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Embracing the Balinese Spirit as an Expat

Bali is a very spiritual country where many religions are tolerated and consist of Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist minorities. The predominant religion is Hinduism. Balinese Hinduism, called Agama Hindu Dharma, originated from Java and is a blend of Shivaism and Buddhism. The slow, simple pace of life in Bali is very different to the fast pace of life found in Singapore and other Eastern countries. The Balinese believe that everything has a soul, even a river or a tree, and life is revered. Not surprisingly, Bali is home to many expats who embrace holistic health therapies, who come to Bali to train and often end up settling here.

Bali’s steadily improving infrastructure is proving very attractive to expat entrepreneurs. High-speed Internet has reached every corner coffee shop and co-working and co-living spaces are encouraging entrepreneurs to redefine their business approach. Not surprisingly Bali is attracting a more digitally connected expat following made up of mostly freelancers and entrepreneurs working online. For entrepreneurs who have limited funds, Bali’s low cost of living and healthy lifestyle is very welcome as they can devote most of their resources to starting their businesses.

Bali caters for everyone – unless you are highly stressed and crave long working hours where you burn the candle at both ends. Before arriving in Bali it’s important to identify what your ‘area’ will be. Bali has three main places where expats settle – Canggu/Seminyak, Ubud and the South Peninsular known as the Bukit. Ubud is home to spiritual communities, yogis, holistic health practitioners, and artists. The area of Canggu/Seminyak is where the business and network-orientated expats reside. But the divide is not complete as independent workers and co-working spaces can also be found in Ubud.


Bali is a land of opportunities – just do your research and arrive with realistic expectations.

Imagine feeling confident and empowered in your daily interactions, from haggling at the market to engaging in lively conversations with your Balinese neighbors. Picture yourself navigating public transportation with ease, ordering delicious local dishes like a pro, and impressing friends and family with your newfound fluency. This is the reality that awaits you when you master basic Indonesian. Beyond the practical benefits, learning Bahasa Indonesia is a gift – a way to express respect for the local culture, deepen your connection with the community, and truly embrace the island’s spirit.

  1. Greetings and Polite Expressions

Stepping into your new life in Bali, you’ll be greeted by the warmth of the Balinese people and their infectious smiles. But how do you reciprocate? Enter the power of simple greetings and polite expressions – your gateway to connecting with locals and weaving yourself into the island’s tapestry.

  1. Mastering the Art of Saying Hello:

Selamat pagi! (Good morning!) – Use this bright and cheery greeting from sunrise until around noon.

Selamat siang! (Good afternoon!) – Take over from “selamat pagi” around noon and keep it going until sunset.

Selamat sore! (Good evening!) – Bridge the gap between afternoon and evening with this friendly phrase.

Selamat malam! (Good night!) – Wind down the day with this sweet farewell after sunset.

  1. Adding a Sprinkle of Politeness:

Terima kasih! (Thank you!) – Express your gratitude with this essential phrase, always accompanied by a warm smile.

Sama-sama! (You’re welcome!) – Let people know your thanks are appreciated with this simple yet charming response.

Maaf! (Sorry!) – Mistakes happen, and owning up to them with a sincere “maaf” goes a long way in maintaining harmony.


Useful Phrases for Daily Life

Imagine strolling through the vibrant Ubud market, drawn to the exotic fruits and handcrafted treasures. But how do you ask for prices, inquire about ingredients, or politely bargain for that perfect souvenir? Let’s equip you with essential phrases to conquer daily life in Bali!

  1. At the Market:

Berapa harganya? (How much is it?) – Your go-to for understanding those tempting price tags.

Saya mau beli … (I want to buy …) – Express your interest with confidence.

Bisa kurang? (Can I have a discount?) – Master the art of polite bargaining.

Tidak apa-apa (It’s okay) – A graceful way to end the negotiation if the price isn’t right.

Berapa harganya? (How much is it?) – Your first step in any negotiation.

Mahal sekali! (It’s very expensive!) – Express surprise and initiate bargaining.

Berapa total? (How much is the total?) – Confirm the final price before paying.


  1. At the Restaurant:

Bisa pesan …? (May I order …?) – Start your culinary adventure with this handy phrase.

Minta … tolong (Please give me …) – Specify your dish or drink preferences like a pro.

Pedas (Spicy)? Manis (Sweet)? – Understand ingredient descriptions and find your flavor haven.

Tagihan, tolong (Bill, please) – Wind down your delicious meal with this polite request.


  1. Asking for Directions:

Maaf, di mana …? (Excuse me, where is …?) – Get guidance to hidden waterfalls or local temples.

Tolong tunjukkan saya … (Please show me …) – Add a visual aid for clearer understanding.

Bisa langsung dari sini? (Can I get there directly from here?) – Plan your route efficiently.

Terima kasih banyak! (Thank you very much!) – Show your appreciation for friendly assistance.


  1. Introducing Yourself:

Nama saya … (My name is …) – Break the ice and make new friends.

Senang bertemu dengan Anda (Nice to meet you) – Extend a warm welcome.

Saya dari … (I’m from …) – Share a bit about yourself.

Saya tinggal di … (I live in …) – Connect on a local level.


  1. Numbers and Counting

From haggling for a colorful sarong at the Ubud market to ordering your favorite Kopi Susu at the local warung, mastering basic numbers in Indonesian is essential for daily life in Bali. Ready to unlock your bargaining powers and avoid any surprises at the cashier? Let’s dive into the world of angka (numbers)!


Counting from Satu to Sepuluh (One to Ten):

Satu (One)

Dua (Two)

Tiga (Three)

Empat (Four)

Lima (Five)

Enam (Six)

Tujuh (Seven)

Delapan (Eight)

Sembilan (Nine)

Sepuluh (Ten)


Building Higher Numbers:

To form numbers above ten, combine the basic numbers with “belas” for 11-19 (e.g., “sebelas” for eleven, “dua belas” for twelve).

For multiples of ten, add “puluh” (e.g., “dua puluh” for twenty, “tiga puluh” for thirty).

For combination numbers like 25 or 37, simply combine the components (e.g., “dua puluh lima,” “tiga puluh tujuh”).


As you embark on your Bali adventure, equip yourself with the key to unlocking its true essence – Bahasa Indonesia. Even a few basic phrases and cultural tidbits can transform your experience, opening doors to deeper connections, enriching your daily life, and allowing you to truly resonate with the Balinese spirit.

So, step out of your comfort zone, embrace the journey of learning, and let Bahasa Indonesia be your guide to an unforgettable Bali experience. Remember, every “Selamat pagi” and every “Terima kasih” is a step towards a richer, more meaningful connection with the island and its people.

Bali is the ideal country for expats in search of inspiration or reconnection with themselves. However, it’s important to know that while starting a new business in Bali is a great option due to low operational costs, the cost of opening and registering a business in Bali is high. Many expats who move to Bali have unrealistic expectations about the ‘freedom’ of Bali – don’t presume because the lifestyle is laid back that you won’t have to follow procedures or pay taxes.

You will also need a work permit to get paid legally. A KITAS is similar to a permanent residence card and allows you to legally live and work in Bali. Despite the structure and the fees,