Sarah and John from the D family are Australian expats living in Indonesia. They moved to Jakarta with their 10-year-old daughter, Miss D, when John was transferred there with his company. Although they miss their friends and family back in Sydney, they enjoy sharing their experiences.
About Sarah and John
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: We are from Sydney, Australia. We love Sydney. We have so many fond memories about Sydney. Summer is the best time in Sydney for us. We go camping all the time. We love the beaches, the blue skies and the fresh air. Looking back, it is a luxury to have these.
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Pondok Indah, Jakarta, Indonesia
Q: How long have you lived in Jakarta?
A: One and half years.
Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: We moved to Jakarta as a family, a couple with one girl (10 years old when we first moved to Jakarta).
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: We moved to Jakarta because of Mr D’s work. Initially, Mr D worked on a few projects in Indonesia in 2010. This kept on for about half a year, and had taken its toll on our family life. Then there was an opportunity coming up for Mr D to work fulltime in
Jakarta and we took it up.
Besides, we thought it’s a good cultural experience for our daughter. Not every 10 year old got the chance to study in a foreign country and got to travel overseas three to four times a year. We hope our decision to move to Jakarta would enrich her life in a positive way and inspire her to live life to the full.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: We miss most about Sydney is our families and friends. One of the reasons to start our blog was to keep in touch with them. Miss D was doing a monthly update email to her friends prior to the blog and all her friends, teachers and our family, neighbours loved it. So we gradually formed the idea of setting up a blog.
Our daughter loves writing and our blog name is from one of her winning articles in the Young Writer’s Award 2012. We want to keep her on the track to continue to write well.
Q: Is the Jakarta safe? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: We were concerned about the safety side prior to moving to Jakarta. Bali bombing was headline news in Australia. The fact about drug smuggling Australians being sentenced to death here didn’t help either.
However, Mr D’s flying in and out experience told a different story. The city is actually quite safe and local people are very friendly. Hope it keeps this way. Touch wood.
Q: How would you rate the public transport in Jakarta? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?
We don’t use public transport in Jakarta. We don’t drive either. Expats are not recommended to drive here in Jakarta. Jakarta traffic is the second worst in the world according to a worldwide survey we read.
We have a company car and a driver. The driver speaks reasonable English and we are happy with the arrangement.
If we ever need to take a taxi, we would opt for Blue Bird or Silver Bird Taxi Company. These two taxi companies are reputable here in Jakarta.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Jakarta?
A: We are covered by company health insurance and have been taken care of in this respect. Our doctors are trained in Western countries, speak good English and are fairly experienced in their trained field.
We are also quite lucky in that we haven’t been sick other than the occasional flu or cold. Other expats who got serious sickness or having babies actually can fly to Singapore and see the doctors there.
In fact, a lot of local rich Indonesians do the same. They fly to Singapore to see their doctors. It is a very common practice here in Jakarta.
About living in Indonesia
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Jakarta as an expat?
A: There are two popular areas that expats live in Jakarta: the city, and South Jakarta.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Jakarta?
A: Jakarta is a city of vast difference in terms of housing. On one side, we have million dollar mansions in secluded suburbs (what we call gated compounds). These are way better than a standard three-bedroom house in Sydney.
On the other side, we have rubbish dumps where poor people with families living in. It was a culture shock for us to see the living situation of those people. We have a few pictures of these on our blog if you are interested.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Overall, the cost of living in Indonesia is cheaper in Jakarta, especially on manpower. Local people were paid so little, it is shocking. No wonder all the young people want to move to Singapore or other countries to work. It is not fair.
However, anything imported can be very expensive. Actually they are usually more expensive than they are in their home country. We have a few price comparisons of Australia food prices vs Indonesia prices on our blog. You might be interested to check it out.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: Locals are very friendly. But we mingle mainly with other expats due to language barriers etc.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends in Jakarta?
A: We don’t have many local Indonesian friends. The places we go to tend to be full of expats. Local people stare at us, are very friendly, and we might exchange a few words either in English or Bahasa Indonesia. But that’s about it. We haven’t made many true lasting local friends yet.
About working in Jakarta
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit for Indonesia?
A: No. Mr D’s company used agents to help us get our visas. All we needed to do is show up, take the photos, and sign a few documents.
In fact, we jumped the queue thanks to the agents. All the other people who don’t have an agent have to wait for a long time.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Jakarta, is there plenty of work?
A: On one hand, there are lots of investments and money coming into Indonesia. The economy is booming. Indonesia outperformed many other Asian countries in the 2009 economic meltdown. Indonesia also has very solid GDP growth. For an expat, it is actually a good place to be in considering Europe and USA’s economic problems.
On the other hand, Indonesia has its own share of poverty and unemployment. Corruption is headline news almost every other day. Its traffic is notoriously bad, and the gap between rich and poor is astonishing.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: Indonesians are not born hard working people. Has this got something to do with the hot weather? They are contended with their work but they don’t take it to the next step to make things better. This country needs a great leader to get rid of corruption and shape up the government.
Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
Family and children
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
Q: Did your children settle in easily?
Q: What are the schools like in Jakarta, any particular suggestions?
A: There are many international schools in Jakarta. The American school, the British school, the Australian school, and the Singapore school, just to name a few. They follow their home country curriculums. No problem for kids from any countries to settle down here. Most likely you can find an international school that suits your needs.
But be prepared to pay the school fees, they are as high as any good private schools back in Sydney.
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Take your time to settle down. Living in a new country is not easy, especially moving from a developed country to a developing one like Indonesia. Look after your family, stay together and be strong. Keep a bit of sense of humour, that’s the best medicine.
Make friends through kid’s school, or church or an expat community. Read a few blogs. We learned a lot of things about Indonesia from blogs. It is one of our inspirations to actually start our own blog.
Most importantly, enjoy the experience. We won’t stay here all our life. We are mere passers-by in Jakarta. Someday, we will be back in our home country. Hopefully, our blog can help us to preserve the memories of our adventure in Jakarta.
~ Interviewed November 2012
> Are you an expat living in Indonesia? We'd love to hear your story, so please contact us.