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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 of the common perception by westerners that 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 a more neutral alternative. Compare with güero.
- No Money, No Honey: A study of street traders and prostitutes in Jakarta by Alison Murray. Oxford University Press, 1992. Glossary page xii
- 'Don't Call Me bule! How expatriates experience a word'