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Bule (pronounced [ˈbule]) is a commonly used word in Indonesia to describe a foreigner, especially people of European descent. It seeks to identify people featuring light hair color, light eye color and pale skin. Some Europeans in Indonesia consider Bule derogatory, racist and offensive. It may also be used by Indonesians as a rationale for justifying racist behavior, such as charging higher prices and expecting Bules to all be affluent with a resulting expectation to pay the higher prices.
Many dictionaries point out that the strict definition of the word is albino. However, this definition has lost usage in both spoken and written form over the English loanword, albino. The meaning of the word has shifted into foreigner, Caucasians, even fair-skinned Indonesians and those with the slightest hint of European descent. Because of the frequent use to describe foreigners, it stems the terms Bule Arab for fair-skinned Middle Easterners and people with Middle Eastern descent, and Bule Afrika for foreigners with White African descent (mainly north African) and sometimes as a humorous, though not necessarily offensive, term for people with very dark skin.
In spoken form, the word may be used by street vendors to attract tourists or foreigners' attention. Because some westerners find the word is insulting, the more cautious of the street vendors use the term Mister, which foreigners find more polite. As an alternative to 'bule', the adjective 'barat' (Western) may be an alternative. Compare with güero.
- 'Don't Call Me bule! How expatriates experience a word'
- No Money, No Honey: A study of street traders and prostitutes in Jakarta by Alison Murray. Oxford University Press, 1992. Glossary page xii