5 Toyless Games Indonesian Children Like To Play…With Foreigners

Village kids running

Indonesian children are wonderful to hang out with. They’re generally well-behaved and best of all, they’re fun. They seem to live in the moment…naturally. And most like to play games.

But not the kind you might think.

Minangkabau kids

Certain kids, neighbors I met while staying/volunteering in a village (Tiakar Guguak, Payakumbuh) in West Sumatra for a few weeks, had special games they played. Involving me, the foreigner.

They didn’t use boards and little plastic pieces. There was no soccer ball being kicked about. No electronic devices were involved, either (although some of the local tweens/teens  played games online at the local Internet cafe).

Minangkabau girl

Keeping It Simple–and Silly

In these kids’ case, the games were simple. And silly. And toyless. Oh wait–maybe I was the ‘toy’ and didn’t realize it (until now)?

These delightful children kept the games going the entire time I was there, about three weeks, and know what? I loved it. Later in my trip, I met kids on other islands who played similar toyless ‘games with the foreigner.’

After a while, I figured out all the games–how they’re played, what the rules and what one needs to do to win. I then enjoyed them for the next few weeks. Here they are:

1. Hi, hi, hi, hi, hi…

In this game (one I’ve seen played in other countries, by the way), kids spot you walking down the street and a few of them say ‘hi.’ Soon, more say it. Then, eventually, they all say it repeatedly, their voices raised, until they get your attention.

When the kids did this with me, I waited a while and then said ‘hi’ back. The kids got giggly and stopped. Then, a few said ‘hi’ yet again and one or two kicked it up a notch and said, ‘Hi, Mister.’ Sometimes, I corrected them and they kept saying it anyway.

Minangkabau kids group shot

2. Repetition of Anything/Everything

Here, you say something in English. They repeat it—and use the same intonation/pronunciation you used. Then you say it another way and they mimic that, too. All the while, they laugh…at you.

I had fun playing this one–until I really wanted to talk to them. Then, it got confusing!

Minangkabau children playing

3. Reverse Repetition/Incorrect Pronunciation Mocking

In this variation of Game 2, the kids try to get you to repeat them. They put out a simple phrase in Bahasa, one they’ve heard you attempt.  They say it a few times until you repeat it. Then they laugh at your poor pronunciation.

In my case, when the kids were victorious–meaning, when I was drawn into playing–they mocked my pronunciation many times. I laughed, too.

4. Racing/Sprinting

Not sure if this game is common in Indonesia or if it was specific to these kids, but I thought I’d share it nevertheless.

They played it when I arrived at the small street I was living on–or when I was leaving. They would spot me from a distance and run as fast as they could while laughing hysterically. This always put a smile on my face because I saw how happy they were to see me.

Or maybe they were just happy to be racing?

I think this was my favorite game. :)

Kids running in village--Payakumbuh, West Sumatra

4a. Over-Exaggerating Exhaustion

Because this occurred right after Game 4, I consider it an extension of that one. In it, a kid would act super exhausted when he/she finally caught up to me…sucking in air, touching his head, etc. One day, one of the kids pretended to fall to the ground. I guess he won that round!

PS: The one boy you see in several photo (next pic, left side)–the one with the intense look of mischief on his face–was my favorite. Can you see why?

5. Drama Kings/Queens

Vying for your attention (minus the running) is what it’s all about. The goal is to be be the most mischievous or dramatic, jumping, laughing, making funny faces, being silly or trying to mock punch someone else.  This cracked me up each time they played it.

Minangkabau boys

7. Peekaboo Photo…

In this game, kids pretend they want you to take their photo; then, they hide behind someone else so that you can’t. Then they peek out from behind their sibling or friend, just long enough to get you to think you can take their photo. But like birds, they move fast and most often, you don’t get their photo. Or it’s a blurry mess.

Looking Forward To It–and Loving It

Guess what? As silly as all of this may seem, I began to look forward to the kids and their games. It was a blast. Just when I thought I had things figured out, I saw that I didn’t. They’d come up with something new and it was always fun.

The kids were adorable. They seemed quite happy, playing with each other, making mischief and/or just hanging out with me. When I left, I got emotional. We had gotten close in our own way.

I didn’t know if I’d ever see them again. I was happy, of course, when two guys I met in a nearby tourist town showed up. They’d agreed to volunteer in the village, as I had done. They were staying at my friend’s house, too, which meant the kids would be their neighbors.

Continuing the Fun…with Other Foreigners

As soon as they unpacked their backpacks and went out on the porch, guess who showed up? The kids.

Know what they said?

‘Hi, hi, hi, hi, hi…’


Minangkabau teenager

Your Thoughts/Reactions/Experiences?

During your travels, have you been part of one of these foreigner-focused games? If so, which one/s?

Do you typically connect with the children you meet when in another country? Does it happen no matter where you are or more often in smaller towns/villages? If so, what and how? Are they toyless, tech-free games?

I find children in other countries to be a pleasure to hang out with–generally less spoiled (exceptions, of course) and more respectful than in the U.S. Have you found the same? If so, where and what was your experience?

