have heard…You have a scoop that you use to splash water over yourself when you have a bath. The splashing of water is supposed to be quite vigorous, resulting in very WET bathrooms.
The picture is of our bathroom before we got it changed. We must admit that we removed the bak mandi, replaced it with a shower and also got a sink in the tiny little room. Bathroom habits is one area where we have not been willing to adjust to the culture…We even installed a white box over the shower so that we have warm water in the shower. According to our culture learning book warm water is for the very young, the ill and the foreigner…
The kitchen is also quite different from what we are used to. This too is a picture from our house taken before we moved in. The Indonesian people have their gas cooker on the flat area near the sink. There is no warm water in the kitchen, so yes, we do our dishes in cold water, but cold water here is not really that cold…
Another difference about houses here is that they often have a separate area for the maid. “All” families have at least one maid. ( Big subject that we will probably come back to another time. We are not talking about foreign families having maids, there are hardly any foreigners here, we are talking about Indonesian families) In our house there is a tiny little bedroom and a separate bathroom that looks just like the other one apart from the fact that the toilet is an asian toilet. As we have no maid and have no plans at getting one we use this bathroom as storage room. The maid`s room is generally very small and also often has no window. Some bigger houses have a whole separate area for the servants.
A lot of people here live where they work or work where they live. Many houses have a little business connected to it, for example a shop or kiosk. There are a lot of interesting buildings here in Kupang called ruko. This is a word made up of the word `rumah` for house and `toko` for shop. You can see them all over the place, and is a building where people have a shop on the first floor and live on the second floor.
We also have to show some pictures of the traditional Indonesian houses. These pictures have been taken on trips to villages out of Kupang, but you can even find some of them in the middle of the city.
At the end, a couple of pictures of houses being built. One is right next to ours, the big building is the view from our livingroom window. Safety is not an issue here 🙂