Jakarta, Indonesia Report of what it's like to live there - 01/22/15
Personal Experiences from Jakarta, Indonesia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No- I lived in Japan, Canada, Ireland, England, but it was my first experience in this country.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
At the time our home base was Washington, DC. It is an awful trip with small children. 8 hours to Korea and then 12 hours to DC or 14 hours to Hong Kong and then another 5+ to Jakarta. The best way we found to connect was to fly to Narita and have a long layover- like 6 hours and use the hotel in the airport. We slept for two hours, had a shower and then did the remaining flight. That was the easiest journey we had.
3. How long have you lived here?
I lived there from summer 2011 until summer 2013.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
There are many places to live. Menteng is the closest to the Embassy but is a built up area where the only thing to do really is to go to the mall. So not ideal for kids. Plus you really don't want to try to go anywhere in the afternoon. Really it's only an option for single people in my opinion. Galuh is right across the street from JIS where most kids go to school in Pattimura. The housing is nice and large with communal play areas, but there is no pool. But it is not far from the American club which you can join and use for the pool and tennis courts.
The American club- I think this can be hard to get into, but this housing is attached to the American club so people can use the restaurant, pool, playground, child facilities etc, all the time. The houses are large and American. They were using a place called Taman Purih Oasis which despite the bug challenges was terrific. Pool was sometimes not maintained but overall a great place for families and kids could ride their bikes around.
Further south in Kemang was large housing, but the commute was awful. On a normal day to Menteng, it takes maybe 20 minutes, to Galuh, maybe 30 and to the American club area, 40 or so, and to Kemang about 55 to an hour. But when it's rainy season- 2 -3 hours to the American club area- keeping in mind that it is a distance of about 6 miles or so...Kemang would be way too far for the commuting spouse I think and Menteng not good for the families- so Galuh or around the American club is better for playdates, volunteering at school...
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
It's a pain as you have to shop at two or three stores to get everything you need- fresh and cheaply- but the good thing is your helper and driver can do this for you. You can get everything you need locally or from the small Commissary or online.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
WINE!!!! There is some at the Commissary but after two years you get bored! Cereal, it's about US$15 for a box of cereal in the local economy- maple syrup-shampoo and conditioner.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
McDonald's delivers! Many restaurants but you have to be very careful - do not to eat salad, raw fruit, smoothies, or sushi or you risk parasites and intestinal disorders- these are very uncomfortable and hard to get rid of and require very strong and awful medicines. I had two different ones the first year until I only ate salad at home washed with bottled water (not organic! My friend got a liver fluke from eating organic veg in Jakarta) and when I ate out ate everything cooked only- then I was fine. And any meats- burgers- well done.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
The insect problem- so we had every possible size and color of ant and it was important to be super vigilant about cleaning- nothing sweet or sticky for the kids outside of the dining room- no juice anywhere but there- the ants could get in the butter dish and break through a sealed tupperware - items often had to be stored in the freezer to keep the ants out. Mosquitoes were a nightmare- along with the toxic spray they use to kill them, which I'm sure is very poisonous to us also. We had a large rat in the house once also. I was over the mosquitoes and ants for sure by the time we left.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Through the Embassy.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very cheap if you get someone without English- less than US$200 a month. If they speak English anywhere from US$200-$350 a month for full time.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes- reasonably priced I found. And very nice.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
I used only cash when out but ATMS were not a problem.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You need enough to direct a taxi driver and to shop. More if you want to barter.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. I think it would be challenging.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis- only blue Bird or Silver Bird. Very affordable. Even the Silver Bird- high end taxis. The buses are super cheap but I wouldn't feel comfortable riding on it as a woman.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Cars are tough- it takes forever for them to arrive, but if you buy one new it takes forever to get it ready to go it seems. Not fast. If you can buy from someone already there it's good, but ask around about the person first in your office as some people unloaded cars on unwitting buyers.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes- not expensive.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Definitely need one. Everything happens by texting.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
No, there is no reciprocal trade agreement for working visas so none of the trailing spouses worked that I knew except at the Embassy.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Plenty! And many excellent organizations. Go to an AWA American Women's Association meeting or ANZA meeting and you will get connected.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Casual. It's so hot. But ladies dress up often when going out. I usually covered up more when going out in public- partially because of the sun and partially for modesty.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Theft. A friend had her purse stolen from the seat beside her while having lunch in a posh mall. Household help often steal and most are not remorseful about it. I knew of many cases of staff lying about family members being sick or dying in order to get money. But I never felt threatened personally.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
If you have any major health issues don't come here. You have to fly to Singapore for anything major.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
The air quality is awful. My husband developed asthma while living there. It is worse downtown near the U.S. Embassy than further south, but pretty much it's a dirty city.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Food allergies sufferers should avoid this post and anyone with severe asthma or mold allergies.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Sunny and dry in the summer- hot, rainy and hot in the "winter." Very humid in the winter. Sun protection is a must at all times.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
JIS is an exceptionally good school. Kids have excellent instruction and are given a lot of freedom and responsibility (for example getting themselves to and from class at recess and after lunch) and JIS educators and administrators are constantly training up on the latest teaching standards and techniques. Everyone is passionate about education. The parents are very hands-on involved which makes events and the school very fun. My son didn't have any problems with bullying, but one irritation was that the kids were allowed to use computers during recess to play minecraft and other games so if they had the chance they would do that instead of playing outside.
