Where are you from?

Indonesia in the world map (newbali.info)

“Where are you from?” is such a common question when you travel. It is also my favorite question to ask fellow travelers just to prove my guess is right by observing their languages or physical features. But when it comes to asking where I’m from, it becomes a lot more exciting.

Most Indonesians don’t travel. Most Indonesians who travel do so in tour groups. Most Indonesians who travel in a tour group will almost always go to Asia, Australia, USA or Europe. What about an Indonesian woman traveling in Latin America? 99% of the people I met said, “Wow, you are the first Indonesian I met in my whole life!” This is said not only by the locals, but also by the fellow travelers – mostly Europeans.

Apart from that, I have just realized that Indonesia is unknown to most of Latin Americans. I’m sure most Indonesians also don’t know Chile or Guatemala, but Indonesia is a very big country with 247 million populations. That is number 4 of the most populated country in the world! When you see it in the world map, Indonesia can be identified right away. Well, that’s how I think.

I used to tweet this Q&A of “where are you from?” from my Twitter @TrinityTraveler and my followers told me to post it in my blog. I intended to write in English so I can share this story to my foreigner friends. Here are some:

Among all of Latin Americans, Brazilians are the ones who seem to adore Indonesia very much. We are their dream destination! At the very least they will say, “Indonesia? Ah, tsunami!”

In other Latin American countries, no one really knows Indonesia. But after 8 months, I finally met some locals who knew something about Indonesia – in cute ways.

Guatemalan receptionist guy: Where are you from?
Me: Indonesia
Him: Your country is beautiful! I watched Miss Guatemala competing for Miss World in Indonesia!

Guatemalan Tuk Tuk driver: Where are you from?
Me: Indonesia
Him: Oh that’s very far! More than 25 hours flight, right?

Indonesia and India is the same country in some Latin Americans’ perception because our countries share the same first 3 letters and the last 2 letters. Paraguay and Uruguay is also the same, right?

Cuban landlady: Where are you from?
Me: Indonesia
Her: Wow, I love yoga, toe rings and sari!
Me: No. That’s India.
Her: Oh it’s different?

Argentinian skateboarder guy: Where are you from?
Me: Indonesia
Him: Oh I have a friend who lives in Calcutta!

Indonesia has a negative top of mind. It’s true and I don’t mind, but it’s such an embarrassment.

Moroccan girl (my hostel mate in Colombia): Where are you from?
Me: Indonesia
Her: Oh that’s where a baby smoke, right? I watched it on YouTube!

Mexican man I met in a church: Where are you from?
Me: Indonesia
Him: Oh that’s where its government closed down the churches, right?

Indonesia is must be somewhere in Asia. Yeah, sure!

Mexican guy who sells mobile phones: Where are you from?
Me: Indonesia
Him: Wow, I love Manny Pacquiao!
Me: That’s Philippines
Him: Oh it’s different?

Chilean painter guy: Where are you from?
Me: Indonesia
Him: Wow! Can you do Kung Fu?

Some people don’t know where Indonesia is, or what Indonesia is.

Dominican man in a Muslim prayer: Where are you from?
Yasmin (my friend): Indonesia
Him: Oh, I really want to go to Middle East!

Jamaican beach boy: Where are you from?
Me: Indonesia
Him: In… What?
Me: In-do-ne-si-aaa
Him: Inodesi? What is that? Never heard before!

Now… should I laugh out loud? Or should I cry?

For those who don’t know where Indonesia is exactly located, please look at the map I posted above. Yes, we are Asian, but it doesn’t mean we speak Chinese or can do Kung Fu.

Thanks to @aharadiran for editing this 🙂



  • Halida A.
    February 16, 2014 9:36 pm

    Yeah I think many people mix up Indonesia with India. Like when asked what the capital of India was, I know a person who answered Jakarta LOL. Well, at least they know there’s a city called Jakarta..

  • dee
    February 16, 2014 9:46 pm

    Indonesia?? dimananya bali?

  • yuuki_212
    February 16, 2014 10:51 pm

    “Most Indonesians who travel in a tour group will almost always go to Asia, Australia, USA or Europe.”

    Yeah, you right, I watched this one tv show that discussed about “what country you want to travel the most” and mostly Indonesians only said France (Eiffel Tower) because it’s romantic place ever….(=.=) and I keep thinking why they have the same answer? How about mexico or latin america? Maybe Indonesians only take a travel where other Indonesians (read : many indonesians) have left their mark in that country, if not then they won’t do it.

