Bali Villa Guests – You Get All Kinds

September 5, 2010

After talking to other expats here in Bali, I realise how lucky I have been with my villa guest experiences to date. It can be a little bit hard having visitors sharing my home, but it morphs my customary solitary existence into something approaching sociability. Scary, but nice. My house guests have been companionable, respectful of my space, aware that they are living in a home and not a hotel, and they have been relatively undemanding of my time. And this is as it should be. If in a fit of uncharacteristic generosity I offer free accommodation to impecunious friends and acquaintances, I neither want, nor expect to be subjected to demands that I add value to their stay. That is their job.

Not so for some other Bali expats though. Hearing some of the horror stories about guests who have ‘crossed the line’ have caused my eyebrows to climb well up into my receding hairline and a shiver of apprehension to course through both my belly and my wallet. Despite being really lucky so far, their stories make me question the wisdom of future sharing.

“Where’s the shampoo? There’s no shampoo!” complains a guest, irritated at having to march out of her quarters while wrapped only in a towel. Her compressed lips betray her annoyance at the lack of consumables in her bathroom. “Umm … didn’t you bring any?” asks the perplexed host. “Well of course not!” is the terse retort. “This is supposed to be a luxury villa, isn’t it? You’d expect that a place like this would provide some basic bathroom stuff. You should talk to your landlord, you know.” The irascible guest, staying for free, seems to be under the impression that she is in a hotel. The host, a paragon of patience (which far exceeds mine),  explains that this is her home, and like all expats, she buys her own bathroom goodies, or brings in the locally unobtainable high-quality potions from overseas.

Instead of apologising, the guest from hell promptly demands to ‘borrow’ the host’s personal shampoo, her conditioner, a different towel and some toothpaste.  She then complains about the soap provided which apparently is no good for her ‘sensitive skin’. During her subsequent three day stay, she not only avoids returning the expensive bathroom supplies, she ‘accidentally’ packs them in her bags on her departure. I suggest to my villa-dwelling friend that she lay in a stock of Drain Cleaner in shampoo bottles, conditioner seasoned with sump oil and some soap embedded with glass slivers specifically for obnoxious guests. The expat demurs, feeling that my proposal is a little extreme, but does hint that this guest won’t be invited back.

At a different villa, with different guests who have stayed for three weeks: “A tip? For the pembantu? What for?” says the visiting family’s matriarch, a fearsome woman who has treated the villa staff like indentured slaves. The host, a gentle man (and a gentleman) of my acquaintance, calmly explains that it is customary in Bali for guests to leave a tip for house staff. After all, with normal villa occupancy, there is an accepted workload that attracts an agreed salary. With the added room cleaning, laundry and other extra demands by guests, staff workload increases and a tip is not just payment, but a recognition of worth. “Rubbish!” is the rejoiner. “She gets a salary already. You can’t spoil these people, you know.” After his guests leave, the host pays the staff a bonus anyway. They are happy, but of course he is out of pocket. He is philosophical, but not so much that he would invite those guests again.

Yet another expat who has now sworn off taking in guests is one whose attempts to be hospitable have cost him dearly. His visitors insist on leaving the bedroom air-conditioners on all day ‘because it is really unpleasant coming home to a hot room’. They also keep the temperature at 16 degrees all night – while sleeping under a thick duvet ‘because it’s too cold otherwise’. When he points out that electricity is expensive in Bali, they dismiss his objections with an airy “Don’t be silly – everything is cheap in Bali”. They also demand that he change their money “because we don’t trust the money-changers here”, proferring him a fistful of badly-worn, small-denomination bills. Because he works here and employs a driver, they want to be driven around the island every day, for free, because “your driver already gets a salary from you”. His patience is more on a par with mine; after three days, he pleads urgent business in Singapore and kicks them out to stay at a hotel. Good on him.

What is it with some of these people? Are they just ignorant, or stupid, or just incredibly selfish?Remember that these stories are from private homes, not commercial villas. There is no profit in accommodating guests, in fact there is a loss. We expats are happy to absorb the cost of being hospitable to friends and acquaintances because it is part of normal social interaction. We don’t expect them to be pathetically grateful, but we would like them to act like responsible, albeit temporary family members in our homes. In my case, I have been fortunate, because my guests have been delightful company as well as good friends. But to the users and losers out there, how about you stay at a hotel – I suspect we will all enjoy the experience much more.



  1. Wow,
    It would be interesting if these kind Bali hosts tried to stay at their home. As someone who has never lived with anyone besides her family or partner, I am recoiling in horror about this.

    • Ahh … I think that some people are just ignorant. I’m being charitable in assuming that they might think that a villa is like a fancy hotel where it is ‘someone else’s’ responsibility to look after their every whim. Maybe they are confused by the presence of a maid or whatever … maybe they don’t realise they have been invited into someone’s home … maybe they’re just terminal dorks.

      • Hahaha! My dear Vyt, I hope I didn’t cost u the same amount of pain wen i was there in Bali 🙂 miss Bali and of course u my dear friend…!

      • You were fine 😉 I find that it helps to be diabolically clever when choosing one’s guests …

  2. Experienced all of these examples. Can add another example, drinking all my booze, wine and beer and never replacing it.

  3. I broke some of these rules but Borborigmus assures me I am still welcome after payment of fines in the form of Johnny Walker Red Label.

  4. Here’s my houseguest from hell. Ancient friend of my husband’s who he hadn’t seen in 25 years. Says he’s coming for a week. Shows up, reveals that he plans to have 18 tooth implants during his stay. Sits around the house with no shirt and enormous belly decorated with horrific surgery scars. Soon reveals he is staying for a month. Sullen late-adolescent son arrives as “add-on” guest and does nothing but sit lumpen, as does the father. A Japanese gentleman with almost no English arrives as another “add on” guest, having been invited by the house guest from hell (HGFH). Next the pretentious tacky and shrill wife of HGFH arrives. First sullen son leaves. Second soon-to-announce-his-gayness adolescent son arrives with school friend who the HGFH wants to impress because his father is an important French banker. All of the above guests demand every kind of service, information, assistance, advice, food, wine, wifi, entertainment. Meanwhile the original HGFH is lisping from his implants, still bareing horror-movie scars from skin to crotch, crossing his hairy white belly. HGFH and all his entourage uninvited by us are painfully pretentious and totally phony (except for the Japanese gent, who is merely bewildered and keeps handing out generous gifts and projecting movies on the wall from his handycam of himself golfing and cavorting with cockatoos at the Bali Bird Park, all of these activities and more we arranged for him out of sympathy for the hapless and deceived fellow). In the latter days of HGFH’s sojourn, I retreat to the bedroom and my private terrace and refuse to see him because I can no longer stand it. HGFH thereafter keeps trying to phone me to arrange ANOTHER visit as a HGFH to Bali. Ha ha. Our internet and phone and electricity bills for that month were galactic. The whole time HGFH was around he was name dropping and bragging about his address in London and his alleged social status and (abrogated) title (misappropriated from an ex-wife who was a Scandinavian noble that left him at rocket speed). Can you imagine a worse HGFH? The scum even asked me before he came what I wanted most from London. I said Bendick’s Bitter Mints . . . he brought the cheap creamy Bendick’s mints instead. How low can you go?

    • The mind boggles …

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