Bambino preschool was so amazing. The teachers were real partners and I was very satisfied- I was amazed at what my pre-schooler learned.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Yes- Bambino was one. It was not that cheap-about $1000 for 8 weeks? So US$4,000 per year and it was from 8:30-11:30 or 12 only. But very good.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large expat community- very social and fun. Easy to meet people.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Going for chocolate martinis at the Dharmawangsa, pool parties, brunch at a swanky hotel. Kids play area- nannies watch the kids while moms shop...!
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think for single men definitely. Single women might find it hard. Couples it's nice- lots of spas and nice restaurants and easy jumping off point for travel. For families based on the schools yes. Commuting can be hard on the working spouse.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I think maybe.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not that I experienced.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
We made some of the best friends of our lives. The closeness of the community, the ability to have impromptu gatherings poolside, the schools- Bambino preschool and JIS were both fabulous along with the parents at these schools. Easy and cheap to fly to Bali, Singapore- closer to get to Australia and New Zealand. We saw and experienced things that we would never anywhere else- monitor lizard at the door, skink in the pool, going to the Thousand islands and seeing massive monitor lizards, snorkeling and seeing moray eels in Bali, a man selling live Octopus on the beach which we bought and released but not until after it tried to escape across the deck- the friendliness of the people despite the poverty, the indoor play places in the malls for kids, the kung fu instructor who taught the kids...the American club..
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
I gave a list to CLO of my Kung Fu instructor who came to the house and was amazing, my hairdresser/pedicure lady who were lovely, there was a foot massage person who came to the house, a great swimming instructor who taught my then two year old to swim in one lesson (underwater), a great tennis instructor...the gems of Jakarta are the people. Most of the "tourist" places- historical from the Dutch, are filled with trash, plastic water bottles and sewage. Even on the Thousand Islands, debris is washing up on the beach. But despite that it is worth visiting them.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Framing- great frame shops- cheap and good quality- furniture- paintings from Bali- batiks.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
I disagree with other comments that there is a lot to do in Jakarta, I guess because I am an outdoors person who likes to be active outside in nature. The best advantages are: inexpensive hired help (although that comes with its own challenges), year-round swimming, inexpensive tennis lessons, and a vibrant and close expat community (because there isn't much to do we all get together!), excellent cheap spas, and an ability to go to all the nicest hotels for drinks or dining (although avoid raw foods even at the nicest places since the staff also don't always wash their hands before handling food)
10. Can you save money?
Depends on how much you need to get out.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
To get involved right off the bat. Volunteer at the school or if you don't have kids elsewhere, get involved in an association, take up tennis, find a spa you like, find ladies to go to Bali with- you need to be involved and make friends and get out of Jakarta frequently and then you will love it. If you don't get out and get involved, you will be miserable.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, I would. Although at times it was hard, it was such a great overall experience and my kids talk about wanting to go back all the time.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter clothes- expectations of things happening efficiently and promptly or on time- frustration in traffic.
4. But don't forget your:
SUNSCREEN and a wide brimmed hat. Flip flops. Bathing suits- get lots as you will wear them out.