  • iqbalrois
    February 17, 2014 12:38 am

    Berhubung tulisannya in english, comment duluan ah, bacanya belakangan ~

  • Narita Aquarini
    February 17, 2014 5:26 am

    my friend : u’re indonesian?
    me : yeah..
    he : oh what languange do you speak?
    me : my own languange..indonesian
    he : it’s use chinese character..
    argggghhhhh not all asian chinesse..and fyi my friend is doctorat student..
    sooo frustating T-T

  • Nana
    February 17, 2014 10:00 am

    She: Where are you from?
    Me : Indonesia
    She: Ooo… *just smile*
    So? What do you mean with your smile? Too shy to elaborate more? Or thinking something about Indonesia? Hehehe…

  • jumai
    February 17, 2014 10:51 am

    hua ha ha ha….

    in Riyadh, Saudi:

    pilipino waiter (pw): ar u chinese?
    me (m): nope
    pw: korean?
    me (m): nope
    pw: pinoy?
    me (m): nope
    pw: vietnamese?
    me (m): nope
    pw: thai?
    me (m): nope
    pw: -pausing to think- ar u chinese?
    and the same Qs all over again 😀

    in korea:
    a woman in bus (wb): where ar u from?
    me: Indonesia
    wb: ooo why ar u wearing a veil like on TV?
    me: because i’m not muslim
    wb: but u came from Indonesia…
    errr…. 😀

  • dewi rossa
    February 17, 2014 11:25 am

    lucu banget, pernah kenalan sama cewek philippines cuma nanya makanan khasnya apa, ga nanya aneh2 😀

  • Nella
    February 17, 2014 3:16 pm

    Hahaha cuma bisa senyum2 aja pas yg negatifnya, sungguh ironis klo negara kita dikenal krn hal negatif, sebaliknya senang sekali klo mendapat respon positif 😀 .

  • felisia
    February 17, 2014 6:54 pm

    hostel keeper: wah u r from indonesia
    me: yes #proudly#
    hostel keeper: do u know anggun?
    me: yap. from tv that is. u know anggun?
    hostel keeper: yes! we love her, her voice is bery beautiful
    me: yeeep she isss 🙂

  • Kharis
    February 17, 2014 7:28 pm

    I don’t know – “where is Indonesia?” LOL

  • Nizar Nafta
    February 17, 2014 7:30 pm

    Ngopi2 di cafe deket Uluwatu, Bali

    Gue : Hello guys, where are you from?
    Bule2 : Turkey, u?
    Gue : Indonesia
    Bule2 : wow so far away,,,send my regards to Ahmadinejad
    Gue : (langsung menganga)!!! Ahmadinejad is IRANIAN #sodorinBaygon -_-

  • Anonymous
    February 17, 2014 7:42 pm

    Guys: where you from?
    Gw: Indonesia
    Guys: Do you have mc.donald there??
    Gw: speechless…. -__-

  • ferrenska
    February 17, 2014 7:46 pm

    Oh my godness…this story truly amuse me

  • Anonymous
    February 17, 2014 8:00 pm

    Yang paling lucu “can you do kung fu?” Hahahaha! Kayanya orang cina aja ga semua kung fu

  • rika
    February 17, 2014 8:02 pm

    brarti masih perlu lebih banyak pejalan Indonesia berkeliaran ke negeri seberang dan perkenalkan Indonesia 😀

  • Anonymous
    February 17, 2014 8:04 pm

    Mesem mesem

  • adhe mirza hakim
    February 17, 2014 8:06 pm

    Chilean painter guy: Where are you from?
    Me: Indonesia
    Him: Wow! Can you do Kung Fu?

    —-> hahahahahaha…….so funny !

  • Anonymous
    February 17, 2014 8:36 pm

    train in vietnam:
    him where are you from?
    me : indonesia
    him: india?
    me : no, indonesia
    him: brunei?
    me : no
    him: malaysia
    me : NO!!
    him: ?? *clueless*
    me : open a south east asia map and give it to him
    me : this is vietnam and that is indonesia *pointing*


  • magda
    February 17, 2014 9:05 pm

    I must say…story from Nizar Nafta is THE WINNEEEERRR!! :)))

    “Ngopi2 di cafe deket Uluwatu, Bali

    Gue : Hello guys, where are you from?
    Bule2 : Turkey, u?
    Gue : Indonesia
    Bule2 : wow so far away,,,send my regards to Ahmadinejad
    Gue : (langsung menganga)!!! Ahmadinejad is IRANIAN #sodorinBaygon -_-”

    O gooosshh…are we that bad???

    Iiiihh…meni pilu pisaann ya baca artikel ini 🙁
    Lucu2 perih gitu ngebacanya..

