What your ethnic background?
West Sumatran, my mother is Minang and my father is Pariaman. The two ethnic groups are actually very different, Minang people have travel embedded in their culture since they practice merantau, even the women. They value education and seeing far away places very much. On the other hand, Pariaman is a lot like Sundanese in Java. They are matrilineal, they are also more strict in a way. Basically, the two families don’t actually get along all that well because of this cultural difference between them.
Can you elaborate more?
Well, when you go merantau, even though my mother’s family may be somewhat wealthy in Sumatra, the wealth is not considered to be hers. In my mother’s family, once you leave the household, everyone starts over with nothing. People from Pariaman puts a lot of emphasis on wealth, it’s as if you have to be rich no matter what. Status and wealth are highly valued. The Minang people value education a lot more than wealth, meanwhile Pariaman people care mostly about money.
When you came here, was it because of merantau? Did your parents send you away?
Yes! It is merantau! But my parents never really told me to go abroad or anything like that, at least not directly. They would just talk about their experiences when they were younger, so maybe that influences my decision. I always thought that my parents lived adventurous lives, so I would like at least some of that in my life too.
How does the difference between the two families affect you?
I grew up mostly with my mom’s family, I don’t really spend all that much time with my father’s family. There were always conflicts between the two, but because of my affinity for my mother’s family, I think I end up always taking their side in the end.
Do you think you’ll ever come back to Indonesia?
Eventually. But it’ll definitely be a really long time before I go back.
Is the idea of merantau well embedded in your family?
Maybe, I mean my brother wants to study abroad as well, eventually. But most of my extended family from my mother’s side married to Javanese families so I think it leads to a different set of cultural beliefs.
Why abroad? Why not travel within Indonesia?
I’m influenced by my mom definitely. She thinks the educational system abroad is better than Indonesia’s. Myself personally I just want to see what outside of Indonesia is like. I always thought about that since junior high. I want to eventually see other places outside of Asia too.
Have you always had a difficulty settling in one place?
I can settle down, but I probably can’t settle down for too long.
How is your experience of living here in Singapore so far?
It’s been pretty interesting. I’ve changed a lot in terms of my personal values and beliefs. I’ve become more self-aware of my financial circumstances, I think about being more financially independent a lot more than before. When I was in Jakarta, my mom would take care of basically everything. It’s definitely different when you have to start take care of things on your own. I’ve also befriend with a lot more ethnically Chinese people here, both Indonesian and Singaporean. I don’t usually mix with them, and I don’t know much about them. I’m not racist or anything, but it’s just I never had the opportunity to know more about them. It was quite a culture shock when I first came here I think. It forced me to understand them more.
In my previous conversation, this difference between Chinese-Indonesian and pribumi people have been brought up. When they are abroad, they tend to to fit either a “studious kid” and a “cool kid” stereotype respectively, what do you think about that?
Well, stereotypes are stereotypes. I think there will always be people who fit them to an extent, and some who don’t. What matters is whether they try to understand each other’s circumstances or characteristics and transcend the cliques that they are bound to be stuck with.