Apart from Indonesia, Why People Think Bali is A Country

Having a holiday or student exchange, some Indonesians arriving in Europe may face an awkward moment in explaining what Indonesia is. Much less Westerners know about the country, so the only tactic an Indonesian can say is, “Do you know Bali?”.

It seems like no one knows about Indonesia. We are one of the loudest netizens, yet Americans thought Bali is a country and since we are both Asian and Muslim-majority, some people might confuse whether we are near China or Iran.

One would say that we already go global. We have Anggun C. Sasmi, Agnes Mo, Rich Brian, Weird Genius, and the list still goes on. We have also been mentioned in many sectors of entertainment such as K-Pop idols, Western films, and Japanese anime. Not to mention how widespread our beloved Indomie is.

The argument is right, but does not necessarily demonstrate that people will effectively know Indonesia. Same like Bali, things that go global are recognised only as separate, unique entities. Why would Nigerians think that Indomie belongs to them? Why is Anggun better known as a French singer? It is obvious to an Indonesian eye that they are all from tanah air, but slight cues for the foreigners.

Try asking yourself, why do we show too much pride when an actor or idol calls our demonym? Doesn’t that ironically tell us that we are not yet famous? When a bule just passes by, an Indonesian would feel astonished, like that moment has never happened in a million years.

Back to the query, why do people think Bali is our country? The explanation I may suggest is that we are Indonesian has a word for it caper. As the late issue blows, someone just had a bizarre idea of making a fashion show out of random brands during Paris Fashion Week. The purpose was “to introduce our local products to the world” but most of the audience are ironically Indonesians.

In tourism studies, it is well documented that the branding method used by the Indonesian government is usually ineffective. Sumaco and Richardson (2011) conducted questionnaires on 342 foreigners about the Visit Indonesia 2008 marketing campaign. The result was that even when their views towards Indonesia were mainly positive, 86.3 percent had not seen the campaign. Furthermore, most who had seen it said it had little to no impact on their travel intention. Still, Bali was the encouragement to visit Indonesia.

Another research studying on Wonderful Indonesia campaign (2018) suggests that even though the government has rebranded its campaign, 61 percent of tourists still get little exposure to the camp. Instead, most of them know the country because they are suggested by friends. This does not affect their enjoyment though, the satisfaction is generally positive.

The efforts and techniques of making Indonesia visible to the world are just unprofessional and somewhat childish, hence only Bali is left to the foreigners’ mind. Maybe next time, we have to focus on finding a new way of presenting our image instead of just forcing people to know us.

Penulis : Ristyawan Pratama

Editor   : Primanda Andi Akbar

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