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Moving to Indonesia

9 replies

abbel · 29/03/2003 14:33

In the early autumn I am moving to Jakarta with my dh, 2 year old dd and a new born baby (July). Has anyone got any advice that they can give me to help make the move a bit less daunting. For example essentials to take, life with 2 small children in Indonesia, medical facilities or even coping tactics for the long-haul flight. I am trying to gain as much info as possible as unfortunately I am unable to manage a reconnaissance visit beforehand.

OP posts:
Twink · 29/03/2003 14:41

Can't personally but SueDonim lives in Jakarta and I'm sure would be full of good advice. If she doesn't see this thread, email tech@mumsnet to see if your email address could be forwarded to her. I don't think she gets a very reliable internet connection so it might take a while.

suedonim · 29/03/2003 17:10

Hi, Abbel - and Twink! Yes, I'm currently in Jakarta. Life here is totally different to that the UK or other western countries. My main bit of advice is to be prepared for nothing to work properly! Services are not reliable, water/electricity/phone going off at times and consumer goods, if locally produced, can be iffy. Also, don't expect anything to happen quickly. It might, but you can't rely on it - Indonesia runs on 'jam karet' which translates as 'rubber time'!

I don't think there are any essentials you need to bring with you as just about anything is available, although UK food stuffs are an exception. We bring Marmite with us as it's almost impossible to get the UK version. Most western food stuffs are in fact US or OZ versions so don't taste like UK foods anyway. There are plenty of supermarkets and shopping malls around. Tap water is not suitable for drinking or cooking or even cleaning your teeth. Bottled water comes in big containers, inserted into a cooler and that's what you use instead.

Medical facilites, if you use an expat clinic, are fine, though if you need an op you will have to be evacuated to Singapore.

Safety has a very low priority here. We never touch the electrical bits in our apartment, always get maintenance to do it, as the Indonesian concept of wiring is a bit different to ours. You may need to get seat belts installed into the back of your car for the children as rear belts aren't a requirement here. You can buy child car seats here if you don't want to bring them with you. Be prepared to spend a lot of time in the car. No one walks anywhere as it is too hot and polluted and the roads are clogged with traffic all the time. Tonight we spent 2 hrs travelling the 6 miles home from the mall!!

Personal safety is a big issue and we are quite restricted in our movements at the moment after the Bali bomb and with the ongoing Iraq situation, of course. That varies, depending on current security concerns. The Embassies email updates and so on, telling you what's what. There are a lot of does and don'ts, such as don't use public transport or visit certain areas. Always have the correct documention with you, such as passport & KITAS copies and your police card. Be careful about what you wear and how you address people. Indonesians are a very polite society and get upset over any slights, real or imagined. 'Saving face' is a very big deal indeed. At the same time, they don't like to disappoint or say no so when answering a question will tell you what they think you want to hear, not the true response! There are quite a lot of religious and other customs to get acquainted with as well, such as not using your left hand to give or receive things etc.

When employing staff they may try to take advantage of you, asking for loans (which never get repaid) or simply stealing from you. It's better to get staff via personal recommendation - agencies sometimes run scams, using the maid as a conduit for access to your home and possessions. Staff tend not to be proactive. Unless told, a cook may not substitute carrots for peas, if there were none of latter but plenty of the former. If you employ a nanny, she may not have the same safety issues as you. For instance, unless you tell her that the children are not allowed to play with matches, she won't stop them if they find a box lying about!! However, there are training courses available on which you can send staff and speaking personally, we have lovely staff.

I'm sure this might all seem daunting but we are enjoying our life out here. It can be frustrating at times but it is also very rewarding. Indonesians are extremely friendly, they love to talk to you and will make a fuss of the children (you might have to put up with the chldren being touched on the cheek as it is considered good luck to pinch white flesh!). I shall definitely miss it when we come to leave.

There are loads more things I could say but instead I'll direct you to an expat website Indonesia info which is really useful. When you get here it is almost essential to join at least one of the societies here, the Australian and New Zealand Women's Association, the British Womens's Assoc or one of the smaller ones (you don't have to be the relevant nationality to join them). They offer lots of services and contacts and there is always someone to help newcomers settle in. HTH!

abbel · 30/03/2003 21:13

Thanks for the information SueDonim and Twink. It has been useful to get a bit of an insight and the recommended website looks like a good starting point.

OP posts:
lucy123 · 30/03/2003 21:33

suedonim - that's fascinating. I thought I was experiencing exotic climes, but obviously i'm not! (I'm in Spain). To be really cheeky though, do you mind if I copy some of what you have written for our new living abroad website? I'll explain it to you if you email me: lucy at

abbel - good luck - sounds exciting! A couple of tips from what i know about moving abroad (though obviously i don't know about Indonesia in particular):

  • start organising as soon as possible. You'll be amazed at how long it takes to sell things or even just sort them out so you can pack properly.

  • do not ship any breakables that you're attached to (my beloved, well packed cast-iron sewing machine shattered in our move. turns out cast-iron is breakable).

  • if things are not all being organised by an employer, then get long-stay health/travel insurance and go to the tax office to see if you're due a rebate (you probably are and if you fill in the forms early you can get it before you leave)

    -there's lots of coping with long haul flight info in the "big issues" section of this website.
suedonim · 31/03/2003 13:49

Yes, no problem using my stuff, Lucy. It certainly, here! I saw a list of the best/worst cities in the world to live in, last week. Jakarta comes 119th out of 130 - oh dear! Melbourne and Vancouver were joint No1. Good luck with the website!

Abbel, I had a Round Robin forwarded email today, which I guess is from you? Are you coming from the Aberdeen area? If so, there is quite a gang of expat Scots!

Just a few more thoughts. If your DH is already out here he could perhaps send you some books home so you can get a flavour. There is a book version of the online Expat Guide, a very useful phrase book, colouring books for children and so on. They are available from the American Women's Association. It's also worth buying a travel guide and reading it before you come, as that has quite a lot of background info which is just as applicable to living here as holidaying. If you are a foodie, Lonely Planet do a World Food guide to Indonesian foods. There is also a health guide - can't remember if that is by LP or Rough Guides, though. Innoculations are best done before you get here, so you have protection from day one. You need to start early, as quite a few trips to the Dr. are involved, if you go for the full whack.

That's all for now - we're off to Bali for a week, tomorrow and I can't wait to get away from the city and just chill out!

Batters · 31/03/2003 13:57

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

abbel · 31/03/2003 14:49

SueDonim, yes I am coming from the Aberdeen area. I have had a really good response from the BWA, that has all been very helpful. DH is due to go out for a couple of weeks at some point next month, so I will get him to bring back some more info. Have a great holiday in Bali and thanks again.

OP posts:
suedonim · 31/03/2003 19:52

I've just thought of something that might be essential for you, Abbel, at least to begin with. Clothing sizes in Indonesia are very small so if you are larger than a UK 12 or are tall, you might have trouble finding much choice. I'm 5ft 6in and weigh 8st 7lb but have to buy large or extra large Indonesian sizes, which is extremely demoralising!

You can get clothes of any size made cheaply at tailors but I haven't done so yet as I haven't seen anything I fancy.

Right - that's my last posting for now, I promise!

Twink · 31/03/2003 22:15

Ooh, yes that's a good point and has reminded me to mention shoes. SE-Asian women not only have small feet in comparison with Westerners but incredibly narrow ones too. Make sure you've got some sandals etc before you leave, I'm a size 6 but very wide & couldn't find ANYTHING in Bangkok to fit...

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