Surabaya, Indonesia Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Surabaya, Indonesia

Surabaya, Indonesia 11/03/18

Background:

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

Major cities in Europe and East Asia.

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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?

There are no great routes from Washington, DC, to Surabaya. The main hubs connecting to Surabaya are Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Kuala Lumpur. Total travel time from DC to Surabaya is between 24-30 hours and usually requires at least one lengthy connection and one or two short ones. For personal travel there are more plentiful and less expensive flights from Bali, a 45 minute flight from Surabaya.

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3. How long have you lived here?

More than a year.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The U.S. Consulate offers two housing options, apartments in a high-rise luxury apartment building, and townhouses in a gated community shared with other expats and Indonesians. Both have advantages.

The apartments are large, have a nice view, and are located on a compound with a good swimming pool, gymnasium, and sauna, all of which are free to use by residents. There is also a large sward with a small playground. There are two good restaurants on-site, and several malls, grocery stores, and other restaurants are located within walking distance (should you want to do such a crazy thing) or a short taxi drive. Depending on traffic the commute to the Consulate is usually 15-30 minutes.

The townhouses are larger than the apartments, have tiny private yards, and are located next to the school attended by Consulate children. Townhouses have better amenities than the apartments including dishwashers, extra freezer(s), and capacious servants quarters. When school is not in session residents are able to use the school pool, track, etc. Restaurants and shopping are further away than in the apartments. One advantage of the townhouses is that they are located a short walk from the Consulate. By car it takes less than two minutes to get to work. Many residents use the Consulate gym which is well equipped, though not as nice at the one in the Apartments.

Where you get assigned is mostly a function of availability, but in general families with school age children are assigned to the townhouses while singles, couples, and families with young children are assigned to the apartments.

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

The prices of staples like rice, eggs, and cooking oil are regulated by the government and are very inexpensive. The price of fruits and vegetables runs the gamut from very inexpensive (at local wet markets) to prices comparable to what you would find in the United States in higher-end supermarkets. Beef is very expensive and generally frozen. Most international supermarkets carry inexpensive pork products but selection is very limited and quality is less than you would find in the United States. Fresh seafood is excellent and inexpensive. Alcohol is heavily taxed, not for sale during Ramadan, and with the exception of the local beer (a Heineken clone), very difficult to find.

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

More white wine.

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

There are a handful of high-end Western restaurants in Surabaya, and that number is growing. Mid-range options are plentiful, as are a number of American Fast Food joints. Indonesian food is spicy and delicious, and available at all price points from street-peddler to clothe napkin. Thanks to large expat communities there are several good Japanese and Korean restaurants. Good Chinese restaurants are plentiful.

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

Nothing serious. Rats, small lizards, and the odd pterodactyl-like cockroach will occasionally make it into the home.

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Daily Life:

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

It usually takes two-three weeks for letter and package mail to travel from the United States to the consulate. All mail is sent via pouch or Diplomatic Post to the Embassy in Jakarta before being routed to Surabaya. Mail is delivered to the consulate one-two times per week, and vice versa. Package mail often arrives in lamentable condition.

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

Household help is inexpensive and often of excellent quality. The monthly minimum wage (which most domestic staff are paid) is about US$230 as of this writing. Many consulate families employ drivers, nannies, and housekeepers.

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

There is an adequate gym at the consulate. The gym in the apartment complex is pretty good, and free to residents, but nothing compared to a members-only gyms in the United States. There are some private gyms.

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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?

Credit cards are widely accepted in the parts of Surabaya expats usually frequent. Outside Surabaya, Bali, and a couple other big cities in the district cash is king. The largest bank notes is worth about six and a half bucks, so get used to carrying a fat roll of guap with you when you go on vacation.

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

There are English-language Catholic and Protestant services in Surabaya. I would not be surprised if there are English-language Islamic services as well.

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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?

Very few people speak English. Local tutors, including live online programs of a high quality, are easily available and inexpensive.

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

Very much. Sidewalks and public transportation are nearly non-existent, as are wheelchair ramps and the like. It is possible to walk to local stores but it is an unpleasant experience that requires dodging traffic.

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Transportation:

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

Bluebird taxis are magnificent. Invariably clean, punctual, and nine times out of ten chauffeured by a guy who actually knows where he is going. Rates are cheap. From the apartments to the consulate is about three bucks. Crosstown from the consulate to the airport about $12.

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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?

Any car is fine in principle, but Indonesia is a right-side drive country and there are a lot of regulations restricting the age and make of cars that may be imported. A lot of people successfully bid only to find out they can't bring their car. In general the best move is to buy a car locally, or rely on local taxis.

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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?

Internet is expensive and of middling quality. It can take a few days to several weeks to install depending on what provider you choose.

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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?

Most people use a local prepaid service.

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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?

Getting an animal into the country is possible, but is expensive (US$1000-$3000 per animal) and emotionally draining. Contact the Community Liaison Office (CLO) for details.

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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?

There is no bilateral work agreement between the United States and Indonesia, so EFMs are limited to jobs at the Consulate. Currently there are about three full-time positions, and three part-time positions.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

If I'm not mistaken Indonesian law does not allow EFMs to volunteer. Check with the CLO for details.

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

Formal dress is required maybe three times a year, however on those occasions local formal (a long sleeve batik-shirt of special fabric) is perfectly acceptable and worn by most people. Consulate attire is casual by department standards, and many American employees opt to wear the local equivalent of business casual (a short sleeve batik shirt or equivalent blouse). Surabaya is more culturally conservative than Jakarta, and East Java is the heartland of Indonesia's traditionalist variety of Islam. Outside of Bali and a few other tourist areas it is advisable to dress modestly.

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Health & Safety:

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

In May of 2018 there were several terrorist attacks in Surabaya, followed by police activity with additional suspected terrorists. These attacks truly seemed to shock the nation. Surabaya and East Java are, with good reason, considered among the safest and most tolerant places in Indonesia. Petty crime may be a problem, but I am unaware of any recent crimes committed against consulate families. We feel very safe here and frequently walk around our neighborhood and some of the surrounding barrios. Aside from two remote parts of Indonesia rarely visited by tourists, there are no travel restrictions for employees and EFMs.

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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?

You may get food poisoning. You will get diarrhea, not infrequently. Nasty colds are frequent. Malaria and other mosquito-born diseases are not high risk in Surabaya but are elsewhere in Indonesia. Check with MED for the latest on Zika. Dentistry is limited, and decent medical care is extremely limited. Almost everything, including broken bones, are medically evacuated to Singapore. There is a local-hire general practitioner at post, and the embassy Medical Officer usually visits post a few times a year. Mental health type doctors occasionally visit as well.

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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?

Air quality is moderate, and much better than places like Jakarta, Manila, Beijing, etc. Especially during the rainy season skies are often blue and you can have a good view of the volcanoes looming in the distance.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

A lot of Indonesian cuisine incorporates peanuts and shrimp-paste. Bottled water is provided by the consulate.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

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

Surabaya is hot by Indonesian standards. Temps are between 85-100 degrees Fahrenheit all year long. It's slightly cooler during the rainy season.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are several options. All consulate families currently use the Surabaya Intercultural School. Most seem happy with it.

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

Contact the CLO.

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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?

Some limited options, which are adequate.

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

Yes.

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Expat Life:

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

Very few American citizens outside the consulate, and aside from a sizable Korean, Japanese, and Chinese community, very few expats of any kind. Japan, China, Australia, and Taiwan all maintain consulates in Surabaya.

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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?

No organized clubs that I am aware of, though the CLO does a good job of organizing regular social events and get togethers. Consulate families frequently host social events.

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

This is a very family-friendly post. Singles who are interested in night-life may find it trying. There are few bars and clubs. The local culture tends to insularity, and making friendships can be difficult.

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

It would depend on the expat. Surveys I've seen indicate that a large majority of Indonesians strongly disapprove of homosexuality, and that this disapproval largely transcends religious and ethnic lines. The national parliament periodically proposes a law that would criminalize sex outside of marriage, something that gay rights advocates fear could give an official imprimatur to increased harassment of the LGBT community. None of this would likely affect anyone assigned to the consulate, but it should give you an idea of the local milieu. That being said, most of the persecution of Indonesian LGBT people that you read about in the international papers takes place in Aceh, far from Surabaya's Consular district and culturally a different universe. In Surabaya, as elsewhere in Indonesia, there are organizations working to support the rights of LGBT Indonesians.

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

Surabaya and the surrounding province of East Java are famously tolerant. Foreigners should be aware that Indonesia officially recognizes six religions; Islam (Sunni), Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Indonesian citizens are required to declare a religion which is printed on their identification cards. As a diplomat you won't have your religion printed on your diplomatic id, but people will frequently ask your religion as a conversation starter or ice breaker. Atheism seems to be strongly frowned upon and, strictly speaking, not legally possible.

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

Indonesia, and especially Java, are home to some of the world's most highly developed cultures. Indonesians are constitutionally obligated to celebrate that diversity, and it is on display everywhere you go. Traveling through the Consular district is like visiting different countries when it comes to food, art, religion, dance, and history. If you like spicy food, Indonesian is a culinary wonderland, especially when it comes to seafood. People are very friendly and tolerant, and are always thrilled to meet a foreigner who speaks Indonesian.

