A Day in the Life of an Expat in Jakarta

By Morgan Pettersson.

After living in Jakarta for six weeks, I can guarantee that each day will be different and difficult but fresh and exciting at the same time.

The city is a paradox between the extremely wealthy, and the poor but friendly working population.

I have realised that it is quite hard to put together a daily life snap shot about my time here, but it is the best way I can come up with to inform outsiders about life in Jakarta, and to maybe inspire more people to visit.

A typical working day for me begins anywhere between nine and 10am depending on what I am doing.

I will wake up in my room at my Kos, which is the Indonesian version of a boarding house, normally if I am lucky I would have slept through the call to prayer so this will be the first time waking for the day.

After having breakfast I will have a quick chat with any of my ‘Kos mates’ who happen to be around and then I am ready to brave the streets of Jakarta.

There are many ways I choose to get to work every day based on a number of factors.

The first is the weather and a close second is the time.

If it is raining, then I have no choice but to wait for a taxi and then proceed to sit in traffic for an hour or more.

It its not raining, which it hasn’t been recently which is unusual for this time of year, I then have to see how I am going for time.

If I am running late I will hail my local ojek driver across the street, for a quick and sometimes hair-raising ride across town.

Other days when I feel like saving some money I will walk ten minutes to the bus station on the main road, and get two buses to work.

Plastic or rubber shoes are a must in a city where the only predictable thing about the weather is that it is unpredictable.

Walking through the myriad of streets in my neighbour hood is always a treat. You never know what you will see and I always get lost knowing that any second I will burst out onto Jalan Karbella, which is the main street, near my Kos.

The streets in my neighbour hood are lined with pot plants and seats for the local ojek drivers and families to hang out on.

Friday Batik day.

The houses are brightly painted and there are restaurants and warungs everywhere.

Stray cats mill about and hang out on drive ways with not even a side ways glance in your direction as you pass. Locals will pass you by, but more often than not you will pass them by sitting by the roadside with children playing soccer.

Everyone is friendly and smiles and waves as you pass, with occasional “hey bule!” shouted, which means foreigner, but is a friendly greeting.

We always get more attention in a group, or if its Friday Batik day.

I think the image of an Australian girl with red hair speed walking past in a traditional Indonesian batik dress is too much for most to handle.

The air is dry and the temperature is already to hot to handle, with rains being short and sparse currently so I am already a sweaty mess by the time I reach the bus stop.

As much as the bus is the cheaper option, there is nothing like whizzing along the streets of Jakarta on the back of a motorcycle.

You notice and see so much more than you ever will in a taxi or bus.

Like the local rubbish collectors wheeling their bins through the streets, the street vendors shouting their wares of newspapers, drinks, snacks, the odd toy or two and bagged gold fish.

I am now an ojek pro, able to comfortably sit on the back of one holding onto the back frame by only one hand.

I am not as brave as the locals who will go past casually leaning back texting with out holding onto anything or anyone on the back of a motorbike.

But I have come a long way from the first day when I arrived at work petrified after being stuck in peak hour Jakarta madness, where motorbikes speed through traffic almost being side swiped by trucks and race along the bus lanes with buses following in their wake.

In keeping with tradition, every day at my work placement is different as well.

Some days I will be in the office all day working on scripts, other days I will be out in the field interviewing people and visiting places for stories.

The traffic really gets to me when I do this, as sometimes things go smoothly but more often than not it doesn’t with taxi drivers not knowing where they are going and the telephone number you wrote down not working.

Being Jakarta you arrive flustered and a little crazy in the mind for your interview, but everything goes well and you leave relieved and smiling, thinking ‘ok its not really that bad here.’

The newsroom at my placement is mostly quiet except when something exciting happens, like when the organic vegetables are delivered from the stations farm in the mountains.

You will hear a war cry come up the stairs which signals the arrival of the fresh produce, and the whole newsroom erupts with cheers as people race to the door to get their goods.

Out the front of my Kos.

