Lessons of Indonesia – How Little We Need to Communicate… by Misha Lyuve

Dec 7, 2011


My silence experiment in the previous posting was inspired by traveling through Indonesia. I was warned that driving would require some very special skills so I didn’t risk driving myself. But I paid attention and managed to discover the unique skills of Indonesian drivers among other treasures of the islands.

Narrow roads of Indonesia are hustling with motorbikes, cars and vans, small businesses on both sides and kids playing right off the road (my friends who are parents would probably lose their mind from the idea). This is the world that is not regulated by many streetlights or signs (especially outside of big cities), doesn’t have many handrails or clearly designated pedestrian areas, but nevertheless lives in order. And while children car seats are mandatory in the US, in Indonesia many times the little ones just hang off their parent’s shoulder who is riding the motorbike.

For the world of Indonesia traffic to function, the inner intelligence of self-governance created a new language – the language of honking. Unlike New York City where honking is a sign of irritation and impatience, anger and detest, in Indonesia it speaks a warning before a turn on a windy road, gratitude when you acknowledge someone who let you move in front of them, courtesy when you allow someone to pass you and a greeting if you see an old friend.

How little we need to communicate…

Photos by Dr. Mikhail Tis

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