culture shock · daily life · parents

What it’s like to move back in with your Indonesian parents – Part 2

I’m glad to see that my first post about moving back in with my parents got really positive responses from dear readers. Thanks for laughing on my misery, you horrible, horrible people 😀

Other than syncing up our eating habit, another challenge we have to face is related to how we manage chores and housekeeping.

As in most Indonesian families, my mom does a majority of the housework. She’s in charge of cleaning, laundry, managing expenses, etc. We used to have live-in maids, who both quit on different occasions because they were getting married. My mom then decided she didn’t want to deal with looking for someone she could trust enough to share our living space with, so she hired a maid that only comes over twice a week to help her out. My mom doesn’t believe in dryers – she prefers hanging all of the wet laundry at an open space and let them dry naturally, the traditional way. We do have a drying machine and I’ve attempted to show her how to use it, yet she has this mindset of the machine being overly complicated that she won’t try it at all. She also insists on ironing everything herself, and everyday there would be a basket of freshly pressed and neatly folded clothes in front of our room. That’s really nice of her, yet I couldn’t help but question: How is there a fresh basket of clothes everyday if we only do laundry twice a week? How does that logistic work? Is my mom trying to ration our clothes?

We have a corner in the house designated to dry our laundry like this. Source:

The cleanliness of our room is another point of differences. We moved in with four large suitcases and a bunch of hand carries. If you know me well, you’ll know that I hate unpacking. If it was up to me, I’d leave my suitcases lying on the floor for months and simply retrieve random items out of them before I finally put everything in place. After a while, we started to notice that some things were not where we left them. My mom tidied up around the room and she tried to put things away. Every time we went out, we would come back home finding subtle changes here and there. Our first week home turned into a game of “What got moved today?” between Sean and I. Again, that’s really nice of her, yet it’s really difficult to find anything we are looking for. We need to establish our own system.

Something as simple as food storage can even be a subject of head scratching. Jakarta is humid, thus we have a specific way to keep certain types of food. For example, shrimp crackers has to be kept in an airtight container to preserve their crunchiness. Leave your half-eaten bag of chips without a bag clip and they will be soft the next day – melempem, as we called it. My parents decide that it’s too impractical to treat each food item differently, so their solution is to refrigerate EVERYTHING. Including stuff like dry pasta and unopened canned food. I tried to explain to my mom that it’s unnecessary, and here’s how the conversation went:

Me         : Mom, why did you refrigerate the canned corned beef?

Mom     : Biar awet (so it lasts longer).

Me         : But that’s the whole point of canning food, so it lasts longer.

Mom     : Yeah, but if you refrigerate it, it will last even longer.

Me         : Okay…

I kid you not, we have four refrigerators in the house.

We are huge iced tea drinkers. We don’t really drink water at home. I told my mom she’ll be happy in America because when you order cold drinks they give you a lot of ice and it’s free refill. She grinned really wide upon hearing that.

Nothing cures your thirst like a tall glass of es teh – iced tea. Source:

We drink so much iced tea that my mom brews a whole box of teabags a day to create two jugs of super strong tea concoction, and we just have to add ice and dilute it with water in our own glass. However, when Sean visited for the first time two years ago, he wasn’t aware of the system. One day, around 7 am, my mom woke me up, panicking.

Mom     : Mesa, wake up, wake up!

Me         : (still half asleep) What?

Mom     : Wake up! Wake up! Sean is drinking undiluted tea!!

Me         : (still half asleep) What?

Mom     : Sean is drinking undiluted tea!! He’s going to get a stomachache. (She believes strong tea and coffee will cause indigestion). Tell him to dilute the tea!!

Me         : (still half asleep) Fine. Fine. I’ll tell him.

I got up and dragged myself to the garden, where Sean was innocently drinking the supposedly strong iced tea and watching football.

Me         : (to Sean, sleepily) Sean, mom said you are drinking undiluted tea. She’s worried you are going to get sick. Please dilute the tea.

My mom came over.

Mom     : (to me) Did you tell him to dilute the tea? He’s going to get sick!

The weird thing is, we tried that system in the US once, and it didn’t work as well. For some reason, diluted iced tea in Davis just didn’t taste the same.

It’s funny how sometimes well-meaning behavior can be translated as a nuisance. I can tell you that despite all my rants, I am lucky to have parents who are really keen on making us happy by any means they can think of. If anything, it gives me more materials to blog about!


3 thoughts on “What it’s like to move back in with your Indonesian parents – Part 2

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