Indonesians also love to sing, and there is often the radio being played in the background and when a popular song comes on many of the workers will start singing along, it is really sweet.

Come 4.30 its time to go home, and I normally take the bus way home.

This is always cramped and crowded and I am relieved to get off the bus and start the walk home.

I don’t normally have anywhere I need to be so I take my time walking the winding back streets back to my kos.

Sometimes I will purposely go in the wrong direction just to see something new, and to experience a different street of my neighbourhood.

Again you are met by friendly greetings by the locals hanging out outside their houses and shops.

The clothes makers will often send out greetings from the open doors of their shops as they sew on old black foot peddled sewing machines that people back in Australia proudly display as an antique in their homes.

There are two little children in particular who are always over excited to see me walk past, they must be around four or five in age, and it always puts a smile on my face.

Arriving home I am greeted by the family who run my Kos and I have a quick conversation in broken Bahasa before running upstairs to shower, as its always hot in the afternoon if it doesn’t rain.

Slowly the rest of my Kos mates will filter in from their respected work placements and dinner plans will be made or changed.

Sometimes we will sit on the balcony watching the world pass by underneath us, other nights I will need to work on something or skype.

Room doors are always kept open, except in the hours of five to seven pm when the dengue mosquitos are at their most prevalent, to say come in and chat if you want.

Then dinner is typically at the fairy lights place down the road, who are so used to us now they even made up English translated menus for us, although it is un necessary as we already know the menu off by heart.

The food is fresh and delicious and the conversation always lively as everyone has a crazy Jakarta story from the day to share.

Another local place that my roommate and I frequent is the warunteg down the road.

The workers were stunned when we first bounced into the place and gave me a hard time one day with my order, but now the girl knows my order and runs up smiling when I enter.

Once of twice a week everyone here on the same program will try and meet up for dinner in one part of the city or another, which is always interesting, trying to fit over 40 people into one restaurant.

Best food in town.

Another thing about Indonesia is that almost everyone who comes here is given an Indonesian name, because yours is too hard to pronounce or something simpler.

Most locals have nicknames of sorts, shortened versions of their real names such as Rara.

Mine was instantly changed to Mimi!

It seems that no matter where I go in the world, the name Morgan does not quite fit into the local’s speech, so this is not the first name change I have had, and I really like it.

Jakarta is a city at a cross roads currently between economic boom and lack of public services and infrastructure.

Yet it is going to become a really important trade destination, especially with Australia being its closest nation, and if you are up for a little bit of adventure, friendly people, great food and culture then Jakarta and the Island of Java should be on your must see list if you plan a trip to Indonesia.

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Comments
9 Responses to “A Day in the Life of an Expat in Jakarta”
  1. Ashlee says:

    Hey, welcome to Jakarta!

    Quick thing – ‘bule’ means foreigner/albino, while ‘boleh’ is used to request to do something.

    i.e. “boleh saya pinjam pen ini?” – May I borrow this pen?

    ‘Boleh’ can also be used in reply i.e. “ya, boleh” – Yes, you may.

    I loved living in Jakarta for two years and I have lots of posts on my blog about good places to check out (besides the malls!).

  2. t.on.air says:

    I can see some similarities between your life in Jakarta and mine. You got my attention. Keep up the good work.

  3. seribumelati says:

    Dear Morgan 🙂
    I was accidentally come to your website when I was skimming the internet pages looking for Kos around Plaza Kuningan 🙂 Maybe we will meet in real life accidentally 🙂

  4. You could certainly see your expertise within the article you write.

    The arena hopes for more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. All the time follow your heart.

  5. ayung says:

    Hi…nice to meet you, if you need some common advice about jakarta, please contact me thank you

  6. LinaAjadech says:

    Hey morgan, how are you know? nice blog….hope you will enjoyed the beautiful indonesia 🙂

  7. irene says:

    Hi Morgan, Thank you for a lovely writing about Indonesia…I hope you will enjoy your stay here even more 🙂 btw if you know anyone who would be interested in teaching English as native english speaker, please contact me at 081286404085.

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