Elisabeth Oktofani: Exploring the world of ‘bule’ hunters

Elisabeth Oktofani: Exploring  the world of ‘bule’  hunters

by: Novia D. Rulistia, The Jakarta Post

After dating many Caucasian guys, locally known as bule, since she was a teenager, 27-year-old writer Elisabeth Oktofani settled down when she married a Canadian three years ago.

“I had many relationships with bule and reached a point when I couldn’t care less if I dated a bule or not. But then I finally found a peace of mind with my husband, who turned out to be bule,” Fani said.

Her story dated to high school in Yogyakarta, when many of her girlfriends got invitations to connect on Friendster, the once-popular social media outlet, in the early 2000s.

Fani, however, stayed out of the fray. Initially.

“My hair was curly, I had a dark complexion and I had no boyfriend — I felt ugly. But then I got a friend request on Friendster from a bule who then asked to meet me in person,” Fani said. “So I thought if it was difficult to find local boyfriends, I would just try dating bule because they liked girls like me.”

After going out with a lot of Western men, she realized that many would appreciate her more if they could talk about many things with her.

“At first, I didn’t feel much appreciated — maybe because as a teenager, I had a lack of confidence and knowledge,” she said. “That’s why I easily ended up relationship with someone and find another one until I eventually realized that I also needed to be knowledgeable to hang out with them.”

She was often judged by the people around her about her relationships with the Westerners. They told her that she went out with them only because they were rich, and bule liked her because she was ugly.

“That annoyed me, because not all relationships between Indonesian girls and bule are like that. There are other things the society should know behind the relationship between Indonesian woman and bule,” Fani said.

She then decided to make a book which was based on her experience and her friends. The book, Bule Hunter: Kisah Wanita Pemburu Bule (Bule Hunter: Stories of Women who Pursue Westerners), aims to get rid of stigma attached to Indonesian women who date bule only for their money.

“We want to let people know that there are also relationships with bule that are based on love,” she said.

Fani said the idea to make the book popped up in 2007 when she first heard the phrase “bule hunter”.

“It was a funny word I thought. I started to find out more about this, listened to my friends who shared their experiences with bule, then the idea to write a book crossed my mind,” she said.

It was not until 2011 she really started working on it, spending almost two years to do the research for the book.

She interviewed friends, prostitutes and random women in Jakarta and Bali.

“I went to night clubs and hotels to find out about how women made their deals with bule. I also found out that there were many women who married to bule to be able to leave Indonesia or to improve their lives in Indonesia,” she said.

However, she said, after they left many were often surprised to know the fact that their bule partners were not as wealthy as they were in Indonesia.

“Many women that I interviewed also like to hang out with bule because sometimes they are more open-minded than Indonesian guys when it comes to sex and safe sex,” Fani said.

She then went to Bali to focus on finishing the project. By the end of 2013, Fani had completed a book that was blunt and a bit vulgar.

It was not too hard for her to find a publisher. Rejected by one of the nation’s largest publishers, who thought the work too much, Fani offered it to Rene Book, which agreed to print it after some editing.

“The publisher says this 311-page book is different, as it brings out the silent phenomenon in the society as well as becoming the voice of certain groups,” she said.

She added that she already had a plan to make the sequel.

Fani has always been into writing.

She started blogging since high school and her blog received responses from readers in many countries. She studied journalism at Atma Jaya University in Yogyakarta.

She become a freelance writer for a newspaper in Indonesia, took an internship in a lifestyle magazine in Bali, worked for one-and-a-half years for a newspaper in Jakarta, and became a freelance contributor for an American media outlet.

Recalling her life from the past through present day, Fani said she was so proud of being an Indonesian despite the fact that she enjoyed hang out with Westerners.

“We have several values that are always instilled in us, like honoring older people by not calling them only by name and other polite gesture in Indonesian tradition,” Fani said.

Fani is also busy with her current job as an assistant editor and a contributor for a growing media outlet in Jakarta.

“I covered social issues, human rights and also terrorism. And the book’s writing style has been highly influenced by my investigative journalism experience,” Fani said.

Bule Hunter: Kisah Wanita Pemburu Bule (Rene Book, 312 pages, paperback) will be launched at the Reading Room in Kemang, Jakarta, on Wednesday. Visit bulehunter.com for more information.


