Adopting the ‘Not Yet’ Mindset: A Cultural Takeaway from Jakarta

by Jeremy Tang

I finished my last 3 years of high school at the Jakarta International School (JIS). During my time there I learned alot about the Indonesian language and culture. A beautiful nuance that I remember is in relation to when you’d ask a question regarding whether someone knows something or has been somewhere, a common response was “belum” (which means not yet) vs “tidak” (which means no) if they weren’t able to answer directly. For example if you asked a question like “Have you been to Australia?” I’d often get a response of “not yet” vs “no”.

Initially it seemed strange why I couldn’t get a direct answer but as I got to know the culture better I realised it’s a better way to respond as it denotes an open attitude, a willingness to learn rather than a closed off acceptance of not knowing or having experienced something.

This lesson has stayed with me into adulthood and shapes how I respond to questions and where possible I try to use “not yet” in situations where I am unsure or don’t know something, which has opened me up to more possibilities.  
I encourage you to pause and contemplate your own responses in future interactions. Could adopting a mindset of ‘not yet’ instead of a definitive ‘no’ open new pathways for you as well?

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