A while back I was asked to do an interview for Expat-Blog which is a site dedicated to those living away from their home countries and on the whole is a good place to be.
British expat, Luke settled in Indonesia in 2007. Teacher by profession, he is also a happy dad with a two year old son with whom he spends a lot of time.
Where are you from, Luke?
My name is Luke, I am English and left England in 2006 to travel the world. At the end of 2006, I landed a job teaching in Indonesia, which I thought would be for a year. But liked it so much that I decided to stay and here I am 7 years later, married to an Indonesian. I also have a 1 year old son. I am still enjoying life here as much as I did when I arrived.How did you land in Indonesia?I was looking to work in Asia after traveling through it and it happened on Indonesia. I then decided to give it a go and it proved to be a good move.
What were the procedures to follow to move there?
My company arranged all the legal paperwork for me. So, all I had to do was to arrive there. I was met at the airport and taken to my new home. It was made very simple for me.What has attracted you to Jakarta?Jakarta is the opposite of my home in England and there is always something interesting here for me to do or discover. It's true that the city is over-crowded and full of pollution etc. But if you look past that, for me, there is so much worth seeing and exploring. I am constantly visiting different places and learning new things about Indonesia and the city.
What are the local labor market's specifications?
I am currently employed as a teacher and I have been teaching for a long time. The market has changed due to more strict guidelines and regulations. Teachers need to be over 25 years old and possess the relevant teaching qualifications demanded by the school where they would be working and also to meet the government regulations.
Was it difficult to find accommodation? What are the types of accommodation available there?
When I arrived, I was placed in a teachers house as part of my contract. I have since lived in apartments and houses. There are many options for living here and all at different costs. It all depends on your needs, location and lifestyle. However, I would advise new people to make sure that when looking at property, they have someone who can read the Indonesian contract and be prepared to hear how the price increases just because you are not Indonesian.
How do you find the Indonesian lifestyle?
I find living here a lot less stressful and more simple. Jakarta is the gateway to the country. So I am able to choose and discover so much more outside of the city. The lifestyle is easy because of the availability of services, food and transportation, and also the amount of that. Whilst it makes the living environment nosier and more hectic, it does mean that you are not often wanting anything extra. Moreover, you can get the English Football on TV, and with Satellite TV you can still watch the most popular western TV shows. I eat Indonesian food through the week and then a more western menu during the week-end and that suits me fine.
Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?
I think I am still adapting. It is not my country, so I just accept what happens. After all, I have no power to influence any change and to be honest I am not sure what I would want to change.
What does your every day life look like?
For me, a typical working day is caring for my son before the house keeper takes over. Then, riding a bike across the city to work where I teach for most of the afternoon, and then back home for late supper and bed. Week-ends are spent with my family, with Saturday just for my wife. So we can go shopping or see a movie, or eat somewhere nice. And then Sunday, after a lazy brunch somewhere, spending the day with my son. It is not the most glorious lifestyle, but family and two-year old children tend to reduce the time you want to spend drinking in bars and clubbing. When we can, we escape to Bandung or Bogor for a week-end or just find a cheap room in a 4 or 5 star hotel and stay there on a Saturday night.
What has surprised you the most at your arrival?
The moment I walked into the arrivals at Jakarta Airport, I realized that I was no longer in the West. It was and still is Orange and Brown, and the signs are limited. There were lots of people trying to sell you something or wanting to take your luggage, and it was so hot. I knew then that Jakarta and Indonesia would be an adventure.Any particular experience you would like to share with us?I have many experiences to share, some good, some bad. But I think my wedding was a special moment for me. It was held in Bali, on a hotel lawn overlooking the sea and the sunset. My parents, whom I had not seen for a few years had come and it was a fantastic moment for me and my partner.
What is your opinion on the cost of living in Jakarta? Is it easy for a British expat to live in the country?
The cost of living depends on the salary you earn. You buy almost anything here and it makes it harder to save. The cost of living as a expat on a short contract is cheap as you like. But once you settle and start having bills and responsibilities, then I would say that the costs become more expensive. Prices have risen on basic things, but overall, my salary covers that.
For a British expat to live here is easy enough. There are not really many British food products available but in some supermarkets you can find simple things like baked beans and HP sauce and digestive biscuits. Moreover, apart from BBC News and World, the English TV availability is limited, but most things can be found through the Internet. Clothing and shoes, if you are taller and have big feet, can be hard to find and more expensive. Whilst most of the UK fashion chains are here, they are more expensive and limited in range. My experience of living here and with fellow British expats is that everyone adapts to what is available and enjoys the heat and the lifestyle that they have made here.
How do you spend your leisure time there?
My leisure time is limited to stealing time with wife to go out with out the family for a few hours, and also spending as much time as I can with my son watching him play and grow. I also enjoy reading and watching TV if I have time.
What are the differences between life in Indonesia and in the UK?
Far too many. I think overall people need to see Indonesia and understand it first before deciding if they want to be here long term. The easiest and fastest way to help new people who come here and work with me to help them understand how different life is here, is by me pointing out the lack of Fire Exits, Fire Extinguishers and any kind of Health and Safety signs that are every where in the West, but are not present in my building and elsewhere such as malls or hospitals etc. People think and act differently here. So if a new person can grasp that, then they will do fine. Oh, and its always nice and warm here.
Would like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates?
When you come here, come with an open mind and a sense of adventure and humor. It's not for everyone, but if you accept this is the way it is here, then you wont have so many problems settling in. People are not angry, often arrive late, and appreciate a smile more than anything else. Moreover, there is more to Indonesia than Bali. So, go explore and enjoy.
What are your plans for the future?
I hope to remain here for as long as possible. My family is here and my work is here. Indonesia has everything I need and want.
I have done other interviews and I will put them on here as well.
The site for this interview and the only forum I feel really comfortable on is