Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Customer Service USA vs. Indonesia

This morning I was waiting in the Starbucks line, not moving and realizing the stark differences between customer service and or the customer's expectations from American customers versus Indonesian customers. 

The barrista's working the line were very nice and pleasant, but very slow (as perceived by this American), being the only non-Indonesian in the line, no one else seemed to mind the turtle pace. The cashiers seemed unable to do more than one task at a time and each thing was done with painstaking care and no worry for how long it would take. The barrista making the designer drinks was busy chatting and occasionally paying attention to composing the drink. There was no concern by either the customers or the employee's that anyone had to get back to work, that they were "on the clock." I was trying to make a bus shuttle and I had one minute to go, at one point I did finally tell the woman behind the drink counter, "please hurry, I'm trying to make the shuttle." She was still unconcerned. 

It made me think of what would have happened in the USA, first I would not have been put in that situation, as the initial barristas I came in contact with, would have pumped me out, quickly taking and executing the order. And if their was a line, Americans would have grumbled and the manager would have come out and pitched in, working to clear the line. 

But does this take away from the customer service provided, are they American barristas not as friendly or warm. On the contrary, I find them equally engaging as in Indonesia but understanding the needs of their American customers, where time is money. 

As I write this, I wonder if the difference isn't between customer expectations but our concept of time??? 

I will say this, these cultural differences are often the biggest of foreign service challenges. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Saudi Wahhabism

I was forwarded this NYT op-ed and found it fascinating. 

 One of the commentator's  to this article had this to say (below in pink)  and I thought she was on point, a point I had never thought of, but now makes much sense, the Saudi family has done A LOT to spread Wahhabism, they finance the building of and up keep of many mosques around the world, their money definitely spreads their version of Islam and perhaps that is now the seeds we are seeing. Because truly if one reads the history of Islam, particularly after the Prophet (pbuh) and the early decades, Islam seems much more peaceful, able to live with others. Now all of sudden its renewed its relationship with violence, why? What was the trigger? 

What is crucial to understanding this phase of Islam, where searingly harsh, inflexible doctrine prevails, is the spread and infiltration of Wahhabism into the major centers of theology. Since its rise, Wahhabism has shown itself to be brutal and unyielding in its expectations of violence. The economic prosperity of the Saud family has resulted in the financing and indoctrination of young clerics from around the world, who then preach this in their home countries. 

We Muslims are at fault for not loudly decrying the debasement of the religion by the Saudis. Islamic spirituality is very individualized. We should be practicing moderation and compassion, charity and benevolence, not following the cultural dictates of spoiled Arab dauphins. 

Monday, December 07, 2015


We got back from our first vacation, to Bali! It was lovely! Truly a paradise on earth, warm, beautiful, relaxed. I didn’t want to come back to Jakarta, but then as I told the children, vacations are only fun because we work all the time, I suppose a bit like desert after dinner, ha ha. While there, there was an Indian wedding party going on, and the staff kept mistaking us as part of the wedding party. We would have totally crashed the wedding but we didn't bring any Indian clothes.  The kids and I spent three days just playing at the beach or in the pool, now we are all battling sun burn, its a pain but I'll take sun burn over cold and snow any day

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

A little bit about Islam in Indonesia

One of the things I do see here in Indonesia is a practice of Islam exactly as I have been and continue to practice, people say their 5 time prayers, but than go back to work. Alcohol and pork is served at restaurants and no one gets upset, people just eat according to their religious dietary restrictions. Islam in Indonesia is integrated into everyday life but not at the expense of or to the exclusion of other things. And yes,  the point about the Indonesian Nusantra is very true and Indonesians are proud of the fact that they  can show the world that Islam can cohabitant peacefully with other religions, perhaps I think because to an extent Indonesians see themselves first as Indonesians than to their religious affiliation. 

“The problem with Middle East Islam is they have what I call religious racism,” said Azyumardi Azra, an Islamic scholar and former rector of the State Islamic University in Jakarta. “They feel that only the Arabs are real Muslims and the others are not.”

This comment could not be more true - I have seen it time and time again even in America, this idea by Arabs that somehow they hold the real Islam and the rest of us, not of Arab descent, should yield to them, we are inferior to them - and I think a large part of the problem and why these radical groups seem to be taking hold of the Islamic world is because of this inferiority complex suffered by non-Arabs (I see it heavily in many of my Pakistani friends) this desire to prove their "Muslim-ness."   At the local mosque in Virginia, it is always the Arab ladies who stand up and boss everyone around (how to stand, what to do during prayers), as if to proclaim they hold the truth and the rest of us are just saplings. Yet, in Indonesia that isn't the case - so far I haven't found anyone who lords over another during prayer times or at Islamic holidays, like a prayer police officer. Its very freeing.