the whole package

February 4, 2012

My article in The Star last Wednesday! I talk about The Whole Package.

The Whole Package

Everytime I go to Jakarta for a business trip, I always end up bringing way more things than I usually do. Suddenly things I never bring like my curling tongs and fake eyelashes become essentials in my list, even going above “passport”.

You see, Indonesian ladies are almost walking perfections. From young, most of them have been taught to groom themselves well and chug down enough “jamu” to feed a family. Hey, anything for good skin! It also does not help that some of them have Dutch heritage from the mixed marriages during the imperialism in Indonesia.  Long legs, nice skin, long black hair and impeccable style; it is no wonder why men prefer to set up businessin Indonesia.

The difference between the average Malaysian girl and the average Indonesian girl:

Mom asks us to go out and buy milk.

The Malaysian would say “Yeah, sure,” and grabs the key to the car.

The Indonesian would say “Yeah, sure. Hold on.” She will go upstairs, curl her hair, put on make-up, spray some perfume and comes back down. “Ok, I’m ready. Where did you want me to go again?”

Spas in Jakarta are always fully-booked as Indonesians love to groom themselves (lucky for them, spa treatments there are so much cheaper than Malaysia). I kid you not, I have heard of the women who blow-dry their hair at the salon before coming to work in the morning. What do we do before coming to work? Slice of bread in mouth, briefcase in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, rushing to find our shoes. You get the picture.

Love them or hate them, we all have to admit this. In the beauty department, Indonesians take better care of their image than the average Malaysian. Not necessarily because they are born with “it”, but because they put more effort in themselves than we do. That, we have to learn from them.

During my trips, I have been observing how they keep themselves well-groomed. It is not just about their dressing, it is a whole bigger package. Let me share with you some of my observations:

1)   Hair vs make-up

I notice that a lot of the women focus more on their hair than their make-up. They can walk around bare-faced, but their hair is always shiny and bouncy.

Hair is one of the first things people look at so it makes sense to pay attention to this area. Even if you put on the most beautiful make-up on your face, you will not feel complete with greasy and unwashed hair.

It is good to always have clean and healthy hair. Unless you pressed snooze more times than usual in the morning, in which case, bun up your hair.

If you don a headscarf (my mother would love you), always make sure you iron them in the morning. After curry stains, creases are the worst culprits to spoil a stylish outfit.

2)   Skincare

Most of the Indonesian ladies I have met have such nice porcelain skin. When asked, they just smile politely and say they do not do anything special. Liars. They have all sorts of facial products, they drink a lot of water, they eat nutritious food, they stay out of the sun and they have been taking jamu (herbal drinks) all their life to keep them gorgeous and healthy.

So there is still hope for us. Once we stop making friends with the pisang goreng and keropok lekor guy outside our offices, we are good to go.

3)   Nailcare

Long nails. Dirt underneath fingernails. Non-manicured fingers. Visible dried cuticles. Unheard of in Indonesia.

4)   Smile

Not only do they speak softly in a sing-song voice, they also like to smile to people. The cheerful demeanor of Indonesian women makes them so charming and attractive to look at. It is definitely more pleasant to deal with someone who smiles when taking your food order, than someone who goes “Ah, what you want?”

Frowning brings more wrinkles on the forehead and makes us age faster. So, Malaysian women, let’s learn to curve our lips upwards.


Of course I am speaking in the most broad-brush sense and not at all intended to generalize. This is purely my observation over the last few years I’ve visited Jakarta. Neatness is prized in Indonesian culture for both men and women, and that is something we have to admire and emulate. If we already have, then good for us. If not, look up from this newspaper, sit up straight and smile to the person on your right.