Many people think all Expats lead lavish lifestyles full of luxuries and barely work. For the expats in Jakarta that is not the case. Long work hours and commutes make people in Jakarta think twice about going somewhere, but when they do they enjoy it to the fullest and make the most out of it.
This is my latest contribution to the ExpatArrivals website. It’s about the work and life balance in Jakarta, shopping opportunities and the nightlife and restaurant scene in the Indonesian capital. I had to do some extra research because my nightlife consists of putting kids to bed and praying they don’t wake up in the middle of the night. After doing some interviews and reading up on how expats spend their leisure time in Jakarta, this is what I came up with. You can find it published here and I hope you find it useful! Enjoy!
Lifestyle and Shopping in Jakarta
Although Indonesia is not one of the so-called Asian Tigers, its capital, Jakarta, boasts a thriving economy and a growing expat community. Most of the expats move to Jakarta enticed by an attractive expat package and their lifestyle as expats is one full of comforts and luxuries. Although traffic can sometimes hinder leisure time during the week, weekends are full of golf courses, scuba diving expeditions and short holidays to the nearby islands. International companies often offer their employees three to four weeks paid holiday and on occasion paid tickets to the employee’s hometown.
Expats in Indonesia work had and play hard. During the week employees are expected to go to work from 8:00 am to about 6:00 pm and by the time traffic allows them to get home their weekday leisure activities start out at 8:00 or 9:00 pm. Many pubs, bars and restaurants offer entertaining activities during the week such as trivia nights, dart and pool championships, ladies night and live music.
As it is often the case, spouses, both male and female, have a hard time finding a job in Indonesia due to their strict work visa regulations. This, however, doesn’t mean that meaningful work cannot be done in Jakarta. Many associations offer volunteer opportunities at different charities and knowledge and experience never goes to waste. With affordable help at home, leisure time is maximized and “Stay-at-Home” spouses never stay put since there is a wide array of activities available to cater to all the needs and tastes of the budding expat population.
The vast expat communities and associations in Jakarta provide a little taste of home to expats with their constant balls and special charity evens. From Medieval Banquets to a Latin Ball and a Mardi Gras Soiree, expats are able to enjoy a buzzing nightlife as often as they please.
Shopping in Jakarta
Shopping is the national sport of Indonesians, both honorary and native. The immense variety of shopping malls, markets and boutiques makes Jakarta a shopper’s paradise. Like most countries in Asia, Jakarta boasts extravagant world-class malls with designer stores galore as well as smaller local designer boutiques. Renowned designers and interior decorators often visit Jakarta and showcase their latest creations both at runway shows and special exhibitions at the many malls around the city.
Visiting shopping malls is a central activity in the lives of many Jakartans. Malls provide an escape from the heat, humidity and the rain and the many entertainment options makes them pivotal in the lifestyle of Jakartans and expats alike. Shopping malls in Jakarta can be he described as lifestyle centers. You can leave the mall with a fresh new haircut, after getting a massage, enjoying dining international cuisine and buying stationary, a pair of shoes, and food for your pets. Malls are truly the cornucopia of shoppers where products are bountiful and ever changing following the latest trends. Malls are plentiful throughout Jakarta and so are their visitors. Weekends and Indonesian Holidays are popular days to visit so expect to find a buzzing mall. Some of the most popular malls include: Grand Indonesia and Plaza Indonesia in the city center. Senayan City, Pacific Place, Gandaria City and Pondok Indah Mall in the South. Central Park Mall and Mall of Indonesia located elsewhere.
Small boutiques showcasing the work of up and coming Indonesian designers are worth visiting. The most popular ones are the Goods Department in Plaza Indonesia and events such as the Bright Spot Market and Ina Craft Fair.
Shopping for furniture is a popular hobby among expats due to the low prices and good quality of the final products. Antique teak wood is often used to make modern furniture and many customers bring pictures of designs to be replicated.
International Trade Centers
International Trade Centers, popularly known as ITCs, are the go to place when looking for small electronics, factory outlet clothes, imported toys, brand-name purses and most anything. Although these shopping centers do not boast the swank and cleanliness of the nicer malls, most shoppers leave the ITCs satisfied after doing some serious damage and spending much less money than at regular shopping centers. Popular ITCs include Mangga Dua, Ambassador Mall, Blok M, and Roxy.