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

Short flights to world-class beaches are the major attraction. However there are also some very interesting hill-stations and other attraction just a few hours drive from Surabaya.

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

There are, especially if weaving and batik are your thing.

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

It's not Jakarta.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

We had served in large East Asian cities before, and most of our surprises were pleasant (comparatively light traffic, green space, etc.). Someone who has never served in a large East Asian city should prepare themselves for traffic, pollution, and cheek to jowl humanity.

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

Yes.

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

Winter wardrobe.

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4. But don't forget your:

Modest, cotton, or summer attire.

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

Pramoedya Ananta Tour, considered by some to be Indonesia's greatest author, wrote an epic tetralogy set in Surabaya from the late nineteenth into the early twentieth century. It is a great introduction to Javanese culture. The tetralogy is known as "The Baru Quartet" and the first book is titled "This Earth of Mankind."

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Don't be spooked by the recent terror attacks and the religious conservatism of East Java. In terms of safety, we feel quite safe, and would venture to say most of our colleagues agree. Most people who can extend at post, do. One of the joys of serving in Surabaya is the exposure to Indonesia's traditionalist (a technical term) type of Islam, which culturally differs in many important respects from the modernist/reformist (more technical terms) type of Islam more familiar to Americans whose primary exposure to Islam has been through the Middle-East.

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Surabaya, Indonesia 10/10/15

Background:

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

Several countries in Asia and Middle East

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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?

from East Coast USA, about a 26-30 hours total travel time.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Four months

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

Assigned to work at the U.S. Consulate General

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Suburban row houses, but large. High rise apartments. In the suburbs, commute times are short. Any commute that takes you into any part of the city during the day can be challenging. Average maybe 5 or 10 miles per hour. Poor road design with several bottlenecks throughout town.

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

It ranges from inexpensive to very expensive and is of lower quality; locally grown is cheap, but farming practices should give anyone pause in buying anything too local. There are some organic farms that supply the hotels and once you get a contact, they can deliver basic leafy greens. Higher quality produce is fairly expensive; about the prices you'd pay at a Whole Foods or gourmet market in a U.S. city.

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

Western foodstuffs. kitchen utensils. Very hard to find a heavy rolling pin or quality measuring cups in town for some reason.

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

enough. very expensive by local standards. slightly more expensive than in the U.S. Family of four can usually get out of a McDonald's for about $30.

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

Normal for this climate. Ants. Lots of ants. Mosquitoes; quite a variety.

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Daily Life:

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

e-mail.

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

Moderate. About US$200 per person per month if you are a humane employer. You can get by with much less, but why?

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

yes, kind of pricey by U.S. standards, but very nice equipment and usually empty.

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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?

generally no problems but normal precautions should apply.

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

Christian Protestant and Catholic

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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?

Knowledge of Indonesian is critical to being able to get around town. Very few speak more than a few words of English, even in major companies, banks, malls, etc. A big surprise, actually.

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

definitely. no sidewalks.

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Transportation:

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

yes. Very crowded and not pleasant, except for higher class train. Taxis are reasonably safe, but some drive very recklessly. Rates are affordable, US$15 for a one hour drive across town. Less than US$5 for quick trips around town.

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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?

middle class Indonesians have the full range of Asian makes and models. Diesel is recommended for coutryside in the mountainous parts of the island. In town, roads are usually smooth, so lower clearances will be okay. For out of town, roads are narrow and you will find having a car with high clearance and bigger tires will give you peace of mind whenever you find yourself driving on the unpaved shoulder to let an oncoming car or truck pass safely.

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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?

Yes. Moderately expensive and very bad quality.

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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?

Buy a sim card locally for you unlocked GSM phone.

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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. not sure of details.

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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?

No. Indonesian government is trying to for even foreign companies and organizations to hire Indonesians.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty. There is still lots of poverty in Surabaya and Indonesia. A growing middle class has a history of civic mindedness.

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

Business casual to casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

not so far. There are parts of the city that even locals avoid because of higher crime.

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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?

Almost all procedures are recommended to be done in 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?

moderate. It can be bad when neighbors are burning trash. Trash is burned in empty lots all over town. Some mornings you awaken to the smell of something burning in the distance. There is definitely a lot of air pollution from vehicles. There is a smog layer that can be seen from the hills to the south of town.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

bring meds. have a good air cleaner.

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

tropical. Warm to hot. Moderately to very 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?

Several international schools.

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

no idea, but I would be surprised if there were such accommodation.

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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?

yes. At moderate cost. It depends on what standards you want. A Montessori school just opened across the street, but I am not sure what they mean by Montessori here.

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

yes, but not for serious athletes. more recreational . hot climate poses challenges for outdoor activity during midday.

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Expat Life:

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

Very small western expat community, can't be more than several dozen in the whole city of 3 million. Very large Taiwanese, Chinese, Korean expat communities.

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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?

recreational sports like tennis, swimming, golf, cycling. After a while, most folks seem to be able to find something to do if they go looking for it. local language ability is the key.

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

yes, depending on interests. City does not have a lot of high culture (museums, galleries, concerts, etc.) and not much a night life. But there are places to socialize and the more local or ethnic you go, the more available the nightlife becomes.

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

Depends on whether one needs the stereotypical gay scene, which doesn't exist except behind closed doors. You don't see a lot of PDA in general and it is a fairly conservative part of Indonesia.

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

yes, but behind the scenes and below the surface. Javanese politeness usually prevents the in your face prejudices.

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

Reasonably safe. Lots more sunshine and light than I expected for a big city. It's a sprawling city, like Los Angeles, or London, so it really depends on where you live in the city. Out in the suburbs, it is less congested. There is always a constant breeze, which is nice.

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

regional travel in East Java.

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

local handicrafts, regional travel

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

Touring, for sure. Weather is nice for those who like warm/hot tropical climates.

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10. Can you save money?

yes

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

how little English is spoken in the city.

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

Yes, but we knew a lot before coming.

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

impatience, love of cool weather activities like walking/hiking

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4. But don't forget your:

sense of adventure and patience

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

Rough Guide has good chapters on East Java that seem fairly accurate. Indonesia, Etc. is a popular book about Indonesia these days.

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Surabaya, Indonesia 04/27/15

Background:

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

Second expat experience, first was in Latin America.

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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?

New England, brutal flight from East Coast... JFK to Hong Kong at ~14 hours, Hong Kong to Surabaya at ~6 hours. There are other options, but almost all involve a 14-plus hour leg or numerous connections. Most routes are through HKG, KL, Tokyo, Seoul, or JKT.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

U.S. Foreign Service serving at ConGen Surabaya.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing for the U.S. Consulate is mixed between single-family houses and a high-rise apartment building. The houses are a 5 minute drive to the Consulate and the apartments are about a 20 minute drive.

The apartments are convenient to more shopping than the houses, and are pretty well-furnished. The houses are on a quiet, gated street, and neighborhood kids enjoy a lot of freedom to run & play.

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

Local products are pretty cheap. Local produce and meat is about 20-30% cheaper than their counterparts in the U.S. Imported goods are expensive and vary in availability. You can east like an Asian or like a Westerner as you please. If you're USG, supplementing the local inventory with Commissary and Amazon shipments makes it much easier to appease a Western palate or picky kids.

A word of caution: like many developing countries, be prepared to go to more than one market to complete a simple shopping trip. A new Ranch Market opened up near Citraland and it has made shopping easier, but be prepared for that common ingredient to be "sudah habis" (already sold out).

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

Quality cheese and charcuterie (as checked luggage in a cooler - more important than clothing). Deep Woods OFF. Aerosol sunscreen. Favorite brands of booze.

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

McDonald's, KFC, A & W, Texas Fried Chicken, Dunkin' Donuts, Starbuck, and CARL'S JR. The Carl's Jr. is a nice addition to the fast food fray. Prices are comparable to U.S. prices. Menu selections vary.

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

Mosquitoes, cockroaches, ants, flies. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Dengue is a huge problem in East Java at the moment, and one should take great care to apply insect repellent regularly.

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Daily Life:

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

With the USG, via Diplomatic Post Office. This is not a real DPO, however. Consider it a pouch, as it's a twice-weekly shuttle service from Jakarta.

Indonesian post is unreliable, but there are private courier services that vary in price and service levels. DHL and FedEx are also available.

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

There's always domestic help available. The quality varies significantly, however. If you have dogs, your options will be severely limited.

Costs:
Housekeeper/Cook: IDR 1.6-2.0 million/month
Driver: IDR 1.7-2.2 million/month
Nanny: IDR 2.2-2.5 million/month
Gardener: IDR 50,000/day (weekly or semi-monthly)

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

The Consulate has a small & adequate gym. If you're not USG, there are several other options, including a new Crossfit box and a rock-climbing gym near Citraland, and numerous health clubs around the city.

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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?

Credit cards are normally fine, but I have had a few breaches over the last six months. That said, use caution when using your home-bank-issued debit card. I would suggest having a separate account for cash withdrawals, or opening a local account to & from which you can transfer necessary funds. Mitigating exposure is highly encouraged.

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

I believe there are some English-language Christian services available. I can't directly comment.

