Searching for a nanny before you move to Jakarta

I was recently contacted by a reader who is moving to Jakarta at the end of the year with her young family from the USA. As you can understand, she is slightly nervous for the move. Jakarta can be intimidating for an outsider coming in. Especially if you are a mother and have never been to Asia! There are many concerns raised by newcomers and the most common themes are around health, safety, schooling and, nannies, of course!

Today I wanted to answer a common question about searching for a nanny and pembantu (maid) before arriving in Jakarta. When I was planning our move from Singapore to Jakarta, I had a 20 month old toddler and a newborn baby. Being used to having a live in helper (nanny) in Singapore, I was very eager to find another one before I arrived! But I waited and I’m glad I did.

Here are a few reasons why I don’t recommend searching for a nanny before you arrive in Jakarta –

1. Like most expat dense cities, Jakarta is very transient and many expats are either leaving or arriving. This means that there are always a huge pool of available household staff looking for work. You will have no issues finding someone within days of arriving.

2. Unlike cities like Singapore, where nannies are sponsored from external countries such as the Philippines, the nannies in Indonesia do not rely on their employer to keep them in Jakarta. They usually live locally in Jakarta or in a village outside of Jakarta and do not need an employer to sponsor them to keep their visa valid. Therefore the need or motivation for securing their next employment at the end of their job, isn’t as crucial. They may not be willing to wait for you to arrive to start working again.

3. Although there are always many nannies to choose from, it is not a buyer’s market (for you, the employer). It is a seller’s market (the employee, nanny) in Jakarta. This is due to the high demand for good, experienced nannies by both expats and local Indonesians. For this reason, securing a nanny and giving her a job offer before you arrive can lead to disappointment because she will probably continue to interview with other candidates and try to get a better salary offer (even if she agrees to work for you.)

4. I find that situations change very quickly with nannies here. Within a week of going back to their village (ie. to rest between jobs), they can suddenly become engaged, married, divorced, pregnant, move abroad to work, study or decide to stay at home to help family or a sick relative. Even if she’s committed to working for you, she may simply not turn up (or is unable to) and you may never hear from her again.

5. Face to face interviews are always better and you both get a chance to see how you all interact together as a family. Although she may have excellent references and experience, everyone has different standards and expectations from their nannies. So I always recommend a trial period of employment, even if it’s for one day only.

6. Finally, I recommend waiting to start the interviewing process until you arriving in Jakarta, for the simple fact of talking to other expats about nannies and household help. By actually talking and asking questions with new friends and acquintances, you will quickly learn what your expectations should be for the role. You will get a feel of what is normal in Jakarta, how much is the appropriate salary and what kind of role your nanny should play in your household. It is difficult to get a grasp of all of this information from outside of Jakarta. I found that the nannies in Jakarta are completely different to the nannies in Singapore. So ask around and understand what you are getting yourself into, before making such a big commitment from afar.

Do your homework and settle into the country. The culture is unique and allow yourself to learn more about it.

If, for what ever circumstances, you absolutely must hire a nanny before you arrive, I recommend that you give her a holding bonus to make sure that she does turn up to work for you. Offering a bonus of IDR 1M for example, after the first month of working with you, could be a great way to secure her employment.

And so, if you are currently planning your move to Jakarta, focus your energy on other things such as joining a forum that connects you to other expats mothers and wives. They are the key to making your new endeavor less scary and confusing. More on this topic to come.

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