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Malaysians Team Up With Indonesians Online Telling Foreign “Nomads” To Check Their Privilege

Malaysians Team Up With Indonesians Online Telling Foreign “Nomads” To Check Their Privilege

Southeast Asians share frustrations of western nomads.

Akmal Hakim

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The relationship between Malaysia and Indonesia can be best described as a bittersweet rivalry. We fight each other over attention and resources, lay claims on things we basically share and constantly throw insults at one another at any given chance.

But if it’s one thing that both countries and its people can find common ground on is our disdain for foreigners who take us for granted.

Malaysians took to social media to share their thoughts and experiences with foreign tourists and migrants following viral news of an American “digital nomad” who received backlash for making comments about the good life she and other expatriates were enjoying in Bali, Indonesia.

Reportedly, an American entrepreneur who lived in there since 2019 had upset Indonesians when she wrote on Twitter of how migrating to the island had been a “game-changer” and the “perfect medicine” for her life.

The woman went on to tell how she and her girlfriend were living an “elevated lifestyle” in a treehouse on the island for around just RM1,620 compared to the RM5,200 she would be paying for a Los Angeles studio apartment back in the United States (US).

Screenshot taken by netizens on Kristen Gray’s viral Twitter thread before her account was removed from public view.
(gastricslut/Twitter)

She later described her decision to “wait out” the Covid-19 pandemic in Bali and listed several benefits of living there as it was; safe, cheap, luxurious, LGBTQ-friendly, before plugging in her RM121 ebook entitled “Our Bali Life Is Yours” – described as a guide to living the dream life on the island paradise.

(gastricslut/Twitter)

Not exactly the island paradise

The woman’s island paradise dream quickly turned into a nightmare as people began criticizing how foreigners, particularly those from western countries, experience a different Indonesia than locals do.

Netizens called out the privileges enjoyed by foreigners who often ignore or are the cause of the problems that exist in the community besides pointing out the sense of entitlement some westerners have while travelling to the region.

People also commented on how westerners in Bali and other parts of Southeast Asia gentrify or change the social and economical situation in a community – making life harder for the locals who live there.

Netizens also argued how the entrepreneur who claimed to be making her income from the US was breaking Indonesian law by doing so on a tourist visa and not paying the appropriate taxes.

SEA solidarity

As criticism raged on, Malaysian social media users began voicing their support for their Indonesian neighbours against western trevelers or nomads who’ve might overstayed their welcome.

People also started sharing news articles, images and videos of westerners misbehaving in Asia for laughs and to make a point on how some nomads were more trouble than their worth.


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View Comment (1)
  • In all of this “let’s bash the foreigners” thinking, it’s also important to remember that not all Westerners are like this. Most who live abroad do so legally, pay their taxes, and don’t abuse the system. It’s probably safe to say that many of them respect and appreciate their adopted home, as well. There are always going to be a few bad apples in any group of people, regardless of nationality.

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