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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?

All of it. I'm only partly joking....

I came with a little more that bare basics and had a very steep learning curve and great difficulty navigating everyday life, including simple requests for my housekeeper. Some of the domestic help associated with the Consulate or SIS has some English, but you will pay a premium for the language capacity and may get diminishing returns on the quality of work.

That said, I learned Indonesian in a hurry and find that with my still-basic-but-functional Indonesian, I can get around. My vocabulary is roughly 5,000-8,000 words, and I still have trouble with comprehension, but it's much easier here if you know the local language. Most Surabayans DO NOT speak English other than the basic pleasantries. The farther afield you get in Indonesia, the less likely you are to encounter success with anything but Indonesian.

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

Those with physical disabilities would have a very difficult time in Surabaya. Sidewalks rarely exist, elevators are usually broken or non-existent, and there are rarely accommodations for disabilities except in the most modern malls and hotels.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are plentiful and affordable. The Consulate recommends USG personnel & dependents only use Blue Bird or Orenz. Blue Bird has an app for calling taxis which makes it even easier.

Buses, becaks, tuk-tuks, etc. aren't recommended for safety and security. National train service is fine and cheap... just lower your expectations of what "Executive Class" means.

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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?

New GOI regulations prohibit the importation of vehicles by USG staff. This applies to the whole of Mission Indonesia. Motorcycles are considered vehicles under this new policy.

Used cars are plentiful in Surabaya. Find a reputable dealer or try to purchase from an outgoing expat, if possible. Common cars are Toyotas, Dihatsus, Hondas, Nissans, Fords, and Chevys. Cars are expensive, but mostly retain their value. Expect a 10-20% depreciation over two years.

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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 is available at a high cost. Expect to pay about US$10/month per 1 Mbps of throughput from the three providers (Speedy, FirstMedia, and CitraMedia). Speeds currently advertised from 5 Mbps up to 100 Mbps, but the infrastructure really only supports about 10-15 Mbps. Speeds to Europe or the U.S. are much, much lower.

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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?

Unlock your phone before arriving & get a local chip from Telkomsel. US$20/month pre-paid will get you plenty of internet and talk time. Post-paid is only an option for expats with a letter of sponsorship from your employer. There are other providers, but none boast the coverage of Telkomsel.

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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?

Veterinary care in Surabaya is horrible. Please be aware of this if you are thinking of bringing your pet. Also be advised that having a dog will make it extremely difficult to find a housekeeper.

Animals destined for Surabaya must arrive through Jakarta, as Juanda Airport does not have adequate kennel facilities. There is a 14-day quarantine period for all animals. Members of Diplomatic Missions can have this waived and do a home quarantine instead. All animals, regardless of quarantine location will spend one night in Jakarta's quarantine facilities in order to be evaluated by a Dept. of Agriculture inspector.

Transportation from Jakarta to Surabaya can be done overland (24-36 hours) or via a Lion Air flight to Surabaya. You will need to contract a pet importer to navigate the bureaucracy of pet importation. Groovy Pets and JakPetz are two popular, reputable companies.

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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?

For the USG community, it is prohibited to work on the local economy. This severely limits opportunities.

Other expats can find jobs as teachers (school and English), with multi-nationals, NGOs, and local industries. I cannot speak to the process involved as I am USG.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are many through EWAS (Expatriate Women's Association of Surabaya), mostly geared towards and marketed to women, naturally. Male trailing spouses will find it more difficult to stay busy.

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

Modest and conservative dress is recommended but not necessary. Attire ranges from full niqab to just-stepped-out-of-the-ocean.

To play it safe, men should wear slacks and button-up shirts or batik to business events; women should wear knee-length skirts or slacks and sleeved blouses. While it is perfectly acceptable to walk around in shorts, tee-shirts, and flip-flops (and I do regularly), you will be pegged as a bule immediately. Have a business casual wardrobe on standby.

Women may want to bring a scarf or two to cover their heads as the occasion arises.

A funny aside: it is perfectly acceptable to go to the supermarket/convenience store in your pajamas.

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Health & Safety:

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

Surabaya has been pretty secure the last couple of years. The Indonesian police have disrupted a few potential terror cells in and around Surabaya, but thankfully nothing has come out of it. Extremism remains a threat in this country, but Surabaya is no more dangerous than your typical large Asian city. Exercise caution, be aware of your surroundings, and don't put yourself in to bad situations, and you'll be just fine.

Another security concern is the threat of geologic events. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can and do happen. Have a plan, have a go-bag, and be alert.

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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?

Health care is not up to Western standards. Most expats carry medevac insurance and go to Singapore for all non-routine care.

There is a modern hospital with decent doctors near the Consulate, but it is not staffed by highly-trained technicians. Lab results are frequently misread, diagnostic imagery misinterpreted, and simple procedures done incorrectly.

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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?

Pollution is moderate. The Consulate is located is outside of the city in a new development, so we don't get the full brunt of it. Anyone with sensitivities should take necessary precautions, but the average person won't notice it much.

Allergies are a bigger issue, as the flora here cause problems for both people and pets. Stock up on allergy meds before arriving, as they are not readily available here at local pharmacies, especially for kids.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Seasonal/environmental allergies are pretty bad here. I usually do not suffer from allergies, but I do occasionally have issues. My family has allergies and they need to medicate regularly.

Those with severe food allergies should exercise extreme caution here, as ingredient lists are often incomplete and servers/chefs/housekeepers aren't necessarily culturally sensitive to food allergies.

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

Tropical climate, with rainy season lasting from around December until April. Seasonal rains can cause problematic flooding in Surabaya, and one should expect delays on the roads during rainy season.

The temperatures average in the high 80s to low 90s F (30-32 C) year-round. It feels significantly hotter during dry season, and heat indices regularly approach 120 F (49 C) then. Evenings are cooler, but it is always 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?

The Consulate sends its children to Surabaya Intercultural School, located nearby the Consulate. It is an adequate school through 6th grade, then becomes a little more challenging in High School for those on an A.P. track.

The school is going through challenges both internally and externally and will likely come out just fine, but the last two years have been... interesting.

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

The school has limited resources for special-needs children. For this academic year, the school hired a dedicated Special Needs counselor, but politics and churn see him moving on after this year. I am unsure of any plans to replace him in the foreseeable future.

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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?

Preschool is available at SIS, and most Consulate families elect that option. There are a few other options in the Citraland development worth looking at, but I have no direct experience with any of them.

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

There are afterschool activities for kids at SIS. These include soccer and swimming. Other sports include golf, tennis, badminton, and basketball. Our child wasn't old enough/didn't want to participate, so I can't comment on the quality.

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Expat Life:

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

Small expat community, with about 10 Western nationalities represented - U.S., Dutch, English, German, Austrian, Australian, New Zealanders, Brazilian, Mexican, French, and Canadian. There is one expat-owned pub that serves as a gathering point for a good cross-section of Westerners each weekend.

Morale depends on a lot of factors. Many expats who have married Indonesians really like it here. The company you keep and whether your interests and hobbies can be addressed are huge factors.

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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?

We like to sit on our front porch and watch the neighborhood go by. We also grill regularly and invite the neighborhood families to join. There are occasionally expat meet-ups and themed parties at the city's hotels. It all depends on where in the city you are. From Citraland, it is a minimum one hour drive to get anywhere.

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

This all depends on the person/couple/family. As stated above, many people love Surabaya for various reasons. If you're single or childless and have the means to travel regularly, it's a great place. If you're a family who has the means to travel and pay for quality childcare, it's also great.

Single men will enjoy this city immensely. Single women will not. This is a city of many opportunities for romance, whether wanted or not, for both men and women. Anecdotal evidence shows it is much more oppressive for single women, as unwanted advances are aplenty, and "no" isn't readily accepted as an answer. Your mileage will vary.

We were more or less homebodies, as a demanding USG travel schedule put the kibosh on many a planned trip. This was both great and incredibly boring. As a family, we tended to stay around and socialize with our neighbors. Your mileage may vary with your neighborhood's and/or organization's makeup.

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

Homosexuality is technically illegal in Indonesia. Practically - it depends. Some areas are more welcoming and tolerant of same-sex couples. I can't attest to opportunities in Surabaya for LGBT folks, but we do know a few who seem to get by quite easily.

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

Dark skin is undesirable in Indonesia, as evidenced by the entire aisles of "skin whitening" products in grocery stores and pharmacies here.

Outright racism is rare, but there are undercurrents. People of color are treated somewhat differently, but usually it's more of a sense of wonderment, especially for those of Afro or West Indian descent. Whites are also treated with wonder, sometimes being more popular than the animals in the zoos here in East Java.

Religion can be an issue, as there are only 6 accepted religions here: Islam, Christian (Catholic), Christian (Protestant), Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism. You're forced to state your religion on your entry card, and expats marrying an Indonesian must also choose a religion. Sunni/Shia tensions are real, and tolerance can be strained at times.

