Jakarta, Indonesia Report of what it's like to live there - 12/29/10

Personal Experiences from Jakarta, Indonesia

Jakarta, Indonesia 12/29/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

London, UK; Nairobi, Kenya; Seoul, Korea

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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?

The shortest trip to Washington, DC, from Jakarta using American carriers is a little over 22 hours, if you can get the best timing through Seoul or Tokyo. 26 or more hours is common, if more stops are added.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years, 2007-2010

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. government (Department of State)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most ex-pats live in very nice housing, but commutes from the south, near to the schools can be horrid, as much as 1.5-2 hours each way, worse during the rainy season. Centrally located housing makes for easier commutes, but only if you don't have children in the international schools.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries and household supplies are mostly available, though imported items can be as much as 5-10 times the cost they would be in the U.S. (e.g., pet food, American convenience food)

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I shipped items regularly to post through the Embassy mail, but I would have shipped pet food and cat litter in my household effects if I'd realized the price.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All fast food is available, as are a range of restaurants from cheap to really expensive. Eating really cheap food will make you ill. Food borne disease is quite common.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

These things are all available, on and off, but prices can be very high and you should always stock up on something you need if you see it. I often ordered from the U.S. due to cost.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes carry dengue, though most ex-pats don't get dengue badly, since it requires multiple exposures for serious illness. When you are sick with dengue, however, it is awful.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Through the U.S. Embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Domestic help is readily available and cheap.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Gyms are readily available in fancy apartments, hotels, and malls. Some are ridiculously expensive, though others offer discounts to diplomats.

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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?

Fraud happens. We tended to stick with banking at the Embassy and credit cards only in the nicer hotels. We had no problems. Others did.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

News is certainly available in English. Cable TV is expensive, but probably about the same as a big city in the U.S.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Not much, actually.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It would be hard, though it is easy to hire people to help you, there is no easy access for wheelchairs or any other accommodations.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are great, and not very expensive. The train is more rustic than many ex-pats would desire, and there are frequent accidents. Very few ex-pats take buses. The local city buses are crowded, dirty, and unsafely maintained. I do want to say that crime is really low.

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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?

There are no carjackings in Jakarta that I ever heard of, but many people do buy cars with higher clearance because of the flooding. Parts and service are readily available for vehicles that are sold in Indonesia, but it would be difficult to get parts or service for a car not sold in Indonesia. That said, it's relatively easy to find a car in Jakarta for ex-pats.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

High-speed internet access is available, though not as reliable as in the U.S., and nothing like Korea, for instance. It is expensive, but probably just a little more or the same as a big city in the U.S.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Local cell phone service works well with rechargeable SIM card. Phones are not cheap, but they're not expensive.

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Pets:

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?

Yes, and it was not the most pleasant experience.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Indonesian vets are around the same skill level as a vet tech in the U.S.Kennels are available and okay, though your household staff can be excellent at keeping your pets (our housekeeper loved our pets).Some people have good experiences with the quarantine -- we did not.

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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?

I don't think so. Wages are low, so you'd be much better off if you came in with a job. The U.S. Embassy hires spouses, but there aren't enough interesting jobs for everyone.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

A wide range. Most people dress fairly conservatively, but you see women in next to nothing at the malls, and the heat does mean that batik rather than a suit is the norm for an evening party.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Security is much better than the press would have you believe. That said, there was a targeted attack on two luxury hotels with ex-pats in July 2009 that was very serious.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Indonesia is rife with diseases, actually. I've never met anyone who wasn't sick at some point with a parasitic intestinal infection, and we noticed that appendicitis was more common (the parasites?). H1N1 is around. Some get dengue. Colds are more common because of the pollution. People's asthma acts up. Medical care is not great. Anything major requires a medivac to Singapore.

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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?

Crazy bad. Much worse if sitting in the notorious traffic breathing the fumes through the car vents. Unavoidable.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and humid all the time. Crazy bad flooding during rainy season (making traffic much worse).

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

People use their household staff for daycare. I've not seen preschools.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large, mostly Australian.

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2. Morale among expats:

Okay

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Easy enough. This always seems to me to be up to you. There are enough ex-pats, there are nice Indonesians, there's enough food and wine/booze (though expensive), there are places to go, you can certainly entertain and have a good social life.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

There are many attractions in Jakarta's many, many malls for families, singles, and couples. There is little in the way of cultural events, but there are restaurants, bars, movies, bowling, swimming, and more, available throughout Jakarta. Often, these are more expensive than they would be in the U.S.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Jakarta is generally much more passively tolerant than many other cities towards homosexuality. Even my very open friends have had no problems.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not for an expat.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Traveling in the country. Friends. Traveling out of the country.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Indonesia is a beautiful country with easily accessible scenery, especially beaches. It is easy to get from Jakarta to the southeast Asian region, including Australia and New Zealand.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Furniture, batik, other local crafts. There are some beautiful things.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Visiting other countries in the area. Beach vacations in country. Yogyakarta. Nice and easy to get to know people. Household staff is reliable and inexpensive. Local culture is available, but easier to access in Yogyakarta. Orangutans.

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11. Can you save money?

Yeah, but it is easy to spend on imported items, restaurants, and vacations.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. Honestly, we had a good time.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

winter clothes, bicycles

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3. But don't forget your:

sunscreen

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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