a guide or a prostitute?

“Where does your guess come from?” a guy asked me.
“My guess?” I was confused.
“Yes, your guess. Where did he get you from? Where does he come from? He must own a lot of money.” He asked me back.
“Where did he get me?” I was still confused.

It was a long time ago, and I was unaware that being brown means you can only either be a prostitute or, in a polite way, a tour guide. It was the first experience for me, but certainly not the last.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, a taxi driver openly asked how much money do I get from my ‘white guess’, how did I find him, what kind of services that I give to him, and whether he will pay my food/ travel, etc, outside my so-called rate. Another taxi driver asked if I am a prostitute because I was, according to him, wearing a too humble outfit, but stay in an expensive apartment.

In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, tuk-tuk drivers usually stare at me with a very nasty look when my white husband talks to them to arrange the trip (he's been living in Cambodia longer than I am). The drivers will continue to be extremely unfriendly towards me, even if I try to explain that I don't speak Khmer, until they realise that I am 100% not Khmer. That is when they start to laugh and say: "I'm sorry, so you are not Khmer, where do you come from?" This never happened when I hang out with my Khmer friends.

Same things also happen in Bangkok, Flores, Yangon... basically any places that we've been to. It has become a routine.

At one point in our relationship, Giles asked how do I feel when people judge me as a prostitute. So I asked him back, how does it feel to be seen as a sex tourist. Then we just laugh at this misfortune, not much that we could do. The racist reaction happens anytime, anywhere, even within our circle of friends.

One of Giles college at the school told me: "Oh, so you are ACTUALLY smart," when she found out that I get my education in the US with a scholarship from the US government. Did she say that because as an Asian who get an Asian education, I am not supposed to be smart?

Or, another time, one of my journalist friends said: "You are so brown and look like a maid, that is why white guys like you. You know, if you are dating a white guy you should admit that you are ugly." How should I respond to that? What looks like a maid mean? I don't think being a maid is a bad thing. But when she used that as an insult, you couldn't help but annoyed.

An interracial (plus inter-nations) relationship is not always fun, moreover if you are brown and from so-called a developing country, while your partner is a white person with a lot of privileges from so-called a developed country. Most of us will think that this is 2017, an interracial relationship should be easy and common, like, you can marry any race, any nationality, in any court. Well, yes and no.

In a country like Indonesia, when you are dating a white man, you should be ready with some prejudices:
  • You want his dollar, euro, or pound sterling or any other currency that is stronger than rupiah.
  • He is your access card to nice travels, fancy restaurants, and cool clubs. (yes, some places will accept any white people easily but so picky towards the local)
  • He uses you for sex (yes, white people are equal to irresponsible sex for a lot of Indonesians)
  • You can’t find Indonesian boyfriend because you are brown and brown is not beautiful enough for Indonesian man.
  • You are cheap
  • If you succeed, it’s all because of your white counterpart.
  • You are trying to convert him. (Marriage is almost impossible, moreover for interfaith marriage, so having their partners convert is a dream come true for some women.)
Racism did not end when interracial marriage was legalized by the court. That is why these prejudice and mindsets are very disturbing, and dangerous. Unfortunately, it is only one small peak of the bigger problem: a belief that white is higher and better than any other human being. The belief that leads the society to two conclusions about a brown female who hang out with a white male: a tour guide, or a prostitute. Just because this brown skin cannot be seen as good as my husband's white skin.


  1. "Is your husband?"
    "Just friends?"
    Me: (getting annoyed)"Yeah, he's my friend. So?"
    "How come? Is it possible for guys and girls to be just friends?"

    Stupid, sexist people. Kesannya semua cewek Indo yang jalan ama bule gak mungkin cuma temen doang.

    1. ini jugak, so true banget! Aku juga pernah dapat pertanyaan begini. lelah deh yah.


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