UYD: What’s it like to live in Bali?
Juliana Mendez: Living in Bali as an expat is never boring and It’s probably one of the best places in the world to live in. Bali has a unique vibe, life on the island is amazingly relaxed, happy and has a beautiful spiritual touch (also due to the beautifully packed offerings you´ll stumble upon: Little bowls made from leafs filled with incense, flowers, rice, cookies and other things). Stressing out isn’t a familiar concept in Bali. Things in Indonesia just take the time they need; there’s no rush. In Balinese families, there are pretty much ceremonies happening every week. Birth, death, wedding, tooth filing, marriages, new years (there are two according to the Balinese calendar), new temples, or just the celebration for the new water pump.
Life in Bali is very social and connected to nature and the ocean.
90% of what happens here is outside, even most showers here are outdoor!
One main downside of the daily life in Bali is the traffic, there is almost no public transport available except for taxis. It´s insanely busy on the roads and it can take really long to get from A to B although distance is short.
Most of the moving here happens on motorcycles. It is not uncommon to see things like 5 roosters, 2 dogs, 4 more family members or a kingsize matrace on the back of motorcycles.
UYD: What about the working life?
JM: If you are not a rice farmer, work life here starts surprisingly late here. things don’t open until after 9 or 10 am. Obviously the tourism industry is omnipresent here. Apart from that though, Bali with its improving internet speed and infrastructure is rapidly establishing itself as the place to be for location independent workers and companies. Co-working hubs and startup projects like “HUBUD”, “Startup Getaway” and the “Lineup Hub“ are popping up all over over the island.
The low costs of living attract Balipreneurs. In fact, just recently the BBC published an article called Forget Silicon Valley, meet Silicon Bali . Also Bali is hosting some interesting Industry conferences and business communities just like the “Secret W Business“ – an event for female entrepreneurs.
Jobs are not falling from trees for an expat and NO you can not become an English teacher just because you speak it. Visa regulations are strict here, local salaries are low and qualified competition is high.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that gender specific roles differ slightly from what we often see in conservative cultures: The women here are hard physical workers too. It’s not surprising to see women on construction sites carrying stone blocks on their heads.
UYD: Talk to me about the music?
JM: Traditional Balinese music is nothing like Salsa (i’m part Colombian). Balinese music usually incorporates stories and a lot of gongs and xylophones. The most interesting type is in my opinion the kecak. It’s a trance-inducing dance and music drama mostly performed by guys, that uses a really unique singing technique to imitate monkey sounds.
But of course you can also find young Balinese partying to the same pop and electronic music you hear in the western world. Young people on the island have a special knack for reggae music and playing guitar.
UYD: I love food so i’m curious about the food. What’s it like?
JM: Indonesian food is delicious and very complex with an incredible variety of spices, like chili, turmeric, coriander and an unreal amount of garlic. Dishes include rice (always!), vegetables, soy and tofu, peanut sauce and a lot of chicken and fish, often packed in banana leafs. As for drinks, Bali produces its own coffee-the Bali kopi.
If you want to go more exotic: Try the “luwak”, the “cat-processed” coffee beans literally secreted from a catlike animal.
As a part European Soul, I miss some things. Wines and good cheese are difficult to get or very expensive. But in general I don´t miss much, the variety of top restaurants from all over the world here is incredible! There are plenty of organic and veggie specialty restaurants here as well as a broad choice of local and very affordable delicious “Warungs” (food stands and local restaurants). Bottom line, your options are endless.
UYD: Are the people friendly in Bali?
JM: Balinese people are extremely friendly, polite and positive and they smile a lot. They are typically Hindus and absolutely community oriented. The people in Bali do welcome visitors and expats from other countries. They are really curious and its not uncommon for people to say hi to you on the street. Within the first 5 minutes they are already asking you everything about yourself starting with your name, where you are from, where you are going, if you are married, where your partner is from, how many kids you have and where you live. It’s really just reflecting their social orientation and friendliness, but this can be perceived as too inquisitive to us from the western culture. We would often retort with “that’s not your business!”
Interesting fun fact Balinese people all have sort of the same names. This is because Balinese are given a name based on their position in the family, e.g. first born is Wayan, second born is Made, third is Nyoman and fourth is Ketutu and then it repeats when more than 4 kids… fascinating system! Living in Bali requires a lot of intuition and understanding of the culture so as not to offend others (Don´t touch kids on the head or show the soles of your feet), understand and make yourself be understood. Saying yes doesn’t mean necessarily yes, and social connections (as in phone numbers of someone who knows someone to fix any kind of problem) are the most valuable asset you can have here.
UYD: If I wanted to have fun at night or on weekends, what kind of scene can I expect?
JM: Social life is really big here and Bali offers a fun nightlife, a lot of bars, clubs, pool parties, karaoke places etc. to choose from. Although Bali in general is really affordable, drinks and parties can be pretty expensive.
The Bali artsy influence shines through almost everywhere, its evident in the architecture and designs of the bars. You can see every thing from Bali beach shack style to modern Boho style to vintage & shipwood furnished restaurants to modern minimalistic beach clubs or arts gallery style bars. During the week I personally think there is nothing better to do than to finish a work day sitting on a beanbag in one of these simple beach places with a huge fresh coconut after a beach workout while watching the sunset with friends.
The best thing to do on a weekend is to gather friends and motorcycles to go on a road trip to one of the remote beaches, for example on the southern peninsula for a beach & barbecue fun day. The drives down are fantastic and I would encourage people to try to join the big surfing community and catch some waves too. It’s so much fun and a great workout and an important piece oft he lifestyle here. Also a trip to the neighbour island Lembongan is one of my favourite things to do: It´s a stone’s throw away from Bali. There are almost no cars and it’s a perfect spot to disconnect or if you are a risk taker cliff jump into the blue lagoon.
For off-beach activities no one should miss one of the traditional Balinese massages. Reflexology, acupressure and essential oils are a big part of Balinese medicinal culture and the perfect Sunday pampering activity.