Monday, September 12, 2005

First Impressions

Well, we've been here for a week now, and apart from feeling a little stir crazy from living in a hotel room we're happy and comfortable with Jakarta so far.

Jakarta is a densely populated, smoggy place that is littered with rubbish and various unpleasant odours, but it's also a modern city with decent facilities, great food, plenty of entertainment venues and very friendly people. In a city of 15 million people, there are only a handful who are building explosive devices in their living rooms, so hanging out around the city is pretty safe. Security is everywhere, which is reassuring, particularly as they're not gun-toting military types.

The language is easy to learn, and the lessons we had before arriving here have really helped us pick the lingo up quite quickly. We've now got a vocabulary that is sufficient enough to make our way around town, seek directions, deal with shop owners, order food and drinks etc.

The traffic is crazy, but after a few days you learn to just window gaze, read a book or snooze and let the driver do his job. I've only seen one auto accident so far, and it was only a minor one, but given the manic nature of the traffic I was expecting to see pileups and motor cyclist road kill every day. The drivers are actually quite courteous and patient, with road rage something I've yet to see.

Jakarta is a city of great contrasts between the rich and poor, with the well-off living in mansions that would rival celebrity homes in western countries. The town house we're moving to in a couple of weeks is "small" for an expat home, but it's still bigger than our home back in Australia. The upside to that is there is plenty of room for visiting friends and family to stay in comfort if they're brave enough to visit us.

Yesterday we interviewed for our "staff", which is something most people in western countries would probably not comprehend. Part of the deal as an expat is to provide employment for locals as maids, gardeners and drivers. Monthly salary for household staff is around US$100, which sounds like exploitation, but a salary like that is double what an average worker could make in a factory or shop, and therefore household staff jobs are keenly sought by locals. For the two of us, we will end up having two drivers, a maid and a gardener/pool guy. It sounds crazy, but that's the norm here.


Blogger Johnny Canuck said...

I definitely don't have all the answers, but I know that as long as people keep sharing ideas like this, the truth will eventually reveal itself and maybe it can make a difference somewhere.

I think this blog rocks! Keep up the good work, I've bookmarked it and will definitely swing by again soon.

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1:33 PM  
Blogger Haswar said...

hi, i was used to live in jakarta. now, i'm stayin' in brisbane and probably will be heading back to jakarta in about 3 months. it's been very nice to read you post. the same look of my hometown, but from other different eyes.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous enda said...

nice writing and accurate too if I must say :)

there are other indonesia expat blog I think, but i am most familiar with this british one,

check it out, might be interesting for u :)

4:02 PM  

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