News - September 12, 2013

Don’t wink at me

A wink from a Dutch person is not flirtatious. Don’t do it in Indonesia though

One day my friend was wondering why his boss had winked at him. It was at the office where he was doing his internship. I said that maybe his boss liked him and was trying to invite him for a date. My friend didn’t think so, because his boss is a guy.

Then I remembered that sometimes Dutch people liked winking at me too. My colleague on campus often did it when she said goodbye before going home, but I only perceived this as friendliness. However, then I found my thesis supervisor did the same. After a tough discussion about my research, he gave me a little wink. I was a little bit startled by this behavior, but I just assumed that my professor wanted to show that he agreed with me.

To satisfy my curiosity I then asked a senior colleague about this behaviour. He told me a wink is just an expression of hospitality and friendliness.  I then explained that it is not polite at all in Indonesia. A wink of an eye is mostly perceived as flirting, seduction and even perversion. My colleague was surprised about it. I told him never to do it in Indonesia, otherwise people would perceive him as a pervert. ‘And never wink at a woman,’ I told him. ‘If you do, you should marry her.’ ‘Seriously?!’ he asked. ‘Just kidding,’ I replied with a wink. 

Rahayu Handayani, MSc student  of International Development Studies from Indonesia.