I have been living in Ubud, Bali (an island in Indonesia) for a year and a bit now as a digital nomad, and I’m constantly astounded at how different some things are from when I lived in Toronto. I wanted to share these differences with you in a post, so you can either live vicariously through me or get the travel bug and visit Bali as well.
So let’s get started.
1. Collectivism vs. Individualism – Primary Diff of Living in Bali
This is the single biggest thing you will notice about Balinese people vs. the developed world folks. In Toronto, Canada, or in any other country like that (the USA, most countries in Europe, Australia, etc.), the focus is always on the individual.
It’s a bit more selfish that way. I mean, I like it, because then I can do what I want, without worrying about the needs or desires of my family, especially since they usually go diametrically opposite to each other.
But, Balinese people are so integrated into their families, that they can’t think of themselves as a separate unit. I have heard stories of how Balinese people left Bali to go somewhere else and were surprised to learn how much their family unit was holding them and how much others were doing for them. A lot of them come back home pretty quickly as they realize it’s a much easier life back home.
Most families live collectively as well, in compounds, where each family has its little room, and everyone comes together to clean, cook, bathe, and more. Also, the ceremonies!!
2. Ceremonies Galore
I thought India has a lot of rituals and ceremonies, but India does nothing compared to the people of Bali. Oh my god, so many ceremonies.
I think I would have to search hard to find a day where they don’t do any ceremonies at all.
Every single day, 5 times a day, they do a little ritual to put out flowers, incense, and offerings to the Gods and other spirits and deities. And then every weekend or seems like almost every weekend, they have ceremonies, for the full moon or new moon or various other deities and Gods.
They even have ceremonies to bless their motorbikes and the other electronics in their house!! So cute.
3. Bali Runs on Motorbikes – I Love Living in Bali
If it weren’t for motorbikes, I feel like Bali would, as a whole, come to a standstill. Every Balinese person from the time they are 12 years old, seems to have a motorbike.
They do everything on it, like:
- Carry groceries
- Carry furniture
- Carry pets (and roosters, birds, etc).
- Carry gallon water bottles
- Carry themselves and the entire family of 4 or 5
- Carry long bamboo rods for the ceremonies
- Carry food for deliveries on Grab or Gojek (similar to Ubereats)
- Carry deliveries for internationally or nationally shipped goods (you should see these bikes)
- Carry their garbage haul for the day (garbage collectors collect paper, plastic, and more)
This is just the gist of it. I have seen some things being carried on a motorbike that I wondered how they ever managed that! Wow!
4. You Can Pay For Almost Everything Using QR Codes
In Bali, you will see QR codes on the checkout counters of all restaurants, cafes, and stores. You might wonder at first what they are all about. I did.
And then I realized that if you have a local bank account, you can pay for your meal or purchase using this QR code (scanning it using your bank account app). What an awesome invention indeed!
No need to carry cash around with you everywhere. So convenient. Kind of reminiscent of Apple Pay, but not related to credit cards because credit cards are used but rarely by locals.
I have gotten used to this no-credit card business as well. I use mostly cash here. And now I am going to use the QR code as much as I can.
5. You Can Pay For Your Lazada or Tokopedia Purchase in 7/11-Style Stores
Okay, so firstly, they don’t have Amazon here. But they do have two similar online stores that sell EVERYTHING you could imagine called Lazada (headquarters in Singapore) and Tokopedia (from Indonesia).
I love these stores because you can find a lot of items here that you wouldn’t find in regular convenience stores. They also sell items from America, Canada, Japan, China, and Korea. It’s fascinating to browse through and see what you can find. Addictive, and sometimes bad for the wallet, but so much fun.
Secondly, you can pay for the purchases you make on these apps using so many different ways, like:
- Using your virtual bank account
- Using cash on delivery (only for certain items)
- Using separate payment apps like GoPay or Ovo
And you can pay them by visiting these 7/11-like stores called Alfamart, Indomaret, and more. It’s so interesting. The first time I tried it, I was suspicious. Is this going to work?
But it was instantaneous. I paid at the counter (you can go to any of the related franchises) and instantly, it showed up on my Toko app. I love technology!
6. Locals Ask the Most Personal Questions without Blinking an Eye
Okay, so this one freaked me out at first. I mean, why are you asking me all these questions? I would think.
But now I know it’s just a cultural thing. There are no strict boundaries here as back in Canada or other similar countries.
I regularly get asked the following questions without them blinking an eye or thinking it’s rude:
- How much money do you make in your online job?
- How much did your gym membership (or whatever other item we are talking about) cost?
- Where do you live?
- Are you living here by yourself?
- Are you married? Do you have children?
- How much do you pay for your villa or apartment?
- How much did your flight to Bali cost?
- How much do you pay for food monthly?
These are just some of them. And as you can see, highly intrusive. But they ask these questions so casually that I wonder if it would be rude not to answer them.
I usually answer because it’s not so important. But I haven’t tried brushing off the questions yet.
I’m also here by myself, so I sometimes will give the false answer about where I’m living, so people don’t come searching for me. I’m paranoid that way. Also, I’m a woman who has been conditioned to behave in this manner, as the world is a dangerous place.
7. Cafes Don’t Mind if You Take up a Spot for 4-5 Hours Working
This one always surprises me. No one has EVER asked me to leave a cafe, even though I have been sitting there for 3-4 hours at that point. They just leave me alone to do my work, chill, or think my thoughts.
They don’t even ask me to buy anything. I do, of course, buy lots of food and drinks, but still.
I have been in other countries where you will start getting the squint eye pretty quickly if you stay in a cafe or restaurant for more than 30 minutes to an hour. But here, no!
I love working at the cafes here, also, because their food is delicious, cheap, and fresh. And their service is smashing. And the decor is usually gorgeous.
Living in Bali Has Been a Godsend
Now that I’m finally writing this post, I realize that there are some more things that I could add to the list, but, I will leave it at that. I must say that I love living in Bali, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else at this point. It’s my happy place.
If you liked this post, and want to learn more about what living in Bali is like, comment below and I will keep writing about this beautiful journey of mine.