Sunday Conversations – Souvenirs

In an attempt to show more of who I am, I have been wearing batik dresses every other day. (For those unaware of my previous post, I was accused of being Slovenian). This Sunday I wore one to meet my friend in this cafe in Covent Garden, Timber Yard. I must say I had the best Earl Grey tea I have ever had so far, coupled with a yummy peanut butter brownie. Yum!

Anyway back to the original story:

My Friend: ” That dress is very nice”

Me: ” Thanks, if you want one. I can get my mum to bring one over.”

F: “Really? I’d give you money for it”

M:” Yeah it’s not a problem”

F: ” That’s amazing if she could”

M:”She loves it, she probably don’t want you to pay for it either”

F:” Really? Not annoyed by it at all?”

M: “Oh no, she loves bringing oleh-oleh as we Indonesian call them”

F: “You mean a gift?”

M: “No souvenirs”

F:”But souvenirs are usually what you buy for yourself as a reminder of the place you have been, so this is definitely a gift”

M: ” Yeah I know, but this is just how Indonesian does souvenir, they buy for themselves and others. You know that fruit you say very stinky in China town?”

F: ” Yeah, the dur.. something”

M: “Yeah, Durian, Indonesian would go to a local destination where those fruit is famed to come from and bring those home on a plane as oleh-oleh, 3-4 hour journey on the plane, thats how they take souvenirs seriously.”
F:”What? Really? What? thats riddiculous!”

I showed her the picture I took in Medan with packed durian.


M:”When I go back people always say mana oleh2nya?, aka where are the souvenirs?”

F: Really? every time? Don’t you go back quite often?”

M:”Yup! The trouble is Jakarta is getting more and more full of foreign stuff, in the early years I can bring something from Topshop etc, now they have it there, you can almost find anyhing in Jakarta. They have plenty supermarkets that sells foreign stuff and food”

F:” But aren’t they a lot more expensive? Surely branded stuff are still more expensive?”

M:” Yes they are slightly more expensive, but whats the point? also loads of stuff from the shops here are made in Indonesia or there abouts. Or obviously made in China. Also you have got to remember I have got to buy loads of something, so a very expensive bag from Liberty’s won’t do it”

F:” So What do you do?”

M:”hmm sometimes I don’t bring anything, but good Cadbury Chocolate is always good, chocolates are very different. Also funny thing last time I bought M&S biscuits, there is m&s but my mum assured me there is not many choices of, my friends actually wanted the tins it came in. Well I can’t bring too many tins, can I?”

F:”Really? tins? I just can’t get my head around this souvenir business? What ever happen to key chain or fridge magnet just for you and you direct family?”

M:”Made in China and all tatty”

F:” I know what you mean …”

My friend kept saying “really?”, asking me about oleh-oleh and suggesting some items for me to take home next time, all of which I have a reason to deny. She in the end resolve to ” I don’t understand why you have to do it anyway, last time I bought anything from my holiday for anyone other than myself was this tiny straw lucky doll from Peru for my niece, I didn’t even bought my mum anything from that trip.”

“Tradition” I said, eating the last bit of my peanut butter brownies.


How about you? Have you got the same tradition where you come from?
Do you have the same problem as I have? If you are an Indonesian living abroad, what do you do? Have you got an oleh-oleh you always take home?
What was the most riddiculous oleh-oleh you brought home?