Minangkabau girl and baby sister

14 Responses to 5 Toyless Games Indonesian Children Like To Play…With Foreigners
  1. Maria
    January 7, 2014 | 10:32 am

    They look like they’re having a blast. Great to see this post and remember how easy it is to have FUN!
    Maria recently posted..Haiku – Beyond the New YearMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      January 7, 2014 | 12:09 pm

      Hi, Maria–yes, it is easy to have fun (and to forget how). Glad these kids reminded me. :)

  2. Shereen
    January 7, 2014 | 2:55 pm

    It’s awesome to become a kid again with the simple things like silly games that don’t require technology or anything else. We all need a little reminding sometimes.

    • CB Driver
      January 7, 2014 | 3:38 pm

      Thanks, Shereen–definitely! Glad I got to hang out with these kids and enjoy their unique games. :)

  3. Lily La
    January 8, 2014 | 6:05 am

    I get the repetition of everything I say a lot here. I’ve also had the, “get the foreigner to speak our language and then laugh at her when she attempts to” game, which really confuses me.

    Also, you mentioned you volunteered in Sumatra, I was wondering who you volunteered with? since I’m going back to Indonesia and looking to do some volunteer work. Currently having no luck finding something that looks legit and not too pricey. Any info would be great – if not, no problem!
    Lily La recently posted..When you give a bunch of Burmese kids your camera…My Profile

    • CB Driver
      January 8, 2014 | 9:37 am

      Hi, Lily. So the repetition game, huh? And the variation? Funny.

      I did volunteer and it was not through an organization. It was something I came up with on my own. I met someone on Twitter, who put me in touch with a teacher there, a woman named Eti. We became FB friends and I told her I wanted to volunteer (since I’m an ESL prof here in the U.S.). She was thrilled because they needed they help. She invited me to stay with her and her family in the village.

      While there, I saw that the teachers actually needed more help than the students (grammar and pronunciation), so I focused on them. Anyway, I did it all on my own. I paid her money to cover some basic expenses (and anything touristic we did together) and it was very reasonable–cheaper than what it would cost to be traveling. And she’s a great cook.

      She likes to have foreigners stay with her–either as visitors (who would pay a little more) or volunteers (who would pay a little less). She needs to practice English with native speakers.

      There’s another teacher in the area whose English is on a higher level. She might be open to having someone stay with her and work with her at her school.

      If you’re interested, let me know. I could put you in touch with them. They’re great people who will make you part of the community, which is awesome. It is not without challenges, of course, but I can tell you more about that later. :)

  4. Carmen
    January 9, 2014 | 8:20 am

    I think it’s much healthier to run around playing games like this than to be sitting indoors glued to an iPad. Travelling around the US recently I couldn’t believe how many 3 year olds had iPads. I don’t even have one!
    Carmen recently posted..Over our budget in December… Island life in Dominica is more expensive than we thoughtMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      January 9, 2014 | 9:56 am

      I agree with you, Carmen! Kids that young with iPads, huh? Wow. I could see age 5 and if there are some very good educational apps, but 3 seems a bit too young.

      Of course, adults are glued to their telephones, which isn’t good either. Maybe the toddlers with iPads are in training for that?

      In any case, it was fun to hang with this in-the-moment children. Refreshing! :)

  5. dino - The indonesian handsome man number 7 :)
    January 17, 2014 | 9:20 am

    its not surprised me that the kids act like that.

    they want to take your attention and want to be close to you coz they think you’re strange having white skin, red hair and so pretty..and i guess they think you are the most beautiful women that they ever see. 😉

    its like when we see an alien. lol. and do not know how to say hello, so they just say “hi,,hi,,hi,hi,,” as they first word.

    yes it waS FUNNY. :))

    • CB Driver
      January 20, 2014 | 5:31 pm

      Dino–is that you??? Handsome Indonesian Man #7? Hi! :)

      I think you’re right–about most of it. I was like an alien to them. I hope that thought that about me being the most beautiful woman they’d seen–LOL–that would be sweet.

      Hope all is well, handsome man! :)

      • dino
        January 24, 2014 | 4:07 am

        halo, apa kabar?? *hug

  6. Boaga
    June 30, 2014 | 5:48 am

    I have once played hi…hi…hi game in Thailand =) I was really surprised when a crowd of children surrounded me =)

    • CB Driver
      June 30, 2014 | 10:29 am

      You played ‘hi hi’? Fun! It is a bit surprising the first time it happens, isn’t it? :)

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

CommentLuv badge

Trackback URL https://chickybus.com/2014/01/indonesian-children-games-foreigners/trackback/

Like this blog?

Get my book!


follow the bus

Join Our Facebook Fan Page



don't miss the bus! sign up for the monthly newsletter
Chicken Busology
Learn more about chicken buses by checking out these links:

Chicky Bus: The Real Story: Join me on a wild 12-hour chicken bus ride through Central America. Meet cheese smugglers and other characters. 

Chicken Bus Q & A: I answer all the questions you might have about chicken buses, but were afraid to ask. 

Want the quick fix
Watch the YouTube video to the right of this box. Vicarious thrills guaranteed!

come ride a Chicken Bus