For the more adventurous, traditional Pasars (markets) offer an authentic cultural experience where true Kampung (village) life can be observed, breathed and lived. Markets are excellent venues for buying fresh produce, live fish and beautiful newly picked flowers. These markets are often crowded with bajajs, carts and even motorcycles and they are bustling with life and color. Beware of price fluctuations between locals and foreigners and have at least a slight idea about how much something is worth or you are willing to pay for it. Bargaining is expected so anticipate to negotiate prices until you find a good discount of about 10%-20%. There are many markets around Jakarta and finding one near your home place will provide a glimpse of Indonesian lifestyle and culture. Among these traditional markets, China Town, or Glodok is not to be missed.
Restaurants in Jakarta
Jakarta is home to a colossal variety of international cuisine. Restaurants often host award-winning chefs for months at a time and offer specialized menus and special events. Specialties range from high-end tepanyaki restaurants to small hole-in-the-wall type of venues that offer authentic Janavese fare.
Despite the fact that Indonesia is a Muslim country, alcohol is widely available and served in most restaurants. Alcohol, however, can sometimes be pricey compared to other countries due to a 150 percent levy on imported spirits and wine and value-added taxes.
Some of the most popular restaurants are located within hotels, office buildings and shopping malls. Westernized menus are popular among the expat and wealthier local population and the quality and authenticity is often first-rate.
Some of the most popular restaurants in Jakarta include the Cork and Screw, Jack Rabbit, Loewy’s, Blue Grass and Social House. Reservations are expected, especially for dinner and often for lunch. Tipping is not expected due to the fact that a service (usually 10%) is regularly included in the bill. However, if the service was exceptional a small tip is encouraged to demonstrate appreciation. In many cases waiters and waitresses remember their patrons and regulars often get top-notch service.
Nightlife in Jakarta
Nightlife in Jakarta exemplifies Indonesia at its best: diverse, swarming, and intense. From small billiard bars to swanky and hip nightclubs with cues of hopeful party-goers lining up for hours outside, Jakarta offers expats whatever kind of diversion they desire.
When compared to the night scene in Europe, Australia or elsewhere, Jakarta keeps-up with all of them in quality and quantity of their nightspots. However, the biggest difference is that the traffic situation compels the clientele to stay put in the nightclub they have chosen for the night instead of barhopping among the different venues available.
Snazzy nightclubs in Jakarta can be compared to any trendy hotspot in New York City or in Berlin. Current music and famous DJs make their way to Jakarta and live music is often heard booming thru the loudspeakers. Expats are usually allowed in soon after arriving at the gates of these clubs as long as they are all decked out and not wearing tennis shoes or jeans. Popular venues for high-end clubbing are the X-Club, Red Square and Dragon Fly.
Several neighborhoods are popular among expats due to their exuberant party scene. Kemang, in South Jakarta, is frequented by groups of friends looking to watch sports, listen to live music, play pool or drink beer with friends in an informal atmosphere. The Senayan and Kuningan areas are home to the hippest, trendiest and most expensive clubs Jakarta has to offer. Expats and locals attend the clubs to see and be seen and booking a table for the night is common practice. Single men looking to have a cheap beer with friends and mingle with the locals often visit the area of Blok M.
Several clubs offer private lounges that can be rented for a whole night and even used during the first hours of the morning. Many decide to rent them out and invite their friends to party all night long. Some restaurants and hotel bars offer Salsa Nights and Tango Milongas with live music performances. Jazz Concerts and Comedy Shows are a common entertainment option among expats.
Shall we sing? In true Asian fashion, Jakarta has a karaoke club in almost every corner. Jakartans spend hours signing, drinking and eating at the different venues and the low-prices for beer and renting out the karaoke rooms makes it very popular among the locals and expats alike.
Ramadan, the Muslim fasting-month, doesn’t prompt any big changes to the nightlife of Jakarta. Although some bars may close earlier than usual, alcohol and food is still served in most of the places frequented by the expat community.