I’ve been to lots of cities, many of them with reputations for romance. Paris, Rome, Florence… yadda yadda. I mostly just ate gelato or crepes there. But they definitely had the romantic vibe.
But after more than a year in Jakarta, I have to say that I have never met a city so publicly wrapped up in the idea of romantic love… even if it doesn’t have footpaths for lovers to wander along holding hands.
Taxi drivers blast soppy “cinta pop” ballads from the radio. The Indonesian television industry seems to be nearly solely sustained by sinetrons and reality TV shows about searching for love and ups and downs of love. Taxi drivers, public transport operators and dudes sitting on street corners have on multiple occasions professed their “love” for me.
“Macet” (traffic jam) and “cinta” (love) were two of the first words I picked up in Indonesian because they are some of the most prolifically used.
People on Twitter and Facebook freely pour out their matters of the heart, sometimes in a way that could be classified as overshare by my standards. It seems like hearts are very much worn on sleeves.
And the betrayal of partners and the constant tension between love and lust is played out in the open. Affairs are often barely veiled. Lust is a big part of life here too… and the poverty and sometimes even the religion seems to motivate it more.
Sure, everywhere has love songs and crazy old dudes cracking on to younger ladies and people getting around and playing games. And everyone is looking for love in some way, whether they deny it or not. But it just seems so much more intense here to me.
In Sydney, love either “just happened,” or the pursuit of it sometimes almost took the form of a competitive sport once people reached a certain age. Speed dating, singles beachside extreme exercise boot camps, that sort of thing. London was similar. But nobody was really running around professing their love, crying about their love from the virtual rooftops, etc. It was held more privately… perhaps people were worried about offending their single friends.
Love is a part of pretty much every Western TV show and movie too… but in Indonesia’s sinetrons, it often seems to be the only storyline.
Perhaps it’s because Indonesians have different ideas about privacy as well as stronger cultural pressures to get married, start a family etc.
Perhaps it’s because in many ways Jakarta is a difficult landscape, so obsession with lofty romance is some form of escapism.
Perhaps it’s because there are elements of society trying to repress sex, and others who make so much darn money off it?
Perhaps I am just seeing it differently to most people. Perhaps it’s in my head? Maybe I just haven’t noticed it as much in other places I have been?
What do you think?