This article is published by The Jakarta Post on Sept 8, 2014

What You Need To Know About This Book

I try to explode myth and stereotype about Indonesian women and foreigners (Westerner) as individual as well as in relationship. Male dominated society tells women how to behave in hypocritical way, for example our society judges woman for selling sex.

All we have to do is driving around Jakarta, Bali, Yogya or any big cities and see places where the men, who dominate our society, by sex.

Our society (Indonesian) glorifies foreigner (Westerner) in a hypocritical way, on the other hand, we say foreigners sophisticated , educated and ethical, we usually assume that they are rich as well but the reality is some of them are none of this things.

So in a effort human being and human relationship are, this book is a small snapshot into the life of several Indonesian women unfairly described as bule hunter. 

Geraldo Latumahina

Interesting stories! Saya akui, terkadang masih sering menganggap wanita pribumi yang bersama pria asing adalah gold digger, tapi buku ini membuka pandangan baru. We don’t need to know people before judging them, instead we don’t have any right to make any judgment on them. Thanks for writing this book –  Geraldo Latumahina, Singkawang, West Kalimantan

Barat ‘Keren’, Indonesia ‘Kuno’?

Saat pertama kali saya berkencan dengan bule, saya selalu mengelu- elukan budaya Barat. Saya selalu menganggap bahwa budaya Indonesia itu kolot, begitu juga dengan orang Indonesia. Enggak keren sama sekali.

Seiring berjalannya waktu, saya belajar bahwa enggak semua tentang ‘Barat’ itu keren, enggak semua budaya Indonesia itu kolot. Saya justru rindu dengan kearifan budaya Jawa dan kekayaan budaya Indonesia yang membuat saya merasa lebih menjadi manusia berbudaya.

Sekarang, saya hanya bisa tersenyum melihat bule hunter yang terlalu mengagung-agungkan pria- pria bule. Apalagi bagi newbie yang belum mengenal atau memahami betul siapa mereka, kebiasaan serta bagaimana budaya mereka lebih dalam.

Bagaimana pun kita, sebagai orang Indonesia, mencoba untuk bersikap seperti orang Barat, kita enggak akan pernah menjadi bagian dari mereka. Begitu pula dengan mereka. Mau bagaimana pun mereka, sebagai orang Barat, mencoba bersikap seperti orang Indonesia, mereka enggak akan pernah menjadi bagian dari orang Indonesia.

Saya sama sekali enggak membenci bule, tetapi saya juga enggak mau mengagung-agungkan mereka. Saya merasa bahwa enggak ada satu pun yang membuat satu ras lebih unggul daripada ras lain. In the end of the day, we are all human, we are all equal. Tak ada yang lebih baik atau buruk hanya karena latar belakang ras mereka.


Kontribusi Istri Bule dalam Rumah Tangga

Saya pun tiba-tiba teringat Henry yang pernah mengatakan pada saya bahwa kawan-kawannya dapat membeli rumah dan hidup berkecukupan karena istri mereka bekerja dan memberi kontribusi cukup signifikan pada rumah tangga.

Ya iyalah! Apakah saya harus heran? Semua orang juga tahu, sistem gaji bagi orang kulit putih sangat berbeda dengan gaji orang kulit cokelat atau hitam. Orang kulit putih cenderung mendapatkan gaji lima kali lipat daripada orang lokal ketika mereka bekerja di negara berkembang. Lihat saja berita di Kompas beberapa waktu lalu tentang kesenjangan gaji antara guru asing dan guru lokal di sekolah bertaraf internasional di Pondok Indah, Jakarta Selatan. Guru asing menerima upah antara Rp50 sampai Rp100 juta per bulan sedangkan guru Indonesia hanya menerima upah Rp 2 juta sampai Rp15 juta per bulan.

Ya, tentu saja, akhirnya saya enggak bisa memberi kontribusi yang cukup signifikan terhadap keuangan rumah tangga kami. Saya sebagai orang Indonesia dengan pendidikan universitas swasta di Yogyakarta hanya dihargai murah.

Ah, lucu sekali. Lucu sekali, kata saya dalam hati. Bisa dibilang, saya ini sudah pasrah dengan gaji murah karena sistemnya memang sudah seperti itu, tetapi saya masih harus makan. Eh, masih saja enggak dihargai, yang ada malah dicaci maki suami sendiri.