Moving to Jakarta
Expats moving to Jakarta will find themselves in a great sprawling, overpopulated megalopolis, with a population size steadily increasing. As the commercial and economic centre of Indonesia, Jakarta offers a good base for exploring the rest of Indonesia and, despite some drawbacks, it can be a fun place to live, once expats become accustomed to the lifestyle.
Jakarta is colourful and somewhat exotic, yet new arrivals might not find many of the obvious charms of other large cities around the world. It can be noisy and polluted, and getting around the city can be difficult due to the congested roads and volume of traffic. Unless very brave, most expats don’t drive themselves, choosing to hire a driver instead.
Expats in Jakarta generally find jobs in the oil, gas, telecommunications, engineering and education sectors. The process for getting a work permit and visa for Indonesia is often arduous; there are strict rules regarding giving employment to foreigners due to massive unemployment already present in Indonesia. Even voluntary work in many cases is classed as work, so it’s advisable to seek legal advice when embarking on anything that may jeopardise one's visa and stay in Jakarta.
Generally speaking, Jakarta is a safe place to live but, like any large city, expats should be savvy and take precautions for their safety as they would do anywhere else. For women, especially, it’s unwise to walk alone at night and they should only use taxi companies that are reputable and reliable. Violent crime is rare, and petty crime fairly low, but expats should be cautious of scams. Although there is a threat of terrorism in Jakarta, and the city has been targeted by extremists in the past, security is given high priority, especially around business districts and in shopping areas.
There are many different options for accommodation and housing for expats in Jakarta, and depending on one’s income, there are properties available to rent from luxury penthouse apartments or houses with a pool and garden, to a room in a kos (a guesthouse) with a shared bathroom and dining facilities.
The cost of living in Jakarta depends very much on lifestyle choice. The city is not a cheap place to live if choosing only to shop at Western-style supermarkets or high-end stores, but local shops (warungs) are quite affordable and Jakarta is also home to many markets, making for a colourful shopping experience. Imported goods can be expensive, but Indonesian products are considerably cheaper.
Schooling for expat children is available in Jakarta, with most expat parents choosing to send their children to an international school; this is likely to cause the biggest dent to one’s income as international schools are expensive.
Healthcare is also pricey in Jakarta, and any serious medical emergencies may require being taken to a neighbouring country, such as Singapore, to receive adequate medical attention. It’s advisable for expats to take out medical insurance if this is not already provided for through their company.
One of the benefits of living in Jakarta is that for many people it will be the first time that they can afford to employ help in the house. Labour is much cheaper in Indonesia than in the West, and many people, if they can afford it, whether expats or not, employ a driver and a maid to help take care of the house and cook. It is not uncommon for some families to have a staff of around four to help them live in the city. Most apartments come with self-contained accommodation for those wishing to have live-in domestic help.
For most people coming to live and work in Jakarta there will be a period of re-adjustment and learning, and time spent getting used to a new cultural experience. Moving to a country with the largest Muslim population in the world may require some adjustments, especially if coming from a Western country, and getting used to the conservative norms regarding dress code, customs and the lifestyle may be required.
Life in Jakarta can be hectic and fast and certainly not for the faint-hearted, but there are also so many great areas to explore, a rich cultural heritage to embrace and some new friends to be made. It’s up to the individual how they decide to live their life in Jakarta. Some people never leave the enclaves of their expat area, choosing to only socialise and shop with fellow expats, while others can’t wait to engage in their new surroundings, try out the local food, and learn Bahasa Indonesia to have conversations with newfound friends. Whatever one chooses to make of Jakarta, nobody can argue that life here is dull.