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Life in an International Village: Living in Bali

Moving to Bali and setting up a home there is a dream for many who have visited this exotic and beautiful island. But is life in Bali actually how you imagine it to be?  We spoke to Dominique Gallmann who is CEO of Exotiq Property, originally from Switzerland, who has lived in Bali for the past 20 years to find out.

Why did you move to Bali?

I first came to Indonesia in the 1980’s when I was working with the ILO.  Whilst my work was based in Indonesia, I travelled around a lot which became quite tiring for my wife, so we moved to Bali permanently in 1993.  Bali was a good choice, with plenty of international flights and a pleasant atmosphere to live in. For the next 10 years I continued to work around Asia, but the island was now my home base.

In 2002 I founded Exotiq and whilst I still travel quite a bit, I now spend a lot more time at home in Bali.

What do you enjoy about living in Bali?

Bali is like a big international village, which makes it an interesting melting pot of people and cultures, without being too large.  The local people also have a lovely way about them and the lifestyle is relaxed.  Although the island is developing more every day it still retains the character that I love.  There is also a lot to see and do, so life is certainly never boring.

What are some of the things about living in Bali that you don’t enjoy?

As more tourists and expats come to Bali the infrastructure hasn’t quite kept up pace.  This means there is an increase in traffic. I am used to seeing traffic jams in Delhi but now I am experiencing them in Bali as well. Whilst infrastructure does keep improving, there is certainly more that can be done to support the growing population and ensure that the natural ecosystem is not put under stress

What do you miss the most from Europe?

Well, coming from Switzerland, I miss the alpine mountains and snow which is certainly difficult to find in Bali.  Most of my family is still in Europe, so I do still go back there about once a year. Europe is now a lovely place for me to visit as a tourist but I don’t wish to live there permanently.

You founded Exotiq in 2002, a lifestyle and property company.  What opportunities do you see for entrepreneurs in Bali?

Like anywhere in the world, it takes a lot of hard work to be successful.  I think people sometimes underestimate what is involved in establishing your own business, but the opportunities are there for those who have the drive.

I think it is particularly important in Bali to have a good understanding of the culture and environment to be successful as an entrepreneur.  If you are prepared to take the effort to really understand and respect the culture then establishing a business here will be a bit easier. Whilst the market in Bali is becoming more sophisticated, it is not really at the pioneering stage any more, however knowing the people and their traditions is still critical to a successful business.

What is the best way to learn about the culture?

I am a social anthropologist, and believe that the best way to learn about a culture is to learn the local language.  This allows you to assimilate and really communicate with people rather than just staying within expat circles.

Bahasa is not a difficult to language to learn, and whilst it is a second language (after local dialects) for many in Bali, with good Bahasa you can go far.  I think people also really appreciate that you have taken the effort to learn their language.

Many misunderstandings happen due to simple language barriers, you may not understand the nuances of the English used by colleagues and the context in which it was used, so you can get a completely incorrect impression.  Whilst some people speak English here, the quality of English spoken and the use of it is really limited, so it can’t really be relied upon.

(Dominique is also fluent in German, English, French and Spanish, as well as Bahasa Indonesia).

How would you rate your quality of life in Bali?

The quality of life in Bali and the lifestyle that we can afford here are just great.  It is a luxury to be able to afford domestic helpers, we have a large property (which is much bigger than what we could afford in somewhere like Singapore for example), being close to the ocean and having a private pool …. these are all things that contribute to quality of life. There is also some lovely food here so eating out is good and of course the spa industry is big as well.

For me, having regular interaction with Indonesians is important, they are just not as stressed as we westerners are. It is always a good reminder to me not to try and emulate a western life here, but instead to create a unique one of our own.