Sutayasa lives in Singapore.
Where are you from?
Which part of Jakarta?
South Jakarta, the best area to live in. It’s near to everywhere that matters, really. It’s near to the central business district, to Kemang, to all the malls.
Is that what you like about Jakarta? Convenience?
I don’t know, I think they have better food than Singapore. It’s also home for me, where most of my friends are and that’s what makes Jakarta for me. My friends make me love Jakarta.
What makes you go abroad for college?
I just wanted to be abroad. To be honest, before this I never really been abroad before. I never travelled until college. I wanted something new. You also cannot deny that Singapore has a better educational system than Indonesia, it’s one of the best in Southeast Asia.
How’s living in Singapore different from living in Jakarta?
I think first thing that makes it difficult is keeping in touch with my friends in Jakarta, because that’s the friendship that I really want to keep and maintain. It can be quite a struggle, especially when I was maintaining all these different activities in college. I was having a long distance relationship with someone in Indonesia, that was difficult. Singapore is also very competitive. It wouldn’t be Singapore without the competition.
Is Jakarta less competitive?
At least in Jakarta, the people are more bound to help each other out. I went to one of the best public schools in Indonesia. They would rank, according to grades, the best 200 entrants. The school was known for a really low acceptance rate. Even with all that, I didn’t find it all that competitive, I actually quite enjoyed it. It was probably the best part of my life.
How has being in Singapore changed you?
In a sense, I am trained to be living in a faster paced life. It forces you to handle stress better. I think the best thing is it makes you more tolerant. In Indonesia, it is just in the culture to try to be more polite with everyone. It’s not the same here in Singapore, I don’t think you can find the same kind of politeness here. I think people here, in general, are more frank and there’s more kinds of ethnicities here in Singapore, not to mention all the ang-mohs (Caucasians).
Could you elaborate more about the vision that you have of Indonesia?
There was this article that I was given to, when I was in high school, about a Chinese vice-governor in North Sumatra. The article made a point about how hard it is for an ethnically Chinese person in the government. I have always known that being Chinese presents an obstacle, especially when considering a career in politics, but especially after the Sri Mulyani cases, I’ve become a lot more disheartened. I always wanted to be in politics in Indonesia, but unfortunately until meritocracy is evident in the government, it’s probably not worth it.
Are most of your Indonesian friends here in Singapore Chinese?
I think most of them are, I can say about 90% of them.
How does that affect you?
Well, it’s a little bit weird, because when I was growing up I spent most of time hanging out with natives. The area where I grew up was predominantly pribumi and I also went to public schools. I hardly know anything about the Chinese culture, I don’t speak the language either. When I got here, the disparity became a lot more noticeable because my friends here know how to speak Chinese and are brought up with more exposure to the Chinese culture. It’s even harder when I started working because most of the Singaporeans are Chinese, and they always kind of question my integrity when they realize that I don’t speak the language even though I look Chinese. It also presents an obstacle, like a social wall. They would just speak Chinese to each other and leave me out. I’m learning, but yeah, it’s a little bit off-putting.
You think you’ll ever come home to Jakarta eventually? Or would you rather continue working abroad?
I spoke to my parents about this before. I had always planned to get an MBA after about two or five years of working, but that is starting to change. I may end up as an entrepreneur or sort, but I don’t know for sure. All I know is that in the next five years I want to either continue working on my career, whatever that may be, or to pursue an MBA in the States and then heading back to Indonesia as an entrepreneur. Call me naive, but I am still driven to help build Indonesia, to help build the country that built me.