Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
The Culture
Bali is commonly described as a heaven for its cheery, offering-proffering
residents but it is a romanticism worthy of a tourist brochure at best. Life
is often hard and the average Balinese person has a hardscrabble existence
that would be familiar to people worldwide. However, the Balinese do excel
in one key area - they have an undeniable talent for making use of every
resource on the island: bamboo, vines, flowers and shells for their imaginative
offerings; European perfumes, international CDs, brand-name clothing for
rip-off copying. Even the tourist is a resource to be painted, oiled, massaged,
manipulated, tattooed or plaited.
Balinese life centres around the village, and increasingly, the suburban
neighbourhoods of the south. Every activity - from producing crops to
preparing food, and from bargaining with tourists to keeping the youth
employed - involves everybody. It is impossible to be a faceless nonentity
on the island. This involvement with other people in the village extends
to tourists. To make you feel welcome, Balinese will go out of their way
to chat to you. But they won't talk about the weather or even the football.
They are interested in you, your home life and your personal relation-
ships. Chatting in Bali can get rather personal (see p57) but is never with
malicious intent.
Balinese are known for their sense of fun, their joy of life, and their ability
to adapt a situation to suit changing needs. The legend that tells of how a
group of Balinese farmers promised to sacrifice a pig if their harvest was good
is an example of this. As the bountiful harvest time approached, no pig could
be found. Then they had an idea. The sacrifice had been promised after the
harvest. If there was always new rice growing, the harvest would always be
about to take place and no sacrifice would be necessary. Since then, farmers
have always planted one field of rice before harvesting another.
Everybody loves children - visit Bali with your kids and you'll have a
constant stream of people making sure they enjoy every moment. In one
memorable scene, an otherwise irascible driver-tout dived to pluck a tourist
child walking into the path of a taxi. Older children take care of the younger
ones in their family or village. They're always seen carrying a child on their
hips, all of them remarkably well-behaved and happy.
Women enjoy a prominent position in Bali, from manual labour jobs
(you'll see them carrying baskets of wet cement on their heads) to almost
every job in the tourist industry. In fact, the traditional female role of caring
for people and preparing food means that many successful tourists shops
and cafés were established by women.
Traditional Balinese society is founded on the Balinese Hindu religion and
it permeates every aspect of life. There are temples in every village, shrines in
every field, offerings made at every corner, nook and cranny. The Balinese
feel that their religion should be an enjoyable thing, for mortals as well as
the gods. It's summed up well in their attitude to offerings - once the gods
have eaten the 'essence' of the food, you've still got enough left over to be
satisfied (see p45).
The Balinese are a very proud, confident race, with a culture that extends
“Balinese are
known for
their sense
of fun, their
joy of life”
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