Jakarta, Indonesia Report of what it's like to live there - 07/06/11
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?
I have been an expat in Germany, Kathmandu, Dhaka, Quetta, Islamabad, Riyadh.
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?
Home? Anywhere USA--but Jakarta is the Southern Hemisphere so there is no quick way home. With the Fly America Act it can take 22 to 36 hours in each direction. If you are not on a US carrier, the fastest way is through Manila (cheap)or Thai (not cheap) from BKK to LAX to the West Coast. To the East Coast Qatar and Emirates fly to DC, Houston, and JFK. These are great flights, very inexpensive.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Attached to the US Embassy
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Houses are big and apartments are grand--unless you are with the embassy, then apartments are grand and houses can be small but in communities. If you live in a giant house in the South part of Jakarta you can expect to commute to the north taking 1 to 1.5 hours each way. From Central Jakarta to the Embassy might take 30-55 minutes each way. Traffic is dense here but it moves.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
American products are available here but you will pay, a lot! Also, there is imported cheese and fruit. This is why you get COLA. There are some things that I bring in--a specialty coffee, panty hose, one type of salad dressing, cereal (the cereal because it is rare and expensive!)...but other things are here like Reduced Fat Peanut Butter. There are fabulous, fabulous upscale grocery stores here. You get all manner of fish, poultry and meat. What you do not get are a variety of frozen goods...
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
A trampoline--it would be nice to have one in the yard and a basketball hoop. (The embassy just purchased new furniture--so I do not even miss my bed!)
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Yes! There is MacDonalds and Burger King but KFC rules this country. However, we never eat fast food here--there are too many great restaurants. Some are cheap but others that cater to the rich or in the malls can be almost US prices.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
Yes, there is some but I don't really pay attention. There is a freakish array of soy milk products.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
There are mosquitoes but they are not obnoxious. You will not get malaria but dengue in like an urban legend--always on the fringe but never someone you know well.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Through the DPO. It can be really fast.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Help is plentiful but not as cheap as in other parts of South East Asia. I have a maid who comes six days a week and cooks about 50% of the dinners, she earns about $200 per month, the driver works five days and earns the same and the gardener/guard works six days, twelve hours a day and earns may $160.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, there are fantastic gym and pool facilities. Most of the communities and apartments have their own facilities. The American Club is open to non-embassy members and to members from other countries.
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?
ATMs are everywhere and are efficient. We cash checks at the embassy for cash and restrict our use of credit cards.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, Catholic, Protestant. LDS. You name it, it is here.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
We get the Int. Herald Trib delivered to the house every morning for $30 a month (in color! same day delivery!) Cable TV is necessary: StarWorld, Nat Geo, HBO, StarMovies, DIVA, a zillion US, UK and Aus news channels and a bizarre mix of English language channels that always seem to be showing crime shows. Throw this in with the internet and I think it is $75 per month.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Maybe "right," "Left" and "Straight" for taxi directions when you first get here. Otherwise, I live my life in English, which is totally pathetic because Bahasa is so easy.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
YES! Even the embassy is not compliant to the ADA. If you are in a wheelchair or on crutches everyday will be a challenge for you here.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Blue Bird and Silver Bird are the recommended taxis and they are plentiful and Blue Bird is cheap to the point that some people do not have cars. I would avoid the bus and there is no subway/sky train system.
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?
You can drive anything in the city. However, if you have an SUV you will have a better time in the rain and if you try to sell it when you leave. I purchased an old SUV for a few thousand dollars and suspect I will sell it for the same amount when I leave. No carjackings but do lock your doors.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
See above. It is fast enough to watch videos most of the time.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring one in with you for each of your kids and have your staff buy the local SIM card and pre-pay. You can pick up a lovely phone in BKK for next to nothing.
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, you go through Groovey Pets--and they tell you what paper work to do and they pick your pet up at the airport. The quarantine is supposed to be two weeks but it never really lasts that long. Our pets were rather spontaneously delivered eight days after we arrived. They called to say, "We are bringing the pets" and I said, "Can I go buy cat litter first?" Voila, the pets were here within two hours.
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Yes--they are good, cheap and can do house calls.
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, I don't think so.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
This is a mix. It is warm so some people wear batik or capris/sandals; however, it is Chinese Influenced Asia--so some people dress to the nines.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
People talk about the bombing of the Marriott because it is at the edge of living memory in the ex-pat community. People are cautious.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Yes. Get your shots, wear your seatbelt and pray. The health services available here are more nascent than those in Singapore and Bangkok. The embassy has a big clinic on the embassy but also at the American Club, there is also a couple of very good SOS clinics that cater to the wealthy Indonesians and ex-pats. Anything major and you will be on a plane to Singapore--which is an 1.5 hr flight.
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?
They say it is bad, the air quality, but it is so much better than so many other places. I would go with "moderate."
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Perfect. Everyday is the same. It rains a little everyday during months with an 'R' in them. You sort of lose track of time because you are never cold and you never notice the seasons changing. It is like Shangri-la.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
JIS has a tremendous international reputation. The facilities are unbelievable...like a college campus for the high school. Also, the course offerings subject and specialty wise are diverse and they offer AP and IB and a regular programme for regular kids. The two elementary schools are warm and supportive. There is a plethora of activities, sports, volunteer services in which children can and do partake. Once you are here, you will not want to take your child away from JIS. However, read below about special needs kids...
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
OK, JIS may not accept your special needs child. If you have a child with special needs, write to the admissions counselor before deciding to come here if you want all your kids to go to JIS. However, JIS is not your only option in Jakarta. There is BIS (the British Int. School), the Australian Int. School and a New Zealand Int. School and many others. Jakarta is a big town. JIS is work toward meeting the needs of a diverse group of learners--but don't count on it. The Australian Int. School has a great reputation for working with special needs children.
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?
I know that there is frustration with pre-schools. There are several but there are waiting lists for the good ones. Some people form groups and then send their ayahs (pembantus) with the child.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
TONS! Everything is here football, baseball, running, swimming, soccer, rugby, track & field. There are programmes through the schools and programmes through the community.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
Very high. You rarely meet someone who hates it here. People like it and generally want to stay longer. The biggest complaint is about the traffic and about being so far from family in the US.
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?
As busy as you want to be. You can entertain in or you can meet people out.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes for all. There is a lot to do for everyone.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not that I have observed.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
This is hard. I think scuba diving trips, camping, boat trips, although having lived in South Asia forever, I just like going to English language cinema or buying Western clothes at the mall or eating in a really great restaurant.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Shopping, travelling to other islands, exploring different ancient temples, trekking, cycling, golf, tennis,
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Batik (which I am really not into); gorgeous furniture, local musical instruments--like a standing gong or a gamelon. In country travel.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The weather is perfect everyday. Think of Jakarta as the love child of Bangkok and Hawaii. Posh malls, great shopping, fantastic in-country vacations to beaches or jungles, your kids will learn to scuba dive, domestic help is plentiful, there are great restaurants and the ex-pat community is big enough to find people you like or big enough that you can escape unnoticed, if you wish.
11. Can you save money?
Easily--but if you are feeding four or five teenagers and travelling all the time you might not save as much as your wish.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes! It is like heaven. Gorgeous flora and fauna, good shopping, great weather. Layers of Asian culture to explore.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
WINTER CLOTHES! Unless you think you will be going to the US during the winter.
3. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen, hat, and swimsuit. Scuba gear and hiking shoes. Small safe for the house.