Someone I know went off recently about Westerners (mostly missionaries) who come to Indonesia, saying that he wishes many of them would just go home, with a caveat that there are a few who do good and who should indeed be here. He speaks from a unique perspective. His parents were missionaries, so he is technically from the West, but his heart is here, and he moved back to Indonesia, became an Indonesian citizen, and married an Indonesian woman. He has feet in both worlds. I often seek his advice because of his unique perspective.
I messaged him and asked him what, from his perspective, made the difference between those that he wished would go home and the "good ones". He said three things that I will summarize as I remember them.
1. Genuine relationships and involvement in the local community
This came up in my language school a couple of weeks back as well. We had completed an assignment that involved asking our Indonesian friends what the general perceptions of the community were towards various types of Westerners and their lifestyles. It unearthed some surprising resentments towards particular countries, but beyond that I was surprised to find that my friends responded to questions about the lifestyle of Westerners by saying that they really didn't care if the Westerners lived in nice houses or were wealthy. What mattered was what KIND of wealthy person they were. Were they building relationships locally? Were they generously giving to the neighborhood needs, above and beyond what the average citizen gives? Were they friendly?
When I reported these conversations in class my instructor became very serious and put aside his "Indonesian teacher" hat for a moment to give advice. He said that he wouldn't advise us to try to live in relative "poverty" in order to be like those around us. Like it or not, we will be seen as wealthy, no matter what type of house/car/motorcycle we choose to drive. Our heart and attitude matters much more. He gave an example from within the culture of two types of wealthy Indonesians. One who would drive through the neighborhood in his car and roll down the window and stop to talk to neighbors, and would give above and beyond at weddings/funerals and to those he employed. He would still shop from local shops instead of only at the big grocery store downtown, and would still eat at the roadside food stands instead of just at night restaurants. On the other hand, a man who came into wealth and so perceived himself as better than everyone else, putting a fence around his house to separate him from his neighbors and guard his stuff, and only eating and shopping far from his neighborhood - he is stuck up and unappreciated.
It does take reevaluating my life weekly to see if I am living this way, because as simple as it is, sheltering oneself, hiding away... that is actually all too easy. But learning to love and live deeply in a community - that is my goal.