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

For me, Surabaya doesn't have many highlights. It's an industrial city with booming manufacturing and shipping industries. The highlights have been getting out of the city and traveling: to Bali, Lombok, Yogyakarta, etc., but even these trips have been just okay. I think the ability to travel from Surabaya is its highlight (you're a 1- to 4-hour flight from just about any type of tourism or adventure you can imagine... mountains, jungles, volcanoes, Komodo Dragons, orangutans, elephants, tigers, SCUBA, world-class surfing, etc.). Bangkok and Singapore are close-by as well.

Many colleagues rave about their time here and how wonderful Surabaya and East Java (and beyond) are. These colleagues also tend to be single or childless. Family travel tends to be a little more dicey, as accommodations can sometimes leave a lot to be desired. We've also been limited by lack of quality childcare.

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

There are several traditional markets in Surabaya, but I haven't been to any. Traffic and distance to them are challenges. To the south of the city, there are some attractions like golf, safari-like zoos, waterfalls, and a botanical garden. Across the Madura Strait, you can watch bull racing at certain times of the year. There is also some beautiful Dutch Colonial architecture in and around Surabaya that is nice to visit.

Unfortunately, most of the "fun" things to do and the "gems" are a 2-3 hour drive outside of the city.

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

Stone carvings, wood carvings, batik, ikat, oleh-oleh.

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

It is incredibly inexpensive to live in Indonesia. House help, local foodstuffs, local travel, etc. are all cheap. Indonesia is a huge country with over 17,000 islands to visit. If you like traveling and adventure, Indonesia could be for you. There are numerous artisinal products unique to the country, and you will find yourself wanting some - from stone carvings to beautiful hand-carved teak furniture, to vividly-colored batik fabrics and hand-woven ikat fabrics.

The climate is tropical - you'll never be cold here... unless you crank your A/C.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes. We didn't travel as much as others, and have been able to pay down debt and put some money away.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How much speaking the local language would have benefited me when I arrived - do not believe them when they say, "Oh, you can get by with just English!"

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

If I had set my expectations lower, yes. It is a quiet Post, we've made some good friends, and the differential is nice.

That said, 2 years here is more than enough, and I find myself bored more often than not. Beware the temptation to go out to the bar/club every weekend. It's easy to slip into that pattern.

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

Expectations of quick and efficient customer service, aggressive and direct language/behavior, expectations of promptness, winter clothes, and POV (if you're USG personnel).

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4. But don't forget your:

Insect repellent, sunscreen, patience, creative and passive-aggressive problem-solving skills, and your sense of adventure.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Act Of Killing (Theatrical Cut) [English Subtitled], "The Look of Silence," and "The Siege 1 and 2" (only because they're awesome action movies).

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

The Politics of Indonesia (Kingsbury); The End of Innocence?: Indonesian Islam and the Temptation of Radicalism (Feillard, Madinier, and Wee); Instant Indonesian: How to Express 1,000 Different Ideas with Just 100 Key Words and Phrases!

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Surabaya, Indonesia 10/29/12

Background:

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

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

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3. 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?

Unfortunately, Surabaya requires an inconvenient connection through Bali, Singapore, Taipei, or Jakarta in order to connect to the States. This can add an overnight layover. KAL is easy though; Surabaya/Bali/Seoul/Washington, or Surabaya/Bali/Seoul/Honolulu. United (codeshared with Singapore Airlines) is also available-Surabaya/Singapore/Tokyo/Honolulu (24 hours with overnight in Singapore).

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4. 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?

Unfortunately, Surabaya requires an inconvenient connection through Bali, Singapore, Taipei, or Jakarta in order to connect to the States. This can add an overnight layover. KAL is easy though; Surabaya/Bali/Seoul/Washington, or Surabaya/Bali/Seoul/Honolulu. United (codeshared with Singapore Airlines) is also available-Surabaya/Singapore/Tokyo/Honolulu (24 hours with overnight in Singapore).

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5. How long have you lived here?

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6. How long have you lived here?

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

(The contributor was affiliated with the U.S. Consulate and lived in Surabaya from 2010 to 2012, a fifth expat experience.)

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

(The contributor was affiliated with the U.S. Consulate and lived in Surabaya from 2010 to 2012, a fifth expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Many expats reside in spacious shared-wall, town-house style homes in gated communities with private security services. For those who work and live in the new development of Citraland (the Little Singapore of Surabaya), commutes are minimal to nil.

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

Many expats reside in spacious shared-wall, town-house style homes in gated communities with private security services. For those who work and live in the new development of Citraland (the Little Singapore of Surabaya), commutes are minimal to nil.

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

They are very inexpensive as Indonesia produces many products locally.

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

They are very inexpensive as Indonesia produces many products locally.

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

Kawasaki 250 KLX, a good mountain bikes (crappy Chinese bikes cost a fortune here). Good quality CVS/Costco baby wipes if you have a favorite brand, Quality feminine-hygene products, and cosmetics.

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

Kawasaki 250 KLX, a good mountain bikes (crappy Chinese bikes cost a fortune here). Good quality CVS/Costco baby wipes if you have a favorite brand, Quality feminine-hygene products, and cosmetics.

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

McDonald's, Wendy's, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and KFC are all here at reasonable prices. Italian, Chinese, and some good Korean restaurants are near Citraland. For a western breakfast buffet, head to the Sheraton. Street food at the G-walk and other areas are also good. Lontar street has a good Padang food restaurant and a good Bakso restarant called Manchester. Good Padang-style mud crabs and other seafood items are available at a restaurant on a small lake in Citraland. Street food can be excellent in Indonesia.

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

McDonald's, Wendy's, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and KFC are all here at reasonable prices. Italian, Chinese, and some good Korean restaurants are near Citraland. For a western breakfast buffet, head to the Sheraton. Street food at the G-walk and other areas are also good. Lontar street has a good Padang food restaurant and a good Bakso restarant called Manchester. Good Padang-style mud crabs and other seafood items are available at a restaurant on a small lake in Citraland. Street food can be excellent in Indonesia.

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

The usual tropical pests exist; roaches, ants, mosquitoes, and flies. Happy to have these in lieu of cold weather though. We also had a "tomcat" issue. It's a small termite-looking insect that has corrosive blood that will burn your skin. Cobra snakes are around as well.

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

The usual tropical pests exist; roaches, ants, mosquitoes, and flies. Happy to have these in lieu of cold weather though. We also had a "tomcat" issue. It's a small termite-looking insect that has corrosive blood that will burn your skin. Cobra snakes are around as well.

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Daily Life:

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

If you are with a consulate, you can use the pouch. The Indonesian mail system is not as reliable as in the US. Tiki is a good local national private mail carrier that is cheap.

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

If you are with a consulate, you can use the pouch. The Indonesian mail system is not as reliable as in the US. Tiki is a good local national private mail carrier that is cheap.

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

Inexpensive: live-in maids $100-$120 per month, live-in Nanny $120-$160 per month.

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

Inexpensive: live-in maids $100-$120 per month, live-in Nanny $120-$160 per month.

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

They are cost-prohibitive unless you have money to throw away. Many of the Chinese Indonesians use Celebrity Fitness and happily pay up to $100 per month.

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

They are cost-prohibitive unless you have money to throw away. Many of the Chinese Indonesians use Celebrity Fitness and happily pay up to $100 per month.

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

They are generally safe to use and readily available. Use prominent ATMs and common sense in protecting your personal information.

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

They are generally safe to use and readily available. Use prominent ATMs and common sense in protecting your personal information.

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

There is one English-language Catholic church. But we usually attended the Indonesian mass.

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

There is one English-language Catholic church. But we usually attended the Indonesian mass.

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

Newspapers are plentiful and cheap. Indonesia sells HD televisons but HDTV does not exist. Indovision has good programming at around $50 a month.

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

Newspapers are plentiful and cheap. Indonesia sells HD televisons but HDTV does not exist. Indovision has good programming at around $50 a month.

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

Get as much Bahasa Indonesian as possible, as English may not be spoken.

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

Get as much Bahasa Indonesian as possible, as English may not be spoken.

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

Sidewalks are nonexistant in the city center. Even the newer rich communities like Citraland and Bukit Dharmo see no need for sidewalks. No government ordinances/laws provide for accomodating those with disabilities.

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

Sidewalks are nonexistant in the city center. Even the newer rich communities like Citraland and Bukit Dharmo see no need for sidewalks. No government ordinances/laws provide for accomodating those with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Check with your company's security office. Most people regularly use Bluebird taxis with no issues. They are cheap in comparison to the US (11 USD to the airport).

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

Check with your company's security office. Most people regularly use Bluebird taxis with no issues. They are cheap in comparison to the US (11 USD to the airport).

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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?

Most cars are suitable for Surabaya, as the roads are decent. Heavy traffic prevents driving at high speeds. For outer island and jungle safaris, I would recommend a nice SUV or even a luxury van if you have a family. Basic cars in Indonesia are very expensive and are heavily taxed. Most people drive boxy station wagons called Kijangs. If you have a nice car that you like, I recommend shipping it, as it may not be available in Indonesia. Local and authorized dealers service BMW and Mercedes vehicles with dirt-cheap labor costs. Body work is also remarkably cheap, and dents/dings are repaired to mint condition. Motorcycles are also heavily taxed, so if you can ship one in your allowance, I recommend it.

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4. 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?

