From my experience as a Vietnamese-Australian young adult, most Asian weddings can be more daunting than celebratory. You’re made to greet all of your elders and unsurprisingly they will bombard you with questions like “Do you have a boyfriend yet?”, “Are you married yet?” or “We want to see some kids!”. When introduced to the film Love for Sale and its plot of someone renting a partner for a wedding, I wasn’t so surprised. In fact, if I was the protagonists’ age and I had to attend a wedding, I would probably consider it because the interrogations from Vietnamese families can be BRUTAL. Throughout the Indonesian film, there are many prominent themes that underpin it such as the importance of family and the workplace. As I’ve never seen an Indonesian film or interacted with Indonesian culture, I am keen to compare my own experiences and knowledge with my first interaction of Love for Sale.
Family influencing personal relationships
Throughout the film, we recognise that an individual’s family has a large impact on relationships and potential partners. Within Indonesian culture, it is often believed that the single person themselves is the problem, with 9 out of 10 singles feeling pressure from their parents, extended family, and friends (Jakarta Post, 2018). The significant presence of family within personal relationships is reflected through the film when Arini’s ‘parents’ ask for thorough and explicit details about Richard during their first meets, such as income, age, and background.
This is common practice in Indonesia as they have a collectivist culture, with many individuals striving to give their family a good name, which in many cases means that selecting a suitable partner is a collective decision (Evason, 2016). Overall, 83.2% of singles in Indonesia have a positive attitude towards marriage and see it as an eventual ‘life goal’ that signifies adulthood (AFS USA, 2015). Growing up in Australia, I have seen that it is more socially acceptable to stay single as an adult, however, within my Vietnamese community, there is still substantial pressure on young adults to get married. Within Vietnamese culture, the importance of family and filial piety is also prominent, and a successful (or suitable) marriage can help signify financial stability, social status, and the ability to grow a family. Although we are familiar with the concept of choosing a partner who purely makes us happy in western cultures, after understanding the significance of family within Indonesian culture, it can be better understood why Arini’s parent in Love for Sale were so active in their child’s love life.
It is also shown throughout the film that the workplace plays a significant part in an individual’s life, with a large portion of the film taking place in the setting of Richard’s print shop. The film showcases a unique workplace dynamic where there is an extremely clear hierarchy but an extremely close and personal bond between employees. Time also seemed to play an important role within the workplace, with Richard getting irritated at employees for being a few minutes late and continually micromanaging their tasks. These elements are truly reflective of Indonesian work culture where employees always aim to keep their leaders happy, facilitate strong friendships between co-workers and follow time restrictions (Page, 2019). This contrasts with my own experiences of workplace culture and norms within Australia, where there is less hierarchy, more autonomy, and more flexibility with time.
Although it was initially perceived that Richard’s workplace was hostile and overly demanding, I have later recognised that those workplace practices are commonplace. Despite the power distance within the workplace, the professional workers in Love for Sale had close relationships and saw the workplace like a family. Further understanding of common Indonesian work practices can help us outsiders better navigate the complex employer/employee relationships seen in Love for Sale (Sojuko & Hopper, 2007).
Overall, Love for sale opened the curtain and allowed me to explore Indonesian family expectations and workplace culture. Whilst within western cultures we usually have autonomy over who we get to be in a relationship with and how we go about working in a professional setting, Love for sale has demonstrated that in an Indonesian setting, it is quite the opposite. By unpacking Indonesian social norms within the personal and professional realm, we can better understand why people within Love for Sale interacted in the way that they did.
Last Edit: 10:35pm 04/09/2020 (Edited: Added some links, linked photos and checked grammar)
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