Our day to day life in Bali couldn't be more different from our day to day life in France. We love our time in each place equally, but for different reasons, and we try our best to embrace what it is about each place that makes it special and unique.
For anyone that hasn’t had a chance to visit Bali, I thought I'd share some of the quirks of daily life here - things you might not have considered or heard about - to give you a snapshot of some of the lifestyle differences that make Bali life unique...
We buy gas by the liter from Absolute vodka bottles.
There are no gas stations near our home in Bali, but there are hundreds of street vendors selling gasoline by the liter, out of Absolute vodka bottles no less!
Traffic is very congested in Bali, so like most residents we drive a scooter not a car. Our scooter takes around three liters of gas, so it’s quick and easy to fill up with the funnel provided by vendors.
Most Balinese people have the same name, and no-one has a surname.
When visitors come to Bali the first time, they often comment that they’ve met a lot of people called Wayan, Ketut, or Made (pronounced ma day). Well, this is because most Balinese natives are named according to birth order. First born children are called either Wayan, Putu, Gede, or Iluh, second born are called Made, Kadek, or Nengah, third born are called Nyoman or Komang, and fourth born are called Ketut. If a fifth child is born, the cycle starts again and one of the first born names is used, sometimes with the addition of 'Balik', meaning again.
All of these names (with the exception of Iluh and Gede) are also gender neutral and are therefore used for both boys and girls.
Another unique difference, is that the tradition of a surname, or family name, doesn’t exist in Bali. All Balinese people are associated with a family temple, and it’s through that temple that extended family connections are maintained. Even for contractual or business purposes, surnames don’t exist in Bali.
There are geckos everywhere.
If you have a gecko phobia, you wouldn’t cope well in Bali. We have ghekos running around all over our home, especially up the walls and across the ceiling. It’s impossible to keep them outside, and no one that I know who lives here even bothers to try.
A lot of locals like the geckos because they help keep insects at bay, and the first Indonesian children’s song Rosie learnt was all about the sound made by geckos. Personally I don’t mind the little guys; we even have one that’s been living behind the same painting for at least 3 years.
In addition to geckos, occasionally larger reptiles will walk into our villa. Once we had a snake in our dining room (unwanted!) and we’ve had a few huge monitor lizards, including one that dove into the swimming pool. These events don’t happen weekly, but they do happen a couple of times a year. We really do live among nature here; once I put my sneaker on to go to the gym, and got the fright of my life when a frog jumped out!
I don’t own a hairdryer in Bali.
Maybe this is something I will change in the future, but we spend so much time driving around on our scooter (helmet head), and jumping in and out of the swimming pool, that it simply hasn’t ever occurred to me to ever blow dry my hair in all the time I've lived in Bali.
It’s funny because in France I blow dry my hair after every wash, and it wouldn’t occur to me not to. This is obviously just a tiny detail, but it goes to show how much your lifestyle really is dictated by where you live.
Hinduism is integrated into day-to-day life, and religious festivals are of the utmost importance.
The vast majority of Balinese people consider themselves Hindu, and religion plays a strong role in most people’s daily lives. Beautiful handmade offerings are laid out to honor the gods daily, and blessing ceremonies are held for all sorts of events - from births, to new building projects. There’s even an annual event where everyone decorates and blesses their scooter!
The biggest annual religious festivals are Galungan, which celebrates the triumph of good over evil, and Nyepi, a day of silence which marks the first day of the New Year according to the Balinese Saka calendar.
Nyepi is such a significant event here, that Bali’s only airport is closed for 24 hours to honor the day of silence. Residents and tourists alike are expected to stay indoors and meditate. No lights or fire can be used, and walking the streets or driving is strictly forbidden. There is even a team of religious officials on duty to make sure no-one abuses the curfew - and I’ve certainly heard about foreigners being reprimanded for not respecting the rules.
The night before Nyepi, Bali erupts into a fabulous, massive party with street performances, traditional music, and general exuberance. I asked a local friend why there was this huge celebration the night before Nyepi, and he told me it was so everyone was tired on Nyepi day, and therefore ready and willing to be quiet in religious contemplation :-)