  • Mbak Sri
    February 17, 2014 10:15 pm

    After ‘observing’ my face, a Texan man asked me, “Where are you from?” Surely, I’m not Caucasian. I have black hair like some of the Hispanic, but my nose is different from them (you knowlah… pesek). My skin is like Chinesse, but my eyes are not.
    Then I told him that I’m from Indonesia.
    And he said: “Indonesia..!!! Yeahh… 3rd world country with human trafficking issue.”
    Me: “??!!!@$%&*”
    Indonesia is so special somehow…

  • ewesewes
    February 17, 2014 10:53 pm

    Minggu kemarin, bule di stasiun.
    T: Excuse me, may I know where are you come from?
    J: Indonesia
    T: Oh, selamat XXX. Sudah lama tinggal di XXX?
    *abis itu ngobrolin sate dan rendang*

  • Noni
    February 17, 2014 11:28 pm

    Pengalaman Om saya di Amerika

    Bule : “Dari mana?”

    Om : “Dari Indonesia”

    Bule : “Mananya Mexico?”

    Om : “Indonesia tuh di Asia”.

    Bule : sambil narik matanya jadi sipit “No, no Asia tuh matanya sipit, kamu pasti Latino”.

    Om *suka-suka deh*

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  • Optimuscream
    February 18, 2014 10:07 am

    so sad that foreigner only knows us negative way .. If they don’t know us they really don’t know ..but if they do .. they do know only from bad or funny news from the internet :((

  • Martin
    February 18, 2014 11:16 am

    and… its more complicated when you say Indonesia in Chinese (In Ni in chinese – but when you say In Do Ne Sia), they will think India (In Du)while we dont look like India 🙂

  • dynna
    February 18, 2014 12:57 pm

    lucu dan miris yaa bacanya !!

  • billydoxa
    February 18, 2014 4:04 pm

    haha..I have a Guatemalan friend, he live in Bali, and he is one of those bules who learn Indonesian language passionately, nooo not the formal one like ‘apa kabar’ ‘baik’ and those overrated Bahasa language, he learns expressions , casual response that we use everyday among each other like ‘Menurut lo?’ , ‘Cieee’ and some stuffs like that

    It’s funny because he is not so fluent in Bahasa itself but already accomplish to understand some of Indonesian expressions 😀

  • wanda saputra
    February 18, 2014 5:27 pm

    hmmm…kurang dikenal gitu ya indonesia.
    sekalinya dikenal “oh yang bocah merokok itu ya?aku lihat di youtube” wkwkwk ngakak bacanya

  • Ellin
    February 18, 2014 6:12 pm

    Sering bgt ini:

    “Where are you from?”

    Me: Indonesia

    “Oh wow, I’ve never been to Indonesia, but I’ve been to Bali”


  • hesti
    February 18, 2014 6:58 pm

    At hotel in Milan :
    Old man(who take care luggage) : where are you from?
    Me : Indonesia
    Old man : oooh.. Assalamualaikum..
    Me : wa’alaikumsalam (first time someone can guess that I’m a moslem just because I said Indonesia. Usually others will think that I’m korean or chinese or japanese because of my face hehe) Are you moslem too?
    Old man : yes, I’m from Aljazair. Are you from Jakarta?
    Me : wow! You really know Indonesia. (Surprised)

  • Ricky
    February 19, 2014 7:06 am

    This is the most common question I get when I travel, where are you from?
    Me : Indonesia
    tourist : where is that?
    Me : you know Bali?
    Tourist : yes, i know bali, is indonesia close to bali?
    Me : haha, bali is part of indonesia LOL

  • bijo
    February 19, 2014 9:25 am

    Ini lho Indonesia! *sodorin peta dunia*

  • dodo
    February 19, 2014 11:07 am

    coba perginya ke daerah sekitar pelabuhan… pasti ada yang kenal beberapa pelaut dari Indonesia… hehehe…

  • Raf Lis
    February 19, 2014 11:17 am

    Anything that you wrote always exiting to read. Your way to convey the message is very nice. I love it…

  • aris
    February 19, 2014 4:45 pm

    my most shameful experience in Bangkok couple years ago, when i and my friend shared an elevator with 2 bules (Australians) :
    Bules : hey kids, sawasdee krup…!!!
    Me : we’re not Thais..*smiling
    Bules : oohhh, where are you guys from..??
    Me : Indonesia
    Bules : aahhh, you’ve got money to travel, yeaahhh..??*laughing…
    Me : you were here because you couldn’t afford it to travel any further…
    Bules : @#$%&=*!!!! …*stop laughing, then gone

    Are we that poor in their eyes..???

  • Felicity
    February 20, 2014 6:35 pm

    Suatu saat di Colombo-Sri Lanka:

    Him: ‘Where are you from miss?’
    Me: ‘Can you Guess?’
    Him: ‘Japan!’
    Me: ‘No’
    Him: ‘China?’
    Me: ‘No, Indonesia’
    Him: ‘Aha…ya..ya..I know, Malaysia..’
    Me: ‘Not Malaysia, I-N-D-O-N-E-S-I-A… Malaysia is Our neighbour..’
    Him: ‘I know, you must be kidding me. I know that you must be from JAPAN!’ *seld assured and smiling*
    Me: *speechless*

  • Venida
    February 20, 2014 10:04 pm

    I’m a seamen. Pernah kerja di kapal pesiar MV.Carnival Triumph, Home port Miami, AS, rute berlayar kadang ke Amerika latin. Kabanyakan crew dari juga berasal dari Amerika latin: Peru. Guatemala, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, n many more… We can learn languages each others….