Most cars are suitable for Surabaya, as the roads are decent. Heavy traffic prevents driving at high speeds. For outer island and jungle safaris, I would recommend a nice SUV or even a luxury van if you have a family. Basic cars in Indonesia are very expensive and are heavily taxed. Most people drive boxy station wagons called Kijangs. If you have a nice car that you like, I recommend shipping it, as it may not be available in Indonesia. Local and authorized dealers service BMW and Mercedes vehicles with dirt-cheap labor costs. Body work is also remarkably cheap, and dents/dings are repaired to mint condition. Motorcycles are also heavily taxed, so if you can ship one in your allowance, I recommend it.

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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?

Very expensive at $80-$100 per month. DSL was $25 USD per month.

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

Very expensive at $80-$100 per month. DSL was $25 USD per month.

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

Bring the newest unlocked Blackberry, Iphone, or Samsung cell phone, then walk into Pasar Atum's cell phone section and they will set up your phone with a local SIM card, media plan, and credit. Ipads are pretty cheap to set up with plans as well. Smart phones are pricey there.

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

Bring the newest unlocked Blackberry, Iphone, or Samsung cell phone, then walk into Pasar Atum's cell phone section and they will set up your phone with a local SIM card, media plan, and credit. Ipads are pretty cheap to set up with plans as well. Smart phones are pricey there.

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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?

No.

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2. 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?

No.

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

Nannies and maids can make sure your pet is cared for.

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

Nannies and maids can make sure your pet is cared for.

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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?

No Bi-lateral Work Agreement exists, but jobs were available at international schools. EFM jobs are always available for those who want to work.

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2. 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 Bi-lateral Work Agreement exists, but jobs were available at international schools. EFM jobs are always available for those who want to work.

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

This is the beautiful part. The Batik shirt is the Indonesian equivalent to the Aloha shirt. Millions of flowery or traditional patterns exist for every taste. Short-sleeve Batik with slacks is the standard. Long sleeves with more formal Batik and black pants for formal engagements.

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

This is the beautiful part. The Batik shirt is the Indonesian equivalent to the Aloha shirt. Millions of flowery or traditional patterns exist for every taste. Short-sleeve Batik with slacks is the standard. Long sleeves with more formal Batik and black pants for formal engagements.

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Health & Safety:

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

Terrorism remains a real concern in Indonesia. Indonesian police continue to disrupt radical Muslim groups operating in Indonesia. However, the Indonesian government allows violent anti-western Muslim groups such as FPI to openly operate throughout the country. Petty crimes such as burglary and theft are common in Surabaya, but they are mostly non-violent. Nigerian type 419 scams are also common.

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

Terrorism remains a real concern in Indonesia. Indonesian police continue to disrupt radical Muslim groups operating in Indonesia. However, the Indonesian government allows violent anti-western Muslim groups such as FPI to openly operate throughout the country. Petty crimes such as burglary and theft are common in Surabaya, but they are mostly non-violent. Nigerian type 419 scams are also common.

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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?

Typical tropical diseases to contend with: typoid, malaria (in other parts of Indonesia), yellow fever, and the like. During the rainy season, as Java is the most poulous place on earth, sore throats and flus spread easily. A case of "Bali belly" will probably occur if you're not used to SE Asia (mild food poisoning, diarrhea). Singapore is your destination for anything serious.

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

Typical tropical diseases to contend with: typoid, malaria (in other parts of Indonesia), yellow fever, and the like. During the rainy season, as Java is the most poulous place on earth, sore throats and flus spread easily. A case of "Bali belly" will probably occur if you're not used to SE Asia (mild food poisoning, diarrhea). Singapore is your destination for anything serious.

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5. 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?

Good, unless you are walking through snarled traffic.

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6. 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?

Good, unless you are walking through snarled traffic.

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

Monsoon/wet season goes from Sept. through March. Dry season goes from April through August. No Typhoons.

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

Monsoon/wet season goes from Sept. through March. Dry season goes from April through August. No Typhoons.

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Schools & Children:

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

Most parents speak well of the Surabaya International School.

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

Most parents speak well of the Surabaya International School.

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

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

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5. 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?

Several English pre-schools exist. Gymboree was popular and charged $180 per month (1 hour, 3X a week).

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6. 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?

Several English pre-schools exist. Gymboree was popular and charged $180 per month (1 hour, 3X a week).

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

The Surabaya International School has good sports facilities, including a gym, olympic-sized pool, weight room, and track and field. It also has a good sports program.

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

The Surabaya International School has good sports facilities, including a gym, olympic-sized pool, weight room, and track and field. It also has a good sports program.

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Expat Life:

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

Small in Surabaya, as the desired expat experience is not available in Surabaya (bars, nightlife, beaches, tourist sites), and because of the relatively small number of foreign businesses.

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

Small in Surabaya, as the desired expat experience is not available in Surabaya (bars, nightlife, beaches, tourist sites), and because of the relatively small number of foreign businesses.

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3. Morale among expats:

Great for those who chose Surabaya. Overall, the warm sunny weather, Bali and Lombok trips, and friendly people keep people happy.

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4. Morale among expats:

Great for those who chose Surabaya. Overall, the warm sunny weather, Bali and Lombok trips, and friendly people keep people happy.

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

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

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

Families seem to enjoy their time in Surabaya with regular visits to the many malls, expat get-togethers, access to inexpensive household staff, and regular visits to Bali or further afield. Single females may have a harder time, as no real night-life, or drinking culture exists. As in other parts of Asia, Western men dating Asian women seems to be the rule, as opposed to Western women dating Asian men.

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

Families seem to enjoy their time in Surabaya with regular visits to the many malls, expat get-togethers, access to inexpensive household staff, and regular visits to Bali or further afield. Single females may have a harder time, as no real night-life, or drinking culture exists. As in other parts of Asia, Western men dating Asian women seems to be the rule, as opposed to Western women dating Asian men.

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

I don't know, but this is Muslim majority country and Islam forbids homosexuality.

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

I don't know, but this is Muslim majority country and Islam forbids homosexuality.

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

No racial problems, but as this is a Muslim majority country, there are those who believe that Saudi Arabian Islam (along with its culture) is the purest and closest to Allah. Radical Muslim groups intimidate through fear and threats of violence. Being Jewish is not understood, as Indonesians are taught through the media and in Muslim schools that Palestinians are being victimized. Belonging to minority sects of Islam may lead to death. Only five religions are legal in Indonesia, and political leaders often endorse violence aimed at other religions, or are intimidated into silence by radical Muslims.

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

No racial problems, but as this is a Muslim majority country, there are those who believe that Saudi Arabian Islam (along with its culture) is the purest and closest to Allah. Radical Muslim groups intimidate through fear and threats of violence. Being Jewish is not understood, as Indonesians are taught through the media and in Muslim schools that Palestinians are being victimized. Belonging to minority sects of Islam may lead to death. Only five religions are legal in Indonesia, and political leaders often endorse violence aimed at other religions, or are intimidated into silence by radical Muslims.

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

Surfing the world's best waves, sunsets on gorgeous beaches, partying in Bali, and meeting and working with the friendly Javanese people.

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

Surfing the world's best waves, sunsets on gorgeous beaches, partying in Bali, and meeting and working with the friendly Javanese people.

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

Surabaya is an industrial, working city with zero tourist facilities or attractions. Surabaya's tourist map ("Sparkling Surabaya") lists mosques, an alligator-and-shark statue, and an old submarine as top tourist destinations. No beaches exist; The closest is a 6-hour drive south of Malang. The nearby island of Madura looks like a promising island but has no socially redeeming values other than the delicious Sinjai deep fried duck restaurant. Tourists smartly avoid Surabaya and continue to Bali.

Surabaya's notorious red-light district, known as Dolly, is safe and organized, but nothing like the infamous bar hopping areas in Thailand or the Philippines. But there are a few fun things to do in and around Surabaya. They include:
1) The Arab Quarter and Surabaya fish market. Stroll through the shops, and check the largest seafood and wet market in Surabaya, then have a some baked goat and in a local restaurant.
2) Mt. Bromo volcano and surrounding volcanos is an easy hike, and 4 hours from Surabaya.
3) Soemperna clove cigarette factory, museum and restaurant. 4) Taman Safari Park is 2 hours by car and a good afternoon for the kids. You can pet wild anilmals and drive through a safari park while feeding the animals at your own leisure.
4) Drive six hours to Pacitan's pristine surfing areas and beaches.
5) Drive six hours to Sedang Biru island and hike to its beautiful saltwater lake and beach.
6) Have a draft beer at Lido's bar. This is one of the only real bars in Surabaya. It is cheap and popular with the expats.
7) Take one of 12 daily 40- minute flights to Bali for a long weekend and rent a villa in Seminyak.
8) Shoot aerial fireworks anytime, any place as long as you are celebrating Ramadahn. No one will challenge you.

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

Surabaya is an industrial, working city with zero tourist facilities or attractions. Surabaya's tourist map ("Sparkling Surabaya") lists mosques, an alligator-and-shark statue, and an old submarine as top tourist destinations. No beaches exist; The closest is a 6-hour drive south of Malang. The nearby island of Madura looks like a promising island but has no socially redeeming values other than the delicious Sinjai deep fried duck restaurant. Tourists smartly avoid Surabaya and continue to Bali.

