Jakarta, Indonesia Report of what it's like to live there - 03/31/08

Personal Experiences from Jakarta, Indonesia

Jakarta, Indonesia 03/31/08

Background:

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

This is my 4th expat experience.

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2. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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

I work at the U.S. Embassy.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

SFO-Hong Kong- Jakarta always seems the shortest to me.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Usually townhomes for families with children in the south; apartments closer in for singles/couples.

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

Expensive if shopping at the many grocery stores catering to the expat/upper income market (Sogo, Ranch, Hero/Kemang). Cheaper if you stick to Carrefour, Hero/local, etc. Good quality produce is sometimes hard to find. I understand there is an organic fruit and vegetable co-op you can join run through a charity, but I have never tried it.

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

Shoes, if you are above a U.S. women's size 7 or a U.S. Men's size 9. Everything else is available.

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

Most everything is available and they deliver. No decent Tex-Mex though, but it is a small price to pay. Jakarta has restaurants of every variety and budget.

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Daily Life:

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

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

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Be careful when using your credit card as card theft is quite common. Learn to love your bank's fraud prevention staff.

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

Most Christian denominations, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh services are available.

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

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

Some very basic.

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

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Left-side, technically. Driving is an art and requires an almost zen state of mind. If you've driven in Bombay or Istanbul, relax, Jakarta is fine. Otherwise, get a driver or limit your driving to non-rush hour periods.

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

Local trains are not convenient or recommended for commuting. The Red and Blue air con commuter busses are nice if you commute from the center to Kemang. Taxis are safe and affordable, as long as you choose the right one. In general I stick to Blue Bird group, Gamya and Dian (in that order). Do not get into a cab if you feel unsafe or if the cab driver refuses to use the meter. If you are somewhere out of the way, call the silver bird dispatcher. They will speak some english and will order you a cab or direct you to the nearest Blue Bird Group stand. Always know generally where you are/ your route. I do not feel unsafe taking taxis in Jakarta as long as it is the right copany. These are taxi rules I follow in any developing country.

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3. 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?

Small SUV is best, especially if you plan to drive out of Jakarta. Most people hire a driver.

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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?

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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?

Get one. Cell phones are cheap and plentiful. A second hand phone from any kiosk in the mall will do if you do not receive one through work.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype, though I have access to an IVG line.

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Pets:

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

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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?

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

More informal that the U.S./Europe. Visit one of Jakarta's many textile bazaars and get a batik shirt made. Long sleeve batik shirts are considered formal wear for men.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Pretty unhealthy, especially during the dry season with the haze.

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

Yes, be aware of your surroundings, know where you are going. Take transportation you trust. That being said, I have never felt unsafe in Jakarta.

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

Dengue fever is a very real health concern and all precautions should be taken during prime Dengue season. Always pay attention to any bites, fevers, other health issues. At times, local medical care is not adequate for what Westerners would consider moderate health concerns. Embassy medical personnel try their best, but sometimes your only recourse is a quick trip to Singapore. Be aware of what you eat and always carry anti-bacterial wipes (better than just an anti bacterial liquid).

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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: hot and dry and hot and wet/humid.

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Schools & Children:

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

JIS is highly regarded and recommended.

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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?

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Expat Life:

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

Massive. Oil and Gas expats, Banking expats, Missionaries, NGOs, scholars, diplomats, your more adventurous backpackers, etc. Everyone is here!

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2. Morale among expats:

It really depends on the person and the day. Jakarta is a fascinating place to live, but it can also be frustrating. The endless traffic, the inequality, the utter lack of green space, monsoon season, the non-confrontational culture, lack of efficiency, going to yet another over-air- conditioned mall...again, etc. will wear you down.

My pathway to sanity is to get out of town. Take a cheap jetstar flight to Singapore and reacquaint yourself with standing in line, orderly traffic and rules (many many rules). Travel in Indonesia to Bali, the hills of Bukkit Tinggi, go see Orangutans in Kalimantan or snorkel/dive in Bunaken, Sulawesi. Use the larger travel agencies in Jakarta's malls to plan your trips.

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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?

People entertain both in their homes and out at Jakarta's many restaurants/clubs. In general, if you want an active social life, you can have it. If you want to be left alone, that is OK too.

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

It is what you make of it, though single men seem to do well.

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

There is definitely a gay scene, though not as open as in the States/Europe.

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

Yes, as with most of Asia, lighter skin is prized. For those easily identified as foreigners, catcalls on the street may be uncomfortable, but I never found it to be aggressive (compared to other countries). Indonesia does have pockets of religious violence, but rarely in Jakarta.

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

Shop! There are tons of interesting shopping locals, handicrafts, pewter, rugs, etc. Bargain whenever possible. If you love golf, welcome to paradise. Play tennis with the gang at one of Jakarta's athletic clubs; join hash; hit one of Jakarta's hot restos (there's a new one every week); hit the jazz, r&b, punk scene; try your luck at the climbing wall at the mall; go toart, music, etc events sponsored by the many Embassies in Jakarta; love the Jakarta film festival. Spend a Saturday afternoon at the Jakarta museum-skimpy on the explanations, but the objects are amazing- take a Jakarta Heritage Society tour or guide and don't forget to check out the Treasure room. Travel all over Indonesia. Join Java Lava, the volcano hikers. Gather a group of friends and rent a sailboat.

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

Woodcraft, textiles, furniture, silver, opals, travel, diving lessons, golf lessons, beach resorts.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't succumb to all the local handicrafts, furniture, trips out of Indonesia.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I may not leave.

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

Coat, skis, hat.

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3. But don't forget your:

Fins, snorkel, several bathing suits.

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

The Year of Living Dangerously (the book, not the movie which was shot in the Philippines). Anything by Pramoedya Ananta Toer; Eat, Pray, Love.

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

The Year of Living Dangerously (the book, not the movie which was shot in the Philippines). Anything by Pramoedya Ananta Toer; Eat, Pray, Love.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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