The Annual Questions

By Rio Tuasikal / @riotuasikal

A typical family talk in a collectivist society like Indonesia

In the first day of Idul Fitri, I saw three of my friends posted similar status on Facebook. "Kapan nikah?" (When will you get married?), they wrote, then they added a silly emoticon. Showing they are annoyed with such question. This kind of status also came last year, year by year, and so many years before.

Yes, it has been our favorite question in Indonesia for years. Since family affairs does matter for many Indonesians, the question about marriage, girlfriend, fiance, son, and the entire relatives will emerge to show our concern. Contrary to the westerners who prefer to talk about music and politics.

Why does family matters for most Indonesians? This is what S.D. Smith in “Global Families” (Samovar, 2010) said : various researches showing that "interdependence in family is stronger in a collectivist society" compared to an individualist society. And Indonesians, according to Hofstede, is number 3 of 50 collectivist to individualist societies. The same reason for why we do mudik (gather with family while big holiday).

Another cultural aspect that affects this tradition is our high-context communication. In this context, people are love to have small talk, a lot of them, with our fellows. The most prominent sample for this is a question "Mau kemana?" (where are you going?) you'll hear from neighbors, even strangers, in your neighborhood. And you don't have to answer it precisely where, just put on your smile and everything is gonna be okay. This question don't need a specific answer, they only mentioning your presence by asking. 

If smile solve your problem with "Mau kemana?", it won't work the same way with "Kapan nikah?" question. While the first one is admitting you presence, the second one really need the best answer. Since our collective culture put the attention on family affairs, marriage as the start of a family is essential.

Relationship is the main theme for almost every conversation. Since our family will keep talking, sometimes showing off, each family success in a family talk, marriage becomes directly related to the honor of the family. And ignoring this issue will bring others to a conclusion that you are not serious with your family and parents---a big deal in our society.

So, when will you get married? Please don't reply me with the same question. Because I don't know when will I get married. I don't have a girlfriend (yet) to marry with, and I spend a Saturday night, like now, not to date with someone, but to write this. []