The Philosophy of Oleh-Oleh

Have you ever been sent by your office to work out of town or even abroad, and when you returned to the office after that assignment the first words coming from the first person who met you was, “what did you bring me?”

Oleh-olehnya manaaaaaaa?

I just arrived at the office this morning after 12 days away and the first greeting I heard was exactly, “what did you get for me.”

I was about to say, “nothing,” but then I managed to stop opening my mouth, take a deep breath, smile, and… say nothing. Some minutes later, a different person approached me with the same question…

People stopped asking me that question after 4 PM passed. That’s the time when working hours are over, of course. To tell you the truth, but don’t tell my colleagues, I was about to do something when the third person came and asked me. But, today is my first day at the office again and some wise men say you should be nice and sweet to people on your first day at work. So, I said nothing and let the rest of the office population live and in one piece.

My mom, who is so wise and thoughtful, always says it’s in the blood. Our Indonesian blood. Anyway, my mom says bringing souvenirs from wherever you are from shows how caring you are as a person. I can counter my mom’s theory but again some wise men say you are cursed if you dare arguing with your own mother.

According to my mom, bringing souvenirs for your friends, colleagues, relatives, neighbors, your children’s teachers, your children’s friends’ parents mean…

1. You are a caring person because you always remember them even when you are away from them and busy with your assignment and you should have focused on your work but not them.

2. You are a thoughtful person because you make time to choose what souvenir for which person and which person hates which person so you shouldn’t give that person similar souvenir as this person.

3. You are a generous person because you are willing to spend your out-of-town-working allowance to buy souvenirs for your friends, colleagues, relatives, neighbors, your children’s teachers, your children’s friends’ parents, etc.

4. You are a fair person because you make sure everyone who knows you get a souvenir.

5. You are loved because people are willing to knock at your office door and ask for their share of souvenir. If you are hated, they will not do that.

6. You are also a loving person because you value people over money. You are okay with spending cash for the smiles on the face of your friends, colleagues, relatives, neighbors, your children’s teachers, your children’s friends’ parents, etc.

7. You are friendly because you have a lot of friends (a lot of underlined, bold, italicized) asking for their share of souvenir.

8. You are likable because you like to give away souvenirs and people like a person who likes to give away souvenirs.

9. You are popular. Giving away souvenirs to the world’s population surely makes you popular. If you are not still, there is something wrong with the souvenirs you bought. Sorry.

10. …………………………………. (go ahead and have your own philosophy here!).

6 thoughts on “The Philosophy of Oleh-Oleh

  1. Hey this is a great article. I’m going to email this to my buddies. I stumbled on this while surfing for some downloads, I’ll be sure to visit regularly. thanks for sharing.

  2. The thing is “oleh-oleh” is not a right. It is a privilege. You dont get an oleh-oleh. You earn one. Thats the philosophy that is somehow missing during the course of our culture.

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