Have you ever stepped into another country and go, wow – it’s completely a whole new world?

It unsettles you – the way the locals eat, behave and even the the way they stare at you. It’s just so….different.

And so is Bali.

In fact, there’s nowhere quite like it in the world, and if you aren’t ready it’s going to wipe you out.


Don’t let culture shock shock you!

Of course, we can never be fully prepared for culture shock until we’re experiencing it ourselves, but if you come from the other side of the globe, we’ve put together some things you can expect, especially if you intend to take a long summer holiday!

1. You’re Suddenly A Famous Celebrity

It’s good news if you have always wanted to be famous – Bali is your red carpet.

You get double points with your new Balinese fan base if you happen to be white and blonde as well.

But believe us, fame is tough. You’ll likely spend long days with village fans wanting to pose for pictures with their new best friend (that’s you), or simply watch you from afar.


Celebrity life

Truth be told, all the staring may be creepy, but the photos are fun!

Think of is as a way to meet new people, if you can manage 1000 smiles a day.


Expect this as you’re walking through the village…

2. Finger Food Takes On A New Meaning

You’ve stepped into a local cafe, ordered some food and realized upon delivery that there’s not a spoon or fork to be seen.

All around you, everyone’s artfully eating with their hands, but you doubt your own abilities.

What should you do?

Dig in! Eating with your hands is the norm in some local regions, and though you may think it’s harder than it looks, it can actually be quite fun.


Don’t be shy, just try!

3. Everyone is Touchy-touchy

Don’t be too shocked when you realise that your newfound Balinese friends are a little… touchy.

It’s their way of showing friendliness! Unlike many other Asian nations, touching in Bali is totally ok, and random people you’ve just met may force you into a hand-hold or a general stroke.


Maybe not that much touching

But take note if you’re pale skinned, because the Balinese will love you! It’s a superstition that the much coveted pale skin can ‘rub off’ and people are more than willing to test this theory.

And though Bali doesn’t have a large population of same-sex couples, don’t be surprised to see men holding hands with other men (same goes for women holding hands). This is actually pretty common, and is simply their way of showing their friendship!


Be nice about saying no to friendly touching, don’t do this…

4. What Time? It’s A Permanent Holiday

So you managed to snag a date with a gorgeous island dude/ babe, but he/ she turns up an hour late (and surprisingly still, you’re still patiently waiting), without any excuse.

Before you start giving him/ her the glare, or start sinking into depression that it means they just aren’t interested, we must tell you this – it’s perfectly normal. And be grateful that you were only made to wait for 60 minutes.

It’s not unusual for people to arrive up to three hours late for any occasion, simply smiling and claiming that time stretched away from them.

Bali is notorious for being a place where time has absolutely no meaning – simply running on jam karet (otherwise known as rubber time)!

This means time is leisurely stretched, which drives every non-Balinese totally crazy. Talk about having a perpetual holiday!


Waiting for things in Bali requires lots of patience.

5. Nothing is Private

The Balinese are really friendly folks – a little too friendly, that when they meet you, they want to know everything about you.


Be positive, they just want to get to know you!

Your new Balinese friends will bombard you with questions, from where you’re from to how old you are, if you’re married and what your great-uncle Harry did for a job… (well, ok, maybe not that far).

And in an hour’s time, you would have told them a summarised version of your entire life story, which even your closest friends may take years to find out.


Not another question!

6. The Paradise For Reckless Drivers

If death-defying thrills aren’t exactly your thing, Bali’s roads might prove to be a little too much.

The entire island operates with a distinct absence of road rules, favouring the unspoken guidelines: I’ll do anything I please, and you can get out of the way.


Take way on Balinese roads…

There’s no lanes, no seatbelts, no speed limit and most importantly, no limit to the passenger count on motorcycles, which are plentiful on the island.


The not-so-rare 5 person bike in Bali!

7. Yes, You’ve Heard That Name Before

After a day in Bali, following yet another introduction with a Made or a Wayan, you’re definitely having a common thought: Why does everyone have the same name?


Confusing isn’t it?

This (albeit initially confusing) oddity is based on the traditional Balinese naming system, on which everyone gets a name based on their birth order.

And once you hit four kids, it starts all over again, much to the despair of Bali’s visitors.

Unsurprisingly, there are lots of firsts (Wayans) and seconds (Mades) floating around the island, so good luck navigating that minefield!


Don’t worry, you’ll get it.

8. The Island Of Gods, Spirits And Black Magic

For the Balinese, life is all about keeping the spiritual balance.

Being a Balinese Hindu isn’t an optional choice. Neither is daily praying, regular ceremonial days and a belief in all things ghostly and black magic-related.


Offerings, offerings everywhere! 

So be careful not to step on street side offerings – the Balinese would probably stare at you in horror (or mutter that you have offended some spirits).

Thick incense clouding the streets and hundreds of Balinese wandering around in traditional clothing is in fact a common sight.

And it probably isn’t a big event – everything from the full moon to half-birthdays are cause for celebrations. How many holidays do the Balinese have in total, you may wonder?

As if Bali isn’t a perpetual holiday resort already!


The culture in Bali is not to be missed!

9. Your Cheek Muscles Will Ache From Excessive Smiling

Looking happy in Bali is really important. (Note that we stress looking, as opposed to being)

In fact, it’s such a big thing that people walk around smiling all the time, regardless of how they actually feel. These ‘crocodile smiles’ are actually a way the Balinese spread joy to others, so why not test it out?


Not this kind of smile

But what’s so difficult about smiling on your part, right?

Even if you’re having a bad day, it’s the perfect way to chin up. Remember, you’re on a beautiful tropical island, so enjoy it!


Just Smile!

There are just so many things to love about Bali, so don’t get too caught up in what’s different.

This holiday may well become the ride of your life, so hang on and enjoy it!


Have you encountered any other Balinese culture or manner of speech that has shocked you? Do share with us below!

Photos and Gifs via,, Flickr by jbobo7, Pinterest by Kay Dangelo,

PLEASE NOTE: All the above information is correct at the date of publication. If you come across any changes or updates, please let us know and we will update the information accordingly. Thank you!
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