I bet a number of you are doing some research before you move to the new place you call home. I know I did before we moved to Bangkok and then to Jakarta. I try to be as prepared as I can, especially if I’m moving with kids.
A fellow soon-to-be expat mom, Magdalena who’s moving from Texas with her husband and two boys, sent me a few questions about life in Jakarta. I thought her questions were so thoughtful and thorough that I thought I would share them with you guys hoping you would find them useful, too. This is the first part of two.
Moving to Jakarta without Losing your Mind.
Today we will discuss the living situation, housing, household help, preschools and medical care.
Living Situation/ Housing
We’ve been suggested to move Kemang due to its closeness to everything and the big expat population there. Is that true? Would you have a better suggestion?
The biggest concern you should have when choosing a place to live is the location. You should pick a place that is close to your husband’s office and your children’s school. Commuting in Jakarta is painful and is one of the biggest deal-breakers for many expats. Since you will be here for a while (3+ years) and your toddler will likely start kindergarten in the next two years you should pick a place close to the school of your choice (JIS, BIS, AIS, NIS, etc). Kemang is a fun expat enclave where you will be able to find everything. From Yoga studios and bars to bagels shops and seamstresses. I personally live in the city center due to my husband’s office location. If we were to stay here longer, we would consider moving to the south (Kemang area) because Evan would be starting kindergarten and I would prefer to be close to the school.
Another great area for expats is Kuningan. It is in the south but it is not inside Kemang and it has a great restaurant scene. Leaving Kemang can be a bit tricky because there is only two ways to go in and out and there is always heavy traffic. That being said you will probably have most of your activities within Kemang. I have even seen people running and exercising on the street, a very rare sight here in Jakarta. So yeah, Kemang is awesome but you just need to consider where you will be going to from Kemang.
2. House Vs. Apartment.
So far, we can tell renting a house would obviously be more spacious, however, requires more maintenance, such as having a security guard we were told. With that said, do you ever feel unsafe living in JKT? Do you ever feel threatened when you are with your kids?
Houses in Kemang and in most expat enclaves are very nice and usually follow “western” standards when it comes to closets, kitchens, and bedroom distribution. It is true that houses require much more maintenance here and the biggest bummer is that you cannot really work on the house yourself. You cannot really go to a home depot buy materials and fix them. This is key when choosing a landlord. You have to have a good one because some are known to flee the scene once the contract is signed and the repairs that are his responsibility can be unattended for a while.
When you live in a house you need a guard, and a poolboy as well as a gardener. Plus any housekeeping or nanny help you need. I live in an apartment and we love the community and the amenities (sauna, gym, big pool, playground). However I do wish I had a backyard of my own sometimes. It’s all up to you. We haven’t lived in a house for the past 5 years so I cannot even imagine what it is like. We lived in apartment in Germany and in Thailand so I am not really the best judge of that. I definitely wish I had more storage space and more room for the kids to run around but again we went for location and apartments in the city center are as expensive as houses in the south.
Regarding safety I have never really felt threatened or even scared. I am obviously more aware of my belongings at malls and when I’m out and about but it is still don’t feel like there is an imminent threat targeting bules (foreigners). I have heard of several situations where the household staff let strangers pretending to be repairmen in and they end up robbing the house. You just need to be very clear about who’s coming to visit, etc. Don’t worry but it’s still wise to have a guard and be a bit more careful than you would be in the US.
My husband will have one provided by work; will it be necessary that I get a separate one for the kids and me? Can I do without a driver? Can I take a taxi or a bus instead or would you not recommend that?
Jakarta unfortunately doesn’t have a reliable public transportation system so you will likely have to drive everywhere. I would definitely recommend you get an extra driver or just work around your husband’s schedule to move around. I would not recommend you drive here. (I’ve done it and it’s nerve-wrecking and exhausting). You can take taxis. They are very reliable but sometimes hard to find, especially during rush hour. There is a bus system and a “train”system but they are overcrowded and I would never ride them with the kids.
Is it necessary that you have house-help? Most of the places we looked at have “servants quarters”. Is it mandatory that we have to have someone live with us? If so, do they live with us and their entire family? I was reading other blogs where people commented that once you hire someone you also take care of them (e.g. pay for their health insurance, etc.).
It is certainly not necessary but I bet you will be glad to have help at home. Jakarta is a very dirty city and trust me you will want your home cleaned every single day. It is not necessary to have a live-in helper. She can live-out and come say from 8:00am to 5:00 pm. I personally have two helpers. A live-in nanny and a live-out housekeeper and cook. The nanny helps me in the morning by giving them baths and getting Evan ready for school. She babysits at night when I go out with my husband or friends and stays with the kids when I go grocery shopping (which is complicated to do with children here in Jakarta). The housekeeper does laundry, mops, cleans bathrooms, etc and cooks for us.
I don’t pay for insurance but I do pay for medical expenses. They usually bring a receipt or invoice from the hospital and doctor and I help out with their medicine. If you have a live-in she will live in her room and bathe in her quarters. The room is usually separate from the main living area and will likely be in the basement, or by the kitchen. When you don’t want her around you can just let her know and this won’t be a problem. If you live in a house you might consider hiring a maid/guard team consisting of a married couple. Some houses have a small apartment like area with two or more bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen. They can “live” there if you desire them to.
1. Preeschool for a toddler.
We were thinking of putting our toddler in Montessori@Kemang in August/September, he will be three years old. Is Evan in school already or do you have both of your babies still with you? If he is at school, are you pleased with it?
Evan is at a preschool near my home. We are very happy with it. You will see there are many options for children so you will be able to pick and choose what you want. You can even start him in school as soon as you get here. Most preschools will let you enroll your kids at any moment in the term. I have personally heard that the Australian International School and the Netherlands International School have great preschool programs. If I lived in the South I would without a doubt check them out.
We were told there is an SOS clinic for expats, is that where you go? Do you have a good pediatrician? Dentist? How do I find one? What happens if we have an emergency with one of the kids?
The SOS clinic is the best-known clinic among expats. It’s all Indonesian doctors but they do have foreign “advisor” doctors that can do consultations but not prescribe medicine. My husband’s company has a clinic so we do most of our check-ups there. I haven’t personally experienced any doctor’s visits at SOS but I have heard overall good comments. I haven’t visited a dentist here, either. I usually go to Thailand or Mexico and see my regular dentists. I have several recommendations for dentists from friends and I can send you that information without a problem. There are children’s clinics where you can find good doctors. In severe cases you can go to Singapore that is an amazing medical tourism place. Indonesian hospitals are ok but are not the most reliable ones. I was told Joshua was a girl by two doctors and found out he wasn’t when I got to the US.
Are there any JKT expats out there that have anything to add to this?
Please let me know. I would like for the guide to be as comprehensive as possible!