Surabaya's notorious red-light district, known as Dolly, is safe and organized, but nothing like the infamous bar hopping areas in Thailand or the Philippines. But there are a few fun things to do in and around Surabaya. They include:
1) The Arab Quarter and Surabaya fish market. Stroll through the shops, and check the largest seafood and wet market in Surabaya, then have a some baked goat and in a local restaurant.
2) Mt. Bromo volcano and surrounding volcanos is an easy hike, and 4 hours from Surabaya.
3) Soemperna clove cigarette factory, museum and restaurant. 4) Taman Safari Park is 2 hours by car and a good afternoon for the kids. You can pet wild anilmals and drive through a safari park while feeding the animals at your own leisure.
4) Drive six hours to Pacitan's pristine surfing areas and beaches.
5) Drive six hours to Sedang Biru island and hike to its beautiful saltwater lake and beach.
6) Have a draft beer at Lido's bar. This is one of the only real bars in Surabaya. It is cheap and popular with the expats.
7) Take one of 12 daily 40- minute flights to Bali for a long weekend and rent a villa in Seminyak.
8) Shoot aerial fireworks anytime, any place as long as you are celebrating Ramadahn. No one will challenge you.

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

Bali's artesians make some of the most beautiful and desireable furniture and handicrafts on earth. Driving around Bali makes you dream about designing your own personal villa. Every imaginable art piece imaginable. I especially admired the traditional stone Balinese carvings, Balinese pagodas, rattan, canopy beds, tropical fishponds, and bronze art. It is simply mindblowing.

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

Bali's artesians make some of the most beautiful and desireable furniture and handicrafts on earth. Driving around Bali makes you dream about designing your own personal villa. Every imaginable art piece imaginable. I especially admired the traditional stone Balinese carvings, Balinese pagodas, rattan, canopy beds, tropical fishponds, and bronze art. It is simply mindblowing.

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

Indonesia boasts one of the richest and most exotic cultures on the planet. It’s mostly mild, tolerant, form of Islam infused with animist, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions, could easily be described as the “Diet Coke” of Islam. Women hold prominent positions in society,Bintang beer can be consumed near mosques, and prostitution is legal, taxed, and controlled.

Options include: volcanic hikes, jungle expeditions, game fishing, world class scuba diving, Paupuan native hill tribe visits, surfing some of the world's most mechanically perfect waves, and some of the tastiest and cheapest food in Asia.

Sitting smack in the center of the world’s cradle of marine biodiversity, the archipelago's mind-blowing number of islands straddle both the Pacific and Indian oceans making every imaginable island set-up possible; do you prefer a powdery flour white sand beach with tiny sandbars fronting electric neon blue water, or how about a small horseshoe bay on the edge of a lush tiger infested jungle with a waterfall pouring into the beach, or what about a hidden island with 50’ monolithic rock islands offshore and frolicking monkeys overlooking the world’s most perfect wave. This is real life waterworld with endless options to kiteboard, surf, scuba, fish, dive, SUP, kayak, paddle, and spearfish. Highlights include, The Mentawai islands, South Java, Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, West Timor, Raja Ampat, the Gili islands, and Kimodo, just to name a few.

If you enjoy excellent Asian street food, you will love Indonesia; Highlights include, Spicy Padang curries, Chicken Satehs with peanut sauces, Balinese yellow rice plates with pork satehs, Chinese “Mie Pangsit” noodle dishes, and an array of regional chicken “Soto Ayam” soups. Java is also famous the world over for its “Javanese meat,” or Tempe. This healthy delicious alternative to beef is basically unprocessed tofu and is served fried with rice or stewed in other regional dishes. Another favorite was Rawon, or, “black soup” which is a savory, spice infused beef soup served with a shrimp chip, side of rice, salted bean sprouts, and firey chilli sauce. And don’t forget Indonesia’s equivalent to the hamburger and fries; Bakso. This mystery meatball is served in soup with various accompaniments everywhere.

At the center of this enormous 15,000 island chain is the liberally Muslim-free Hindu island of Bali. Balinese Hinduism is nothing like the Indian variety having developed on a lush beautiful island. Although facing mismanaged growth and pollution issues, Bali remains hands-down, one of the most insanely paradisaical islands in the world. The tourist-friendly Balinese are almost tolerant to a fault, ever-smiling as hoards of rural drunken Aussies use the island for cheap holidays.
The Balinese people, culture, and traditions are stunningly beautiful. with their lives centered on exotic rituals, beautiful beaches, world-class surfing, beautiful temples/architecture and arts, and sunsets enjoyed with heaps of Bintang beer.

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

Indonesia boasts one of the richest and most exotic cultures on the planet. It’s mostly mild, tolerant, form of Islam infused with animist, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions, could easily be described as the “Diet Coke” of Islam. Women hold prominent positions in society,Bintang beer can be consumed near mosques, and prostitution is legal, taxed, and controlled.

Options include: volcanic hikes, jungle expeditions, game fishing, world class scuba diving, Paupuan native hill tribe visits, surfing some of the world's most mechanically perfect waves, and some of the tastiest and cheapest food in Asia.

Sitting smack in the center of the world’s cradle of marine biodiversity, the archipelago's mind-blowing number of islands straddle both the Pacific and Indian oceans making every imaginable island set-up possible; do you prefer a powdery flour white sand beach with tiny sandbars fronting electric neon blue water, or how about a small horseshoe bay on the edge of a lush tiger infested jungle with a waterfall pouring into the beach, or what about a hidden island with 50’ monolithic rock islands offshore and frolicking monkeys overlooking the world’s most perfect wave. This is real life waterworld with endless options to kiteboard, surf, scuba, fish, dive, SUP, kayak, paddle, and spearfish. Highlights include, The Mentawai islands, South Java, Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, West Timor, Raja Ampat, the Gili islands, and Kimodo, just to name a few.

If you enjoy excellent Asian street food, you will love Indonesia; Highlights include, Spicy Padang curries, Chicken Satehs with peanut sauces, Balinese yellow rice plates with pork satehs, Chinese “Mie Pangsit” noodle dishes, and an array of regional chicken “Soto Ayam” soups. Java is also famous the world over for its “Javanese meat,” or Tempe. This healthy delicious alternative to beef is basically unprocessed tofu and is served fried with rice or stewed in other regional dishes. Another favorite was Rawon, or, “black soup” which is a savory, spice infused beef soup served with a shrimp chip, side of rice, salted bean sprouts, and firey chilli sauce. And don’t forget Indonesia’s equivalent to the hamburger and fries; Bakso. This mystery meatball is served in soup with various accompaniments everywhere.

At the center of this enormous 15,000 island chain is the liberally Muslim-free Hindu island of Bali. Balinese Hinduism is nothing like the Indian variety having developed on a lush beautiful island. Although facing mismanaged growth and pollution issues, Bali remains hands-down, one of the most insanely paradisaical islands in the world. The tourist-friendly Balinese are almost tolerant to a fault, ever-smiling as hoards of rural drunken Aussies use the island for cheap holidays.
The Balinese people, culture, and traditions are stunningly beautiful. with their lives centered on exotic rituals, beautiful beaches, world-class surfing, beautiful temples/architecture and arts, and sunsets enjoyed with heaps of Bintang beer.

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21. Can you save money?

Yes, on food, groceries, and household help. Gas for your car is also subsidized and cheap. Many expas/diplomats get some kind of hardship pay which also helps.

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22. Can you save money?

Yes, on food, groceries, and household help. Gas for your car is also subsidized and cheap. Many expas/diplomats get some kind of hardship pay which also helps.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, both in terms of work, and pleasure.

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

Yes, both in terms of work, and pleasure.

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

Snowboards, unless you plan on hitting Hokkaido, Japan, or New Zealand during the summer.

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

Snowboards, unless you plan on hitting Hokkaido, Japan, or New Zealand during the summer.

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5. But don't forget your:

watergear-fishing equipment, surfboards, snorkel gear, bodyboards, fins, wetsuits, and a good SUV for going on safari. Be sure to bring a high quality gas grill for weekend BBQ's. Bring the newest flatscreen TV, quality UPS, and a few 1000 watt step up/dwn transformers.

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6. But don't forget your:

watergear-fishing equipment, surfboards, snorkel gear, bodyboards, fins, wetsuits, and a good SUV for going on safari. Be sure to bring a high quality gas grill for weekend BBQ's. Bring the newest flatscreen TV, quality UPS, and a few 1000 watt step up/dwn transformers.

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7. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Year Of Living Dangerously (Jakarta)-Mel Gibson.

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

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9. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Year Of Living Dangerously (Jakarta)-Mel Gibson.

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

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11. Do you have any other comments?

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12. Do you have any other comments?

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Surabaya, Indonesia 05/19/12

Background:

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

No.

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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?

D.C. - Surabya to Singapore (2.5 hours), Singapore to Tokyo (7 hours), Tokyo to D.C. ( 12 hours) - 22 hours total.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Houses are nice especially the ones near the new consulate.

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

It all depends on where you go. If you shop at Papaya, be prepared to spend money. If you go to the wet markets then you will save money.

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

You can find what you need here, but western items are very expensive.

