From the giddying heights of Mount Batur to ancient pre-Hindu villages of Tenganan, from the colourful outrigger boats and glittering reefs of Amed, to the pumping club scene and pounding surf at Kuta, the tropical island paradise of Bali thrills every sense.
Bali’s local customs and traditions, such as painting, sculpture, woodcarving, handcrafts, and performing arts, take cue from its unique religion. Refreshingly, Balinese tradition continues to flourish alongside the modernity that tourism brings to this compact island.
Beyond Bali’s beautiful beaches, stunning surf, fantastic food and friendly people, are the small tribulations of daily life. There is no public transport here, so you will likely need to invest in a scooter. The roads, however, are poorly maintained, the traffic is chaotic, and the healthcare system is often lacking, so exercising caution when driving is strongly advised.
Shopping locally is cheap and the produce is fresh, however, if you are looking for specialist (international) foods or white goods, steel yourself for the trip to Denpasar. Once you arrive, be prepared to pay a premium, as most of the goods you seek will have been imported.
While housing here is relatively cheap, Internet penetration is poor and equipped kitchens are a novelty. Electricity outages are frequent, the drinking water is iffy and the mosquitos can be hellish. These small factors are, however, a trifling trade-off for unforgettable evening strolls on the beaches, spectacular seasons, and the beaming smiles and "can do" attitude of Bali’s residents, all against the backdrop of a tropical idyll.
What is special or unique about your city?
Home to over three million people, this tropical island is considered paradise by many. Famous for its scenic beauty, dynamic culture and friendly people, Bali is surrounded by beautiful, sandy beaches, awesome landscape and cultural diversity. Bali has earned itself many unique titles, including the "Morning of the World," "Island of the Gods," "The Ultimate Island" and "Last Paradise on Earth." Although it has undergone a lot of new developments recently, its natural beauty, exciting festivals and friendly locals lure people here over and over again.
The island has many towering volcanoes and majestic mountains stretching skyward. Bali's main volcano is still active and sometimes explosive. Gunung Agung, the main mountain, is sacred among the locals, because it is believed to be the centre of the universe.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Typically, newcomers are taken aback by Bali's beauty - this island of paradise is full of natural attractions and unique ceremonies. And then there is the sense of Bali's special "magic," which is difficult to put into words.
Are these impressions likely to change?
The only first impressions that usually change are people's initial anxiety to the climate and culture.
Everything else stays the same - great fondness and admiration for a city that has a great history and culture.
What is the local language?
Bahasa Indonesia, which is a variation of Malay, is the official language of Indonesia. Meaning “language of Indonesia,” it brings together approximately two million people whose native tongue may be one of over three hundred different languages. Even though each region has its own language, about 90% of Indonesians are Muslim and many can read the Koran, which is in Arabic. Also, many Indonesians speak English and Dutch.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
Indonesian people are very friendly and when they hear someone trying to speak their language, they will be very helpful. After you live here for a while, it will be very easy to learn the common language because it has the same letters as English. Another good thing is that it is usually pronounced the way it is spelled. English is widely used in business, especially in multinational companies.
Throughout the city, knowing a few key words in the local language will be beneficial, however not necessary as most expatriates speak English.
Below are a few words and phrases that may help you communicate with your new neighbours, friends and business acquaintances:
ENGLISH BAHASA INDONESIAN
Good morning Selamat pagi
Good afternoon Selamat sore
Good evening Selamat malam
My name is… Nama saya…
How are you? Bagaimana kabar mu?
No Tidak (don’t pronounce the k)
Where is the toilet? Dimana kamar kecil?
How much does it cost? Berapa harganya?
Football Sepak bola
Thank you Terima kasih
Excuse me Permisi or maaf
Can you help me? Bisa bantu saya?
Be careful Hati-hati
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
Some tips to avoid offending residents of Bali are:
- Respect the elderly in the community; they are full of wisdom and power
- Respect the gods; praying to the spirits has been a big part of life for years in Bali
- On greeting and departure, it is customary to shake hands
- Saying someone's name is important in Indonesia and you should never laugh at a person's name
- Before sampling food when in someone's home, wait until it is offered
- Indonesians are not known for their punctuality and offense should not be taken if events do not start on time, or if a guest arrives late
- The left hand is considered unclean in this culture. You should use your right hand at all times and whenever possible in public
- Feet are also considered unclean and you should never point with them or put them on tables or chairs
- Some Indonesians also consider it rude to point with a finger, so this should be avoided
- Do not pat adults on their head as this is considered offensive
- Indonesians are very physical in their personal relations, patting acquaintances on the back, putting a hand on their shoulder and so forth
- Do not chew gum in public; this is considered rude
- Restrain yourself from eating or drinking in front of fasting Indonesian Muslims
- Women are expected to be sensitive to the Muslim and Hindu beliefs and, therefore, wear clothing which keeps the majority of the body covered up
- Personal questions regarding salary, education or family life should be expected and politely sidestepped if you do not want to answer them
- Very little is said during meals as Indonesians like to concentrate more on their food
- The subject of birth control is openly discussed although discussions about sex should be avoided
- Topics to avoid are: human rights, politics, religion, military influence, corruption, personal success, sex/role of the sexes and criticism of Indonesia
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
Being located near the equator, the Indonesian climate is divided into two seasons: hot and rainy. This type of weather causes it to be very humid. In the hills and mountains, the temperature drops dramatically in the evenings and during the night it can be quite cold. It is important to give yourself time to adjust to the climate and to drink plenty of water.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Bali's population has an overwhelming majority of Hindus. However, the number of Muslims is steadily increasing through immigration of people from Java, Lombok and other areas of Indonesia who seek work in Bali.