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Leah, Jakarta

Who are you?

My name is Leah.I’m a young Australian mum to a 1 year old boy and wife to a handsome Indonesian man.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

We moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, last year (2016) after living, studying and working in my hometown of Sydney for almost 4 years. My husband wanted to move back to his home of Jakarta for job opportunities and to be close to his family after living overseas for many years.

What challenges did you face during the move?

The logistics of moving is never particularly fun to start off with. For the first few months I couldn’t seem to settle in as I didn’t have my belongings, so our new house didn’t feel like a home. I was traumatised by a bad traffic experience with my screaming baby so I didn’t want to leave the house either! Then there’s the struggle to make friends, get my bearings and learn local customs. Once my belongings arrived, I learned what times to avoid traffic and found out the good places to go, I started to settle in to Jakarta life.

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Are there many other expats in your area?

There are quite a lot of expats in Jakarta however it can be difficult to connect with them. For me, being a stay-at-home mum has helped as there are some playgroups during the week for expat mums to meet and mingle. But it can be a struggle to meet other expats if you are working or don’t have young children.

What do you like about life where you are?

I think all the expats in Jakarta would agree that we love the opportunity to have help in the form of housekeepers, nannies and drivers at affordable prices. It may sound conceited saying that, but it certainly makes life more enjoyable and I’m sure anyone with this opportunity would take it! I also enjoy being in a location that’s easy to travel to and from, so we can take short and inexpensive trips to places like Bali, Singapore and other parts of Asia.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

I really struggle with the severe lack of outdoor spaces such as parks and beaches, especially having moved from Australia and having a young child. You really have to search to find the limited places to go to enjoy the outdoors. Another thing that’s difficult about expat life is that people are coming and going so you always need to make an effort to make new friends, knowing that they aren’t going to be in your life for a long time either.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

A big cultural difference is experiencing the extremes of rich and poor in Jakarta. In Australia most people are middle-class, and although there are some homeless people it is not the norm and there are government facilities to help those people. Whereas here there are just as many people living in poor areas and scraping together enough money to survive, as there are people shopping designer brands and fine dining every day. Next to a huge shopping mall there may be a slum. There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle-class experience. You see so much poverty that you wish you could help everyone when you can’t… but it definitely inspires many expats to volunteer and donate.

What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?

I love the cuisine here! There are so many delicious foods and drinks, from not only Indonesia but around the world. It’s hard to choose but some of my favourite Indonesian foods would have to be Soto Betawi (a coconut-based soup with beef and potatoes), Bakmi Ayam (noodles with chicken) and Kue Lapis (layer cake). Unfortunately my tolerance for spicy foods isn’t very high so that hinders my ability to try many local delicacies.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Get involved with expat associations as soon as possible as it leads to so many new friendships and opportunities such as volunteering. This will really help you to settle in quickly and once you feel settled you will have the confidence to explore Jakarta and Indonesia more. Learning some of the language can be really helpful and it’s not difficult to learn as there are many similarities with English. Oh, and live somewhere very close to your work/kids’ school etc because the traffic can be a nightmare!

What are your plans for the future?

Since Jakarta is home to my husband, it’s likely we are going to be here for a long time! I’d like to teach English to Indonesian kids and adults in the future. Or if my Bahasa Indonesia gets good enough maybe even teach some expats too. It’s also really important to me to do volunteer work to help the underprivileged in Indonesia so I’d like to do more of that too as my son gets older. And one day I’d love to grow our family as well.

You can keep up to date with Leah's adventures on her blog, Expat Mum Jakarta.

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