Indonesia is a melting pot of cultures and has a thriving tourist industry. But with the rapid advancement of Indonesia’s trade and industry, the country is also experiencing a large growth in expat communities in its capital, Jakarta. Broadly speaking, the crime rates in Indonesia are not very high and crimes against foreigners are usually limited to petty theft. It is also important to note that taxi scams and ATM fraud are also rampant, especially in urban centres like Jakarta and Surabaya.Every woman should decide the safety rules that she follows for herself, but keeping a few general things in mind could go a long way helping you settle down and find your stride in Indonesia.
Be aware of local culture and gender roles
Foreign women are usually, rather unfairly, perceived as “easy” or “exotic” no matter how conservatively you may dress. Avoid trusting people too quickly, and be careful about giving out personal details such as your home address and phone number. Minimise eye contact when possible, in case that is misconstrued or you are feeling vulnerable; wearing a hat and sunglasses might help here.
Take all the same precautions you would back home
Ensure that you don’t use your mobile phone while walking on unfamiliar or dark streets. Lock your home securely and don’t leave your car keys in your car. Listen to your instincts – it doesn’t matter if you feel like you are being silly or paranoid.
Learn the language
Being able to speak Bahasa Indonesia will help you solve most problems yourself and contribute to your general well-being and safety. In case of any emergencies or accidents, you will be able to ask for help and communicate with the police directly.
Use your phone discreetly
Nothing says that you are new to a country as much as walking down a street looking at the map on your phone constantly. This makes you an obvious and vulnerable target for petty theft.
Watch your drink
If you are at a party with new people, ensure that you mix your own drinks or watch them being mixed. It is also advisable that you don’t leave your drink unattended in unfamiliar surroundings. It is also a good idea not to get drunk until you are absolutely sure of the people that you are with and the surroundings that you are in.
Choose your transport carefully
Many countries in Asia have women-only sections in public transport systems such as trains. A Thomson Reuters Foundation survey in 2014 found that Jakarta has the 5th most unsafe public transport system for women, but using the women-only sections of the train can help ease your transport experience to an extent. You should also ensure that you only get into licensed taxis.
Choose your clothes with extra care
While dressing modestly, or covering up, is not going to completely stop the catcalls, honking, and loud comments, it will probably cut down the harassment.
Be vigilant about hiring household staff
Having household help in Indonesia is a standard practice for both locals and expatriates. If you have just set up your home and intend to employ household staff, ensure that you do as thorough a background check as possible, and perhaps register the staff with the police to deter any possible criminal activity.
If you are harassed in any way – groping or lewd comments – you should show your distaste and dissent publicly. In most cases, locals will come to help you, and in the face of public support you may find that the perpetrator backs off completely.
Choose the right residential area
While most fancy, gated communities in cities like Jakarta may seem to offer a very secure lifestyle, you don’t have to hide yourself or your family in these spaces. You could also choose to live in a neighbourhood where the community interaction and participation is very high. These are usually safe places to live, since safety is a community concern. Take your time and choose an area that you think you can make a home in.
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