Oct 15, 2006

Hello Sir, Where Are You Going?

When you walk in the streets of Bali, you probably will encounter people that greet you with, “Hello, Sir/Madam, where are you going?” This question may seem very strange, because you don’t know those persons, yet they ask a personal question.

You are perplexed, you don’t what to say and think why these people want to know where you are going? What is their business asking the question?

There is nothing wrong with this question and the people you meet. This is because in Bali when we meet friends, we usually say in Balinese” kija?” which means where. Or where you going? We don’t

say “how are you today?” but rather “where are you going?”. I don’t know why we do this, but maybe to show that we are interested in other people or care about them (well, in a different way). That’s the case, we just want to show our friend that we care, because we don’t really expect an exact answer. We don’t expect people to say, “I am going to X.” or “I am going to go to Kuta because I want to meet somebody there to teach me surfing.” It is okay if you want to
answer this specific, but you just can say, “I am just going for a walk” or “I am going to west Bali”. So, nothing specific.

Even nowadays, you can still find people who greet you this way. But, to my observation, people now also ask the question “Apa kabar?” (Indonesian words for how are you?) or “Sampunapi gatra?” (Balinese, how are you). The answer is “Baik.” And “Becik” respectively which means fine. Nevertheless, the question “where are you going?” is still more popular.

There are also other questions asked when people meet for
the first time.

  1. where are you from?
  2. (to a lady)Where does your husband work?
  3. are you married?
  4. how many children do you have?
  5. what’s your job?
  6. which caste system are you belong to?
(Note: question no 6 is rare at the moment. Bali

society is divided into 4 castes, at the beginning each represent group of
people of certain profession: the priest, the trader, the soldier or kings, and
the worker. As time passed, the division becomes status, or class, or caste
where people think that certain groups are higher than the others.)

These questions are examples of what being asked among Balinese, not necessarily to tourists. This may sound strange to you, but people can actually give vague answers if they don’t really want to reveal themselves.
So, next time you walk on a Bali streets you know what kind of greeting you will expect, “Hello Sir/Madam. GoodMorning. Where are you going today?” And your answer will be, “Just going for a walk.” And as you ask back, they probably answer, “I am going no where. Just staying at home.”

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