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[Bali life] Price of language: How much do you have to pay more in Bali?

I will travel to bring samples of our biogas digesters to Java later. For this purpose, we are checking the price of a PCR test. I live in Canggu, where there are many foreign residents and a lot of nomadic workers. The price of goods in Indonesia varies greatly depending on the person's status or language we use, and when I read about nomadic workers living in Canggu, I think they are getting ripped off. At the Canggu branch of BaliMed, a proper hospital in Bali, a PCR test costs about Rp 800,000. The price becomes double at a clinic in the centre of Canggu, where foreigners are likely to come. On the other hand, if a pure local person goes to a clinic, the price will be lower than Rp 800,000. Basically, no matter how much I speak to them in Indonesian, if they speak back to me in English no matter what, they've already been flagged up as a "foreigner charge", and I'll move to the next shop.

When I first came to Indonesia in 1993, it was amazing. There was so much bargaining, and after three months, I was sceptical about everything. One example that I still remember is the repair of my surfboard. You had to slip through unpaved alleys in those days to get from the cheap hotels to the beach in Kuta. On Poppy 2 street in Kuta, which is still a used surfboard street, there is a famous shop with a concrete wave at the entrance where I asked for my surfboard to be repaired.

At that time, Japanese people were the representatives of the rich and the representatives of the non-English speaking. You should definitely be suspicious if you see someone speaking to you in Japanese, and the boss of the shop was such a person. For some reason, they took me to a dark area at the back of the shop and sat me down at a round table. When I told him I needed my surfboard repaired, he just smiled and said it would be $500. The look on the faces of his men beside him was horrified. I felt like I was being ripped off so badly that the boss seemed to put his left hand behind his back and say, "Don't be scared, I'll take care of it". I was bored at that time, so we talked and negotiated for two hours, and $500 became $5. That's a 99% discount. But even now, a surfboard repair of that size doesn't cost $5, so the real price was probably not even $1. It's like the fair trade thing I was talking about the other day, 99% discount is great, but I would have paid five times the normal price.

  • [Coffee] Fairtrade: good intentions or numbers game.

Considering the amount of money I was being ripped off for, it's cute to see how nomadic workers are being ripped off today. It is tiny compared to mine ;-)

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