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Should expats who complain about Bali just shut up and leave?

expat complaints


If you spend any amount of time hanging around with other expats in Bali, it usually doesn’t take long before people start airing their complaints about living in Bali. Pollution, corruption, bureaucracy, traffic and staffing problems are a common topic. I can’t say I am not guilty of this myself, but I always try to be mindful that at least for me, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

It’s not uncommon for people not living in Bali to read expat forums and remark that many expats living in Bali seem to be very unhappy with their lives. I think it is partly just human nature to focus on negative aspects of life – you just need to watch the news for 5 minutes and it is full of death and destruction.

Since all foreigners who live in Bali pretty much do so voluntarily, do they have the right to complain or should they just shut up and leave the island? I don’t think it is healthy for people to be continually complaining about the place they decided to live in and there are certainly some people who would be better off living somewhere else, but do foreigners have the right to be critical of the problems Bali is facing and express them publicly?

I have sometimes seen even foreigners themselves say that we are guests in this country so we should just accept the laws and way things are done here. While I certainly believe that we need to obey the laws of where we are living, we don’t have to agree with them and I can’t see why we can’t be critical of the way something is done, to not accept corruption for example.

Some complaints I believe are justified, rubbish and dirty beaches for example. The mess of the taxi system that greets arrivals at the airport is another. I do not believe however, that expats have any right to complain about how Balinese and Indonesia people as a whole live their lives. Especially when it comes to religious and cultural aspects which attracts people to Bali in the first place, such as Nyepi.

The longer you spend in Indonesia, the more you grow to love the country and its people. You always want to believe that things are getting better and the more you establish roots here, whether it is raising a family or building a business, the more you want the country to improve. So when things sometimes seem like they are moving backwards it can be incredibly frustrating.

There are plenty of foreigners who have started some great initiatives, like cleaning up the beaches and recycling. Instead of complaining about pollution they have done something to make a difference.

I don’t think anyone that could dispute that Bali has been a victim of its own success. The infrastructure just hasn’t been able to keep up with the development. I fear that it will only take a drop in tourist number before the government starts to address dealing with the problems Bali faces.

Why do you think, do you think expats living in Bali have the right to complain?



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7 Responses to Should expats who complain about Bali just shut up and leave?

  1. Dane Walker January 19, 2017 at 5:07 am #

    Everyone has the right to have an opinion about anything – though ideally it would be an informed opinion! In fact, expats tend to have a more informed opinion than a common traveller (because they actually live there). However, it may not be as informed as that of a local, and will obviously have a different perspective.

    The idea that anyone who complains should leave is, frankly, a ridiculous assertion. There are many problems in Indonesia and not being able to voice these smacks of totalitarianism or maybe white middle class hand wringing. Sure, Indonesia is a developing country and as such it’s not always fair to compare with ‘home’ but telling expats to ‘go home if you don’t like it’ doesn’t help anything. Shame on those who argue like that.

    For what it’s worth, the rubbish problem in Bali is an absolute disgrace. I’ve been to over 70 countries (including about 30 in the developing world) and it is hands down the worst of any place for rubbish in the water I have ever been (by far). Being told to ‘go home’ wont change that.

    By the way, i’m not a Bali expat, just someone who has visited Bali a number of times and worked in various other parts of Indo.

  2. Pauline Cash January 19, 2017 at 8:27 am #

    No I don’t think , anyone has a right to enforce or even consider doing so.

    Yes things are not the same in Western Countries, but isn’t that a part of why people choose to live there.

    We can suggest or even help to bring changes, if that’s what you wish to do.

    But I have been travelling to Bali for over 40 years, and yes its very different to our standards, but to me that’s the charm of another country….

  3. scott January 19, 2017 at 8:17 pm #

    I think one of the main issues is that most of the problems Bali faces are bought on by the injection of westerners ,
    before we arrived there was no rubbish very little corruption at street level and no drugs ,among other things,
    The balinese never had the infrastructure to cope right from the beginning and still don’t ,
    but the greedy just keep on taking instead of chipping in to help clean the mess that is southern Bali up and fix some of the issues that they created through there take take take business model ,
    then they can complain if they are in fact trying to help ,other wise they should do every one on bali a favour and take their greedy small mind back to where they call home ,

  4. Greg January 20, 2017 at 3:33 am #

    Im not a expat that lives in bali but after 25 trips since 1983 it is my second home . I love the people there culture and feel relaxed being their. The law is what it is so do the write abide by them . We all complain about something just chill no different in Australia. Bali has changed but will always go back.

  5. Gede January 20, 2017 at 1:21 pm #

    Please stop complaining this…complaining that…in this earth will never find the right place if yourself just thinking about complaining…Make yourself enjoy and be paradise…

  6. carol January 21, 2017 at 12:29 am #

    badically for some foreigners chosed to move to indonesia especially bali cause they are early retired or retired or just moved n all reasons as living here is cheaper pls do not complaint too much n hv big mouth. dont feel you hv the right to abuse local people. i simply said if yiu cant afford to live in your own country pls dont be arrogant when living in asia. just go home if you dont like it but dont complaint forever and still live here.

  7. G January 21, 2017 at 4:45 am #

    I’ve seen it happen in Dubai 10 years ago. The unhappy ones eventually left and made us all happier

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