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

McDonalds, Starbucks, Wendy's, Pizza Hut, KFC for fast food.

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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?

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

Mosquitoes are a huge issue here as there is always some puddle of water. Definitely recommend DEET. Rats are common as well.

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Daily Life:

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

We went through the consulate so no issues.

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

We paid about $150 - $200 for domestic help a month. We also had a driver whom we paid about the same, so overall it wasn't over $400 a month. Honestly, this is something that really bothered me. Many expats spend a lot of time trying to find the best deal for their help, but we didn't look at it that way. These people are so poor, and it just didn't feel right to try to get them to work for us for cheaper rates.

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

There are gyms available that are well equipped and very pricey.

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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?

We never had a problem with our credit card and using ATMs. Just be aware of the foreign transaction fee you may be charged by your credit card company.

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

Yes, super mall.

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

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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?

You definitely need to learn Bahasa Indonesian. The local dialect is javanese, but all Indonesians speak Bahasa Indonesian.

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

Someone with disabilities would have a difficult time in Surabaya as facilities are not equipped with accessible entrances. Sidewalks are non-existent.

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Transportation:

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

Yes, taxis are safe. We used Blue Bird.

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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?

We bought a vehicle there. Very expensive, but when we sold it we received pretty much what we paid for it. No worries about carjackings.

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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?

Yes, it is available but I'm not sure how much it cost.

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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?

We had local cell phones, very cheap.

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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.

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

Available yes, but not of good quality.

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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?

Nope.

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

Modest.

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Health & Safety:

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

We felt very safe in Surabaya. I do not remember there ever being any crime against a westerner. The Indonesians are not aggressive people.

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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?

Medical care is available but a bit sketchy. If you have a serious issue, you should fly to Singapore or Jakarta.

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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?

Air quality is not that great, muggy, lots of congestion.

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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?

The weather is always about 90' F and it's either rainy season or it's not. The rainy season can last for 6 months.

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Schools & Children:

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

Surabaya International School (SIS). We did not have school-aged children at the time but we heard great things about the school. There is also a European school (SES) that is smaller but well reviewed.

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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?

There is a great preschool right at SIS that has also received rave reviews and is very affordable.

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

Yes, affiliated with the international schools.

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Expat Life:

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

Not very big. Sometimes it could feel suffocating because you saw the same people all of the time. Getting away every once in a while is a good idea.

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2. Morale among expats:

Depends on who you ask. Families and couples seem to do better than singles.

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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?

Expat gatherings are very common. There are movie theatres with limited English movies showing, but they are there. Shopping at the various malls.

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

There are many get togethers with friends and other people with kids. There is a small international community here and you get to know everyone well. I suspect singles have a difficult time as there isn't much of a night life.

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

Nope.

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

There is definitely tension between the Chinese and Indonesians.

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

Bali is a 30 minute flight away. We probably went to Bali over ten times in the 2 years we were there.

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

If you get invited to an Indonesian wedding, definitely go! They are beautiful and interesting.

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

Batik and beautiful furniture.

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

The Indonesians are humble and warm people. They seemed fascinated by Westerners and spent a lot of time staring at us whenever we went out.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't go to Bali every weekend.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, it was a good experience for our family.

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

coat.

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3. But don't forget your:

patience. Indonesians are non-confrontational people and will lie to you to save face -- which can be an issue.

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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?

Surabaya is a safe city, but there is not much to do and you have to create your own fun.

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Surabaya, Indonesia 10/10/10

Background:

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

yes

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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?

Washington, DC. Because of Fly America, up to 40 hours including one overnight layover

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years

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

U.s. Embassy - FSO

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is excellent. A new Consulate is currently under construction in a high-income suburb, so housing stock is slowly shifting closer to where the new Consulate will be. Housing is divided between huge serviced apartments in a beautiful luxury high-rise(includes cable TV, a swimming pool, and membership in an on-site health club; internet service is available for an additional fee), and nice large homes with a small yard.

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

Everything can be found with a little searching, but anything imported will be at least double the price that you would pay in the States. Buy your wine and hard liquor from the Embassy, as imported liquor is outrageously expensive. Beer is more reasonable, as it is domestically produced.

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

Large size shoes and clothing can be a problem, though you can always have your clothing made locally very inexpensively. Grated parmesan/romano cheese is impossible to find. Everything else is available, though as noted earlier at double the price or more if imported.

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

Most Indonesians eat at street side warungs (semi-permanent vendors) or 'kaki lima' carts that are pushed around the city. You can have a filling meal for less than one dollar! Or, go to the malls for restaurants with most meals ranging between $5 and $10 dollars, including well-known western chains. There are a few high-end restaurants, but they don't even come close to justifying their cost.

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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?

Forget it. With the exception of Papaya, a small supermarket chain that specializes in imported products, you are on your own. The average Indonesian earns less than $2 per day--most are happy just to have enough to eat, let alone the specialized options we westerners take for granted.

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

Dengue fever is ever-present even in the city at a low level. Mosquitoes are more of an issue during the rainy season, but are quite manageable in the city.

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Daily Life:

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

Consulate mail takes 2-4 weeks to arrive from the US.

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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 available for $100-$150/month. Many will hire a driver and a domestic helper. A driver is strongly recommended if you have a car--the traffic is as bad as anything you can possibly imagine, with no concept of enforcement, safety, or even lane controls.

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

Those that live in the luxury apartments have membership to a gym and a pool. The new Consulate may have facilities. There are private clubs available, especially in high-end neighborhoods and the modern malls.

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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?

Debit cards can be used at the few modern malls that exist, but credit cards are useless. Debit cards can be used at local ATMs, which charge a relatively hefty transaction fee. The best option is to use cash, which Amcit employees can purchase from the Consulate cashier.

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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?

Jakarta Post has an English edition newspaper. Cable TV includes several English language stations, and cost is around $50/month.

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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?

Bahasa Indonesia is the official language and everybody can speak it, although on the street the locals also speak a local dialect of Javanese. English is present, especially in the business community, and at least in the larger cities you can always find people that speak at least some English.

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

Sidewalks, if they exist at all, are in extremely poor condition and often have large holes opening up to the storm sewers underneath. There are no accommodations for handicapped people overall.

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Transportation:

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

Bluebird taxi is clean, modern, uses GPS technology, and very reasonable. Other taxis are slightly less expensive, but if you use a meter taxi you can traverse the entire city for less than $10. Local buses and bemos (color-coded vans with bench seating) are less than 50 cents, but be prepared for the crowded, hot, etc. but a great way to interact with locals. Again, except for the occasional crime of opportunity (pickpocket) they are safe. The inter-city trains have an Executive Class which provides air-conditioned cars, large comfortable seats, and fares are cheap.

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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?

The best option is buy a domestic vehicle from a departing expat. Imported vehicles (cars and motorcycles) have a high luxury tax. Don't bother shipping a vehicle from the US; local vehicles are right hand drive; shipped vehicles will sit in customs for at least 8 months and parts will be expensive. Sedans are fine for most travel--roads are not great but they are ok. Plan on getting lots of dings and scratches. Many buy small SUV's which are better when the roads flood. I purchased a domestically made motorcycle, which was fine for city use and great for navigating the massive traffic jams.

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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?

Speedy Internet is widely available, but unfortunately isn't very speedy. Except during peak evening hours, it is usually good enough to Skype.

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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?

Buy an unlocked phone locally, then pick up a SIM card (50 cents or so). Depending on which SIM card you buy, you can call back to the US for less than a 5 cents (!!!) per minute.

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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?

No quarantine, but be prepared to pay up to $3000 in entry fees to the Indonesian government for each dog, plus the normal fees for shipping a pet. Most expats use the company Groovy Pets

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

Pet care is minimal here. Surabaya is predominantly Muslim, so dogs are only popular with expats and the Indonesian-Chinese communities

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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?

Definitely not, unless you are already involved with an international corporation. Some become English teachers, but the pay is pretty low.

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

Batik, an ornate local motif used especially for shirts, coupled with black dress slacks is considered formal wear. Suits are also acceptable, though the batik is much more comfortable in a tropical climate. Slacks and dress shirt is standard wear at the Consulate.

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Health & Safety:

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

Indonesia has terrorist concerns, and the Indonesian government aggressively pursues terrorist cells. That being said, the country overall is quite safe. Violent person on person crime is virtually non-existent, but as with any large city pick-pockets can be an issue.

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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?

For serious medical problems people go to Singapore or Bangkok. Indonesian health care is OK for routine needs in the larger cities, but almost non-existent elsewhere. You can find modern dental care in Surabaya.

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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?

Air quality in the city can be bad, but not as bad as the capital city of Jakarta. It is generally better during the rainy season, and air quality in the countryside is OK once you are away from heavily populated areas

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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?

There are three seasons in Surabaya, generally regarded as the hottest city in Indonesia: hot dry season roughly from May until end of August, really hot (95-100 every day) from September until beginning of rainy season and end of October/early November, and rainy season from November through April. It rarely rains all day during the rainy season; instead there are torrential downpours that last a couple hours and occasionally cause flooding. El Nino years lengthen dry season and La Nina years lengthen wet season.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is an excellent international school close to the new Consulate.

