To Be Diplomatic, Or No..

Shelley, an Australian, came to Indonesia in the late 1990s. As a university graduate, she planned to stay in Indonesia only for a couple of months to master the Indonesian language, Bahasa Indonesia. She flew to Yogyakarta, taking just one suitcase of clothes and books.

"I spoke fairly good Bahasa. I had also read some books about Indonesia and Java, in particular, when I was a student. It was enough for me, so I thought," she told The Jakarta Post recently.

Unfortunately, it was not sufficient.

A friendly personality by nature, Shelley tried to interact with as many Indonesians as possible. It proved to be the best way to improve her spoken Bahasa, she added. However, as she developed relations with them, she faced some cultural problems.

"One of my friends said she was insulted when I was frank about my opinion of her. I, on the other hand, considered my other friend disturbing as he came to my rented house anytime he wanted without permission," she said.

Shelley, then in her early 20s, encountered further problems and decided to prolong her stay in the country. The problems were not always about culture, but also about practical day-to-day activities such as shopping or meeting the appropriate physician.

Eventually, though, Shelley found solace in the Australian and New Zealand Association (ANZA), a non-profit organization committed to welcoming and assisting expatriates living in Indonesia.

"They recommended some physicians to me. I also got useful tips on how to behave here from ANZA members. Their information was better than what I gleaned from books," said Shelley, who now resides in Sydney after living in Indonesia for five years.

From the experiences shared by ANZA members, she learned the differences in customs especially between the Javanese and those of Batak descent.

"Javanese don't like to confront, so, you have to be diplomatic; while the Batak people are more open," Shelley said.

Catriona McDonald, president of ANZA, said the organization, which was set up in 1970, serves as a support network to help families and individuals settle into the local community, a base for community work and a networking forum for business opportunities.

As a tool to connect its members, ANZA offers an informative monthly magazine for its members: BERITA (News).

According to McDonald, ANZA provides a variety of functions and activities for working and non-working members and their families. She said that the activities were made possible due to the support from to its enthusiastic members who donate their time and efforts.

ANZA organizes regular activities and a few major functions each year to enable its members and families to interact with one another.

ANZA holds regular coffee and conversation mornings, BBQs, as well as opportunities for bridge, mahjong and belly dancing. Among major events organized by ANZA are the Charity Grand Ball, the Melbourne Cup Luncheon in November, Mid-Year Bazaar and the Christmas Bazaar in December, which is the most popular here.

As a means to connect its members, the events also serve as a fund-raising for "the poor and needy" in the community, said McDonald.

ANZA projects include a nutritious feeding program for babies in Pasar Senen, Central Jakarta, and a poverty reeducation program in Bali.

ANZA exists in many countries, including in Singapore, where it has been for more than half a century, and in Malaysia, where it takes a slightly different name: namely the Malaysia Australian New Zealand Association (MANZA).

All around the globe, ANZA serves as a forum for Australians and New Zealanders to meet and share experiences. But now, it has opened its membership to other nationalities. In Indonesia, too, the voluntary organization is not an exclusive group for Australians and New Zealanders.

McDonald, an (Australian) education consultant who has been living in Indonesia for 16 years, said that the organization was open for people of all nationalities.

"As our home countries have vibrant multi-cultural populations, ANZA welcomes people, both men and women, of all nationalities," she said.

Quoted From: Jakartpost

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