Getting settled in Jakarta. Things you need to know as a newbie

Jakarta is not exactly an easy city, we all know that. The traffic, the bad air, the blistering heat can be overwhelming. But: If you know the right resources and tips you will find your home far away from home in this city, we promise. We have put together a few starter kit information for you that will help you getting settled in Jakarta – and some of them might even be interesting for people who live here for a longer time already.

1. Find the right house or apartment

Having your own personal retreat where you and your family feel comfortable and can relax after an exhausting day is the basis you should start with. And the good thing is: Jakarta has a lot to offer when it comes to housing. You can find houses for prices that are way lower than in many other countries. No matter if you are looking for an apartment up in the air, for a standalone house with a garden or for a house with the comfort of a compound: You will find the suitable place to live in Jakarta. Jakarta is a huge city – and there are several areas that are very popular with expats. Just make sure that you will get the right support to help you with your home. At EMC, we follow the approach to first get to know our clients and their expectations very well. In the second step we will show options based on this briefing, we don’t bother our clients with houses or apartments off the briefing. If you like to have a look at some available, please check out our database. You will see: Jakarta does offer a variety of beautiful housing options with pools and nice gardens. However: Always keep in mind that you are living in a tropical climate and many houses are not built with the quality we know from western countries. Due to this it is pretty common that small or even bigger repairs become necessary frequently (which are usually taken care of by the owner) and bothering about these things should not keep you from getting settled in Jakarta.

2. Choose the right school for your kids

Once you have found the right place to live you are already well on track to get settled in your new city. Finding the right school for your kids is another important thing which usually goes hand in hand with the search for housing. Jakarta is not only a huge city, it is one with heavy traffic issues so it might be wise to have the location of your preferred school and of your or your partner’s work location in mind when looking for a house or an apartment.
In general, Jakarta offers quite a big selection of well established international schools. They are not centered in one area but rather spread out over the city. We have put together a list with an overview of the most popular international schools. Do keep in mind though that even though costs for housing are lower in Indonesia compared to other countries, school fees are not!

3. Meet people and make friends. It helps you getting settled in Jakarta

Making friends and meeting like minded people is probably the most helpful thing for getting settled in Jakarta. In general, the city has a very open community of expats from all over the world with many of them being open and helpful towards newcomers. If you are living in a compound you can be quite sure that you will make friends in the neighborhood and your kids will find playmates easily. For parents with school kids it might be an option to get active in the respective school communities. At most of the international schools, the parents associations are very active and many schools invite parents to become an active part of the school community. Becoming involved in the community of your children’s school has several advantages for you as a newcomer: You will get connected with many people at once. And you will get an insight into the new school of your kids – which might be interesting also.
An alternative to get connected in this city is to become a member of one of the international associations that are located in Jakarta. International associations like ANZA, BWA, AWA or the German speaking community Die Bruecke offer support and friendship but also possibilities to learn new skills or become active in a social welfare project. Although all those associations have their country of origin in their name all of them welcome nationalities from all over the world. If you are interested in culture and if you are keen to explore Indonesia Indonesian Heritage Society might also be the right option for you.
Of course, networking and making friends was way more difficult during the last year as people mainly stayed home and social contacts were kept to a minimum. Most of the associations have started to offer meetings, coffee mornings, seminars, cooking and painting lessons again – online but also more and more offline.

4. Know where to get helpful information for your daily life needs

It will surely take a while before you can find your way around this city. There will be a lot of things you will only discover at a second or even a third glance. You might not find all the products that you are used to from your usual lifestyle, but most of them. You just need to know where to get all the information. There are several expat Facebook groups that are helpful resources if you are looking for information on daily life, where to buy certain things and so on. You might want to join Jakarta Moms Support Group on Facebook or sign up for the Upper Crust Newsletter before even moving to the city. You will find an abundance of helpful tips on these resources and you can also ask specific questions. The community is very helpful with answering any sort of question. Also, whenever you ask yourself where you could probably find a specific product, technical appliance or household equipment, it’s a good idea to check out Tokopedia. You basically can buy everything on this platform (which is by the way one of Indonesia’s unicorns and a pioneer of the local tech industry). For further tips on living in Jakarta as a family you might also want to take a look at Jakarta Expats.

5. Do something meaningful

In most of the cases, it’s one person in an expat family who is the main breadwinner. For accompanying spouses it is not easy to get a work permit and be permitted to work in Indonesia officially. However, if you are the accompanying partner that doesn’t mean that you won’t find fulfilling activities that keep you busy and that give something back to yourself as well as the community.
There are countless possibilities in Jakarta if you consider a charity or volunteer job for yourself. As mentioned before, international schools in Jakarta are very open towards parents who want to get engaged in the school. Besides that International associations like ANZA, BWA, AWA or the German speaking community Die Bruecke usually support non profit organizations that support projects, hospitals, educational institutions for local disadvantaged people. It’s sad but a big portion of Indonesia’s welfare projects rely on local and expat volunteers, so you can be sure that your support is more than welcome. Rest assured, that the feeling that your help is needed helps you to settle in.

6. Stay fit

Especially if you come from a non tropical country you might find it hard (and extremely sweaty) to stay active in Jakarta. Well, it’s hot, yes, but you will get used to it. Since the pandemic started many people started to opt for outdoor sports activities. Especially on weekends, Kemang Dalam as well as the Senayan sports complex and Ragunan Zoo offer quite good possibilities for a jog. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis you can also see more and more people riding bicycles for exercise in Jakarta. Many expats living in and around Kemang go for a membership at the American Club Jakarta which offers a huge swimming pool and other sports facilities. Besides that, international fitness studio chains like Fitness First or F45 offer outlets all over the city.

7. Stay healthy

Well, staying healthy was probably the most essential wish for expats living in Jakarta during the last year. It’s not a secret: The health system in general is not the best in Indonesia and the standard of most hospitals is not up to the one that many Western expats may be used to. So, during the pandemic not only the virus itself is a threat but also any other severe sickness or accident as it is not possible to travel easily to a nearby country as Singapore where the health system is probably one of the best in the world.
When you move to Jakarta, choosing a family doctor you can trust is one important settling in activity. Many expats choose Dr. Steven from Good Practice as the general Doctor. The clinic is connected to a network of specialists and can refer you to the right clinic/doctor if necessary. SOS Medika is part of an international chain of hospitals with general doctors and specialists, most of them trained overseas. They run one clinic in Cipete and one in Kuningan. The Brawijaya Hospital group operates several very modernly equipped hospitals in Jakarta with well trained English speaking doctors. Pondok Indah Hospital and Siloam Hospitals are two further big  and well known hospital groups.

8. Travel a lot

You live in a country that other people think of when they are planning their dream vacation. Jakarta is a hustling and bustling city which might take your energy during the day to day life. You can leave the city behind you often enough and discover new destinations within Indonesia – and there’s more to this country than Bali. You can find some travel inspiration for weekend getaways and longer trips on the Jakarta Expats blog.

9. Learn the language

More and more people in Indonesia speak English, especially in the big cities like Jakarta. But: Indonesians highly appreciate it if a foreigner is learning Bahasa Indonesia and if he or she is using it – even if it’s not perfect. It will make it way easier for you to meet and make friends with Indonesians if you take the effort to learn the language. And it will help you to dig into the culture. On top of that, if you are planning to go to more remote places in Indonesia, basic Bahasa skills will be helpful to get around. 

Also read EMC’s tipps on how to make Jakarta your new home away from home.

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