Locals who date bule (Indonesian slang for “foreigners,” especially Caucasian foreigners) are often seen as gold diggers or bed-warmers who will ask you to provide for them and their entire family. There are cases that confirm this prejudice, but there are many decent Indonesian men and women with financial independence who wouldn’t expect material things from you. But even if they do ask for something, do not quickly write it off as an act of financial exploitation, especially when it comes from women. It’s an acknowledged fact that the average Indonesian workers earn much less than those from developed countries, and some may simply perceive that they’re just asking for a scratch on the back. Be open and discuss these topics before things got too complicated.
Don’t expect much on the first (few) dates, as many locals—especially women—are not used to getting intimate too quickly. Even if they like you, some will likely set some boundaries at first, especially with physical contact. If you’re looking for more than just a hookup, be prepared to invest more time going on a few dates before making advances. Don’t force it, otherwise you’ll risk being labeled as a sexual predator and scare her away.
No matter how old they are, most Indonesians are close with their families. Living with your parents at age 30 is not necessarily a sign of immaturity or even financial dependence—that’s just the way it is. Moving out is simply not something many Indonesian adults pursue, and they learn to adjust to adult life along with their families, nuclear or extended.
So if your Indonesian girlfriend or boyfriend talks about you with his or her mom, do not feel like your partner perceives the relationship as super serious and expects marriage anytime soon. Do not be alarmed by your partner’s closeness with family, but do respect that sacred bond.
If you’re dating a Balinese local, be mindful of his of her ways of life. Many Balinese Hindu, no matter how modern their lives or mindsets are, still adhere strictly to ancient traditions, such as daily offerings and prayers. Respect their traditions and daily routines, and be thoughtful enough to make plans accordingly. Understand that daily rituals and occasional ceremonies have been a part of their entire lives, and those rituals are more important for them to attend than hanging out with a girlfriend or boyfriend. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t actually like you.
A lot of foreigners can attest to these tendencies, but as with everything else, try not to generalize. If you find someone you’re dating in Bali glaring at your screen when you’re on your phone, or even scrolling through your chats, don’t judge them as you would people in Western cultures. Many Indonesians are raised in tight communities, and privacy may not have the same meaning for them. If you’re uncomfortable with this kind of habit, do communicate, instead of hiding your phone or creating an 18-digit password—they’ll find it.
Balinese are generally very friendly people. If you seem lost or confused, they’ll ask where you’re going and try to help. Those are not signs that they’re attracted to you; they’re just very kind people. If a Balinese man or woman helps take you to your destination, do not perceive it as a green light to make sexual advances. Find someone who’s actually interested.
Compared to other Indonesian regions, Bali is relatively loose in terms of social constrictions on public displays of affection. While even holding hands is frowned upon in other towns, Balinese are used to seeing tourists hug or even kiss lightly in public. But that doesn’t mean they are comfortable being the ones doing it. Be thoughtful enough to ask how they feel about holding hands while waking down the streets, or refrain yourself from public displays of affection if you see any signs of discomfort.
Despite being notoriously spiritual, many Balinese people, especially those in the younger generation, practice a modern and moderate outlook on things. They are not holy virgins who will expect you to marry them after one night. It’s never okay to take advantage of other people, but you’re missing out on a lot if you limit your experiences by thinking that their rigorous spirituality will hinder Balinese people from having a fun and mutually rewarding relationship.
While Bali’s lively nightlife scene is tempting, there are other places to meet great people to date, especially if you’re looking for more than just brief hookups. If you’re into surfing, for example, stay at a surfer’s hostel and socialize there. If you think people who do yoga are hot, join some classes at your chosen studio.
Thanks to Tinder and other similar platforms, finding potential dates is now much easier. You can use Tinder to interact with and eventually meet both fellow foreigners and locals. Just be honest in saying what you’re looking for, and if you’re dating a local, tell him or her the length of your stay, as some may prefer a long-term relationship.
If you’re dating a local woman, be ready to pay for the first date (or in some cases, for all dates). Again, this doesn’t show dependence or exploitation, it’s just how things have been for them. Men are expected to be breadwinners and providers, even in casual relationships. Of course, this doesn’t go for all women, and the role is often negotiable—just communicate.
Also, try not to be too strict with time. Balinese did not grow up with bustling city lives, where time is money and there is not a second to waste. If they show up five minutes late on a date, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are sloppy and irresponsible. Use this buffer time to chill and enjoy the tropical atmosphere.