    Intinya: Kebanyakan orang luar tidak kenal Indonesia kecuali Bali. Jika mereka tanya:

    A: Where are you from?
    B: Indonesia
    A: Indonesia? Where is Indonesia?
    B: Do you know Bali?
    A: Oooww… Bali? Yes I know that!


  • vidiani
    February 21, 2014 10:35 am

    when break lunch with classmate in Germany:
    A: where r u from?
    B: Indonesia..
    A: what??in–doo–ne–si-a?? never heard before? is it in Asia?
    B: Yes
    A: I’ve been go to Asia,, to Bali.. is indonesia near wirh Bali?
    B : ?!$%#^%$& *banting piring

  • Andre Handoyo
    February 21, 2014 4:44 pm

    Di sebuah toko C&K, Singapore.

    Penjaga toko : Where are you come from?
    Me : Indonesia
    Penjaga Toko : Ah… Indonesia people is very rich ya. Because they always come to Singapore and buy these bags
    Me : hmm… *whatever*

    Setelah beberapa menit akhirnya keluar toko tanpa beli apa-apa. Kecewa kali ya tuh penjaga toko :p

  • rio suryono
    February 22, 2014 12:02 am

    Receptionist hostel di Roma
    A: where are you from?
    B: Indonesia
    A: Oh, I’ve been to Bali. Terima kasih.
    seneng karena dia jadi baik

  • kogni
    February 22, 2014 1:17 am

    thats why I dont like The Act of Killing movie, we got one more bad list, oh.. Indonesia, the guy who butchered people??

  • elainee
    February 22, 2014 10:37 am

    aaa baca artikel ini bikin ngakak plus miris
    m : me
    b : bule

    b : where do you come from
    m : indonesia
    b : where is it ?
    m : do u know bali ?
    b : ohhhh so bali is indonesia , am i right ? *pasang muka girang*
    m : go back to elementary school and learn world map please -_-

  • Anonymous
    February 22, 2014 4:54 pm


  • cancer_files
    February 23, 2014 4:25 pm

    waktu di Siem Reap….

    me :m
    cambodian : c

    m : I want to book a room, is it still available?
    c : oh, yes..(sambil ngeliatin saya kayak DPO) where are you from?
    m : Indonesia (bangga)…
    c : oh…we look same ya ?
    m : senyum..(dalam hati : ya iyalah…satu Asia Tenggara Raya kan nenek moyangnya sama…#krik)

  • Adedeci
    February 23, 2014 9:11 pm

    Waktu di hongkong

    Someone : where are you from ?
    Gw : indonesia
    S : aaah saya aslinya dari surabaya tp dari kecil sdh pindah k hongkong
    Gw : oalaaaah

  • nelangsa
    February 25, 2014 12:30 am

    Perlu diketahui saudara saudari bahwa secara sistematis Indonesia sengaja tidak diexpose atau kalaupun diberitakan hanya yang negatif saja seperti timur tengah dan amerika selatan oleh negara negara maju yang menguasai media internasional. Ini dikarenakan mereka sejak dulu sedang menguras potensi dan kekayaan alam indonesia. Sehingga kalau terjadi konflik disini dunia tidak mengenal Indonesia,thus tidak mendapat simpati atau perhatian/pemberitaan yang proporsional.”There are only two types of people : first is those who think they know and second is those who make sure the first think they know the way they do”

  • Terri
    February 25, 2014 9:30 pm

    Once in South Africa,

    stranger: Ah, you are from Indonesia?
    me: yes, I am!
    stranger: I love Indonesia,, especially Mr. Soeharto…

    wait,, what?!

  • Lutfi
    February 26, 2014 11:25 am

    Beruntungnya aku….dari awal sampai lulus kuliah di Columbus, Ohio.,, ga pernah tu ada yang bingung dengan Indonesia,,hehe…Indonesia cukup terkenal di kota dan universitasku itu,,

  • adat
    February 26, 2014 2:49 pm

    percakapan di HCMC vietnam dengan pedagang .

    (karena kebanyakan nawar barangkali)
    Temen dr Indo : Not 400000 dong ? please
    Pedagang : where are you from ?
    Temen dr Indo : Indonesia
    Pedagang : Aaah. Mafia, mafia
    Me : ???

    tau dari mana dia, di negara kita banyak mafia hahaha

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