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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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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?

Expant community is relatively small, and most of what is in Surabaya is business-related. More often than not I would be the only caucasian in a large mall.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally excellent. Those that do best dive into the local culture and community.

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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?

There are a few expat nightclubs, and the international hotels have entertainment. There are a handful of small nightclubs catering to locals, but be advised that as is often the case in Asia, even the high-end ones are firetraps with few exits.

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

If you need a large expat community to be happy, you will be miserable here. If you're willing to engage with the locals, there are lots of cultural/social options.

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

There is an active 'under the radar' gay community, a local support group, internet social groups, and the occasional 'gay-friendly' event at one of the (very few) commercial night clubs. Public affection, gay or non-gay, is frowned upon and will result in uncomfortable stares from the locals. Note: an international gay group attempted to have a conference at a 4-star Surabaya hotel, which ended up being disrupted and cancelled when local conservative religious groups intervened (after the local police protection was paid off and disappeared).

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

Within Indonesian society, there is a lot of tension just under the surface directed almost exclusively towards fellow Indonesians. There is a cultural distrust of Chinese and Chinese-Indonesians, who are perceived as wealthy and exploitative of native Indonesians. The various Indonesian cultures and religions generally tolerate each other, though there are occasional mob situations resulting in violence. The Indonesian culture overall regards people with darker skin to be relatively poor, uneducated, and likely to be manual laborers--this is manifested by Indonesians that work outdoors completely covering their body even in the hottest weather, and the abundance of skin care products/soaps, etc that are openly advertised as having skin lightening agents.

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

travel to remote unpolluted/unspoiled parts of the country; fishing with locals; riding my motorcycle to a semi-dormant volcano; people genuinely friendly; visiting Borobudor, one of the seven wonders of the world; wonderfully spicy hot food (warning: Indonesians have a love affair with fried foods); ability to travel absolutely anyplace in the country and feel perfectly safe

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

There are a couple modern malls that have an abundance of restaurants, stores, and movie theaters which show both local and western films. Travel by train, plane, or automobile to volcanoes, beautiful beaches, cultural sites dating back hundreds of years. The city of Surabaya itself is definitely NOT a tourist destination, but it is the gateway to the eastern half of this amazing country.

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

Batik, and lots of it. Each area of the country has its own style. Tailored clothing is cheap. Teak furniture is a fraction of the cost. For something different, purchase carved stone statues locally (note--all those souvenirs in Bali were made elsewhere and available locally at a fraction of the cost).

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

You can save a lot of money; domestic help inexpensive; Surabaya is gateway to all of eastern Indonesia via air--domestic flights can be very inexpensive

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11. Can you save money?

Yes. Even taking a taxi to work and buying lunch, I rarely spent more than $20/day. Travel is cheap (fly to Bali ROUND TRIP on a local airline for $60), and local fare is inexpensive.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely. Indonesia is an amazing country, and each culture is unique.

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

Winter clothes, aggressive behaviors, expectations of timeliness

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3. But don't forget your:

patience, sense of adventure, 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?

Buy the Lonely Planet guide to Indonesia, which I have found to be useful all over the country. Purchase the Tuttle Indonesian/English dictionary.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Not much out there about Surabaya. Check out the art film 'Cowboys in Paradise'to get an idea about what Bali is really about. Get some history and watch 'The Year of Living Dangerously'.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Avoid food poisoning:1--Avoid western foods--the locals don't know how to cook it (beef ALWAYS undercooked) and tell when something is going bad. 2--NEVER drink tap water; only drink bottled water. Make sure if you get a drink with ice cubes you know where they came from.3--If you eat at one of the street side vendors, bring your own plate/bowl, or eat where the food is set on a banana leaf. The roadside stands do not have running water, and only rinse their dishes in a bucket of dirty water. 3--It's usually not the local foot that makes you sick, but rather it is the plate it is served on.

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Surabaya, Indonesia 08/12/09

Background:

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

I had lived in Stockholm previously.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Just over two years, March 07-May 09.

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

Government.

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

From Washington travel time is about 30 hours. Normal routing goes Wash-Tokyo, Tokyo-Singapore with a significant layover, then the short flight from Singapore-Surabaya.

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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 expats live in gated communities with single-family homes and small yards, some live in luxury high-rise apartment buildings.

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

Groceries are available and cheap. Even American brand products like Oreos are half what they cost in the U.S.Fruit is really cheap, but good meat can be more of an issue. Available at more upscale markets, but maybe a little more than you would pay in the States. No problem obtaining typical toiletries.

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

Not much is neccessary. Favorite board games?

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

Almost everything for much less than in the U.S.An ice cream cone at MacDonald's is 15 cents!Other fast food items are probably half of U.S. costs or less. Indonesian food is also very tasty and even cheaper!

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

Lots of mosquitoes that get everywhere despite your best efforts to control them. Not to many other stinging insects, but ants can also be a problem.

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Daily Life:

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

Mail come for us through the consulate. Otherwise, mail would be a big issue. I don't think I ever saw a local stamp or post office. Not much of a functional mail service here that I can detect.

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

Readily available and pretty cheap. Salaries paid by expats are around $100/month for full-time help. Live-in help available as well.

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

Yes, in major malls. No extended hours, though.

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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?

ATMs are plentiful and easy in shopping malls, credit cards are readily accepted in most places, but you should probably stick to established retailers.

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

Yes, some Christian services available in English, often at shopping malls.

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

Jakarta Post and Jakarta Globe english dailies, lots of American channels and BBC on cable.

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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?

You can get by without it, but like most places a little knowledge goes a long way. Indonesian is not terribly difficult as far as languages go.

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

Considerable. Little effort to accomodate wheelchairs, or even pedestrians, in many parts of the city. Even shopping malls might present problems.

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Transportation:

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

Trains and buses not suitable for commuting. Taxis are safe, plentiful, and affordable. You can get most places in the central part of the city for about $2, and all the way accross town for $5.

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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?

Better to get a vehicle locally. Not as cheap as everything else would indicate. Driving is on the left side of the street, but chaotic. 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?

Yes, but not quite as high speed as America. Not bad, though. Can be kind of expensive. Most plans still charge by usage, and we paid over $100 a month sometimes.

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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 a local one. Tons of retailers, convenient pre-pay service. Monthly plans also available.

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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?

We got our pets there, but I think there is some quarantine required, but reasonable. Certainly not months or anything like that.

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

Yes, you can find decent vets. Not sure about kennels, but everyone has people that work and/or live in their house that can take care of pets while you are away.

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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?

No.

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

A little more relaxed than Washington D.C. Batik shirts work for almost any occasion for men. Women should keep local customs in mind and not reveal too much.

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Health & Safety:

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

It seemed moderate to me. I jogged outside and didn't get sick. Jakarta is much worse.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

I didn't get shots while I was there, only before I went. Standard tropical fare, I believe.

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

Petty crime like pickpocketing in shopping areas. Not the same high-profile target like Jakarta or Bali. Violent crime rate very low, and no history of terror attacks in Surabaya.

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

Medical care is adequate, not stellar. Serious things require a trip to Singapore. English speaking doctors are available.

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

It's always hot and humid, but not to extremes. Almost everyday has a high of around 90-95F, and it never dips below about 75F even at night.

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Schools & Children:

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

Surabaya International School is quite good. Lots of extra curricular programs and challenging academics. Excellent facitilies including Olympic-sized swimming pool and climbing wall in the gymnasium. Also a theater and music room.

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

I believe they are willing to accomodate, but no personal experience.

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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?

No personal experience, but the International School has a preschool that is quite pricy. Nannies can be hired for a song.

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

Only through the school.

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Expat Life:

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

Hard to judge. Probably hundreds, certainly not thousands. Very few Americans, more Australians, a handful of Europeans, more Koreans and Japanese. Lots of Chinese.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally pretty good. We have it better than the average Indonesian, which makes it hard to complain.

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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?

Whatever you make of it. Tons of restaurants, many big, modern shopping malls, first rate movie theaters that charge about $2, some nightclubs, too. Not much in the way of fine arts/museums, however.

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

Great for families. Couples might feel a little constrained. Singles could be very hit or miss. Some singles love it, others get bored. You should never be lacking for company, but it may not the scene you are into.

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

Probably not, but I never heard of serious problems. Not much of a scene that I'm aware of.

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

I don't think so. There is a strong Muslim majority, but other religions are very well tolerated. Women occupy positions of status here. If you have Western features, you will get stared at and called out to, but it is good-natured.

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

Bali is close, you can visit volcanoes, Yogyakarta has some amazing old temples and other historical and cultural sites. Taman Safari animal park/zoo is great for kids. Youcan pet tiger and lion cubs!

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

Lots of local arts and crafts, excellent custom made furniture, tailored suits and other clothing, 90-minute massage for about $8.Also lots of regional travel opportunities.

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9. Can you save money?

Absolutely. This town is one of the greatest bargains ever.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

You bet!

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

Winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Mexican cuisine ingredients. No decent Mexican restaurants.

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

Buru Quartet by Pramoedya.

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

Buru Quartet by Pramoedya.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Year of Living Dangerously, Max Havelaar

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Surabaya -- It's much better and easier than Jakarta!

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