Shopping in Jakarta

Shopping in Jakarta can sometimes be a frustrating experience for me. I highly value efficiency, and since having children, my tolerance has decreased drastically. I love the shopping centers here. It’s clean, modern and has everything I need (if I know where to go.) There are also many shop attendants that will greet and eagerly help me. I know they try really hard with customer service, and I appreciate it.

Yesterday, I had a typical shopping experience, at my favorite Gandaria City. What should have been a quick and easy afternoon, quickly turned into a comedy of disasters.

I brought my nanny to assist with my shopping. The plan was that she keeps my kids occupied at our favorite indoor play center ‘Coconuts’, and I’ll quickly grab a few things at the shops. Coconuts only just opened mid this year, so I was terribly surprised and disappointed to see that it had already closed! This always seems to happen in Jakarta! Such a great business but for what ever reason, it’s disappeared and is no longer operating.

No issues, I took them to the other indoor playroom at ‘Amazing Town’. We pay downstairs and head upstairs to enter the playroom. The entrance was closed and unattended. So I had to go all the way back down again to get service. Sigh…why are all of the attendants gathered around in one spot only?

Onto my next mission, which should only take twenty minutes, max. Toy shopping for presents. Choosing the gifts were easy. Trying to pay for it on the other hand, was almost impossible! I had six shop attendants and a manager gathered around helping to pay for my transaction! There were so many attendants, that the check out girl got awfully confused and couldn’t keep track of scanning the five items. She presented me with the total cost but didn’t look confident. So I asked her for a breakdown of each item and she couldn’t do this! The manager needed to step in. He asked me if I wanted to buy the items together in one transaction or in separate transactions?! This is a strange question to ask, I just want to buy my toys!

I replied, “One transaction.” He then explained that if I were to pay for them in one transaction, the discounted rate for the toys advertised on the shelf will not apply! “But your cash register girl just billed me with one transaction! Is she charging me the full prices and not the discounted price?” I asked. “Yes”, he replied and looked at me like I was the crazy one, wanting to pay at the discounted price rather than the full price! I was slowly dying in the inside… gosh I miss Amazon and online shopping!

I explained to the manager that I honestly don’t care how many transactions it took, as long as I get charged the correct discounted prices they were offering!

And so, two transactions on and finally, we are finished…until I was asked to wait an additional half an hour for the gift wrapping, even though there were four girls wrapping five items! Oh why, oh why, oh why?!!!

So my last task for the day was to buy a fish tank filter in Ace Hardware. Although I knew exactly what I needed to buy, the store didn’t sell the complete parts and no one there understood me. I know it’s not their fault because I have a difficult strong Australian accent. But this is one of the challenges being an expat…trying to be understood. Not only is there a language barrier, there is also the cultural barrier.

So I just gave up on this one because I knew that it was time to get my kids home and feed them! Quickly needing to rush home, my driver had parked our car in an area that was out of range for calls, so I couldn’t get in touch with him. Arhhh! Panic!!! Why is this happening now?! Why?!!!!

That was the straw that broke this camel’s back and I just wished that I had never left my home in the first place! This was all too much for me.

I know that everyone means well, and shops have lots of attendants so that customers are being effectively served. I know that having my own driver should help me out. But mostly, I feel like this overload of people helping EVERYWHERE (including my own household staff), really does cause a lot of frustration and inefficiency in my life!

So why am I writing this post? Don’t I love Jakarta!? Yes! I still love Jakarta! I am sharing my experience to show that even I have bad days here! Like I have previously stated, every city has its challenges. These were mine for that day. On the plus side, my Baby Wombat got a perfect haircut by Kiddy Cuts Gandaria City. Indonesians are so tender and patient with kids. So it’s not that bad after all… maybe next time I need to have a coffee first and leave my kids at home. It would be far less stressful for me. Lesson learnt.

Ladies that Lunch

I’ve had a very busy social calendar lately. As a mum of three young kids, none of it would have been possible without living in Jakarta; having the support from my household staff, or husband.

I haven’t always been this social. The past six years of my life has been consumed with pregnancies (with hideous morning sickness that lasted the whole time!), breastfeeding ,or zombie states of sleepiness. I have been living in survival mode of parenting young children in two foreign countries. For these reasons, I have only explored baby shops, doctor clinics and a few playgrounds. So I never really experienced all aspects of expat living, until now.

The great thing about having a young family in Jakarta, and other Asian destinations, is the cultural respect towards childbirth and pregnancy. A pregnant woman is sacred. And when she has a newborn baby, her needs and the family’s needs are highly valued. I will write more about this in the future.

I can honestly say that I am so happy that I gave birth to all of my children in Asia. My first two were born in Singapore where I enjoyed five star hospital stays with la carte menus and celebratory cocktail drinks! And then the wonderful offerings of confinement food delivered to my home, with an invaluable live in helper who took care of all my household chores. She also helped with my newborn so that I could get some rest.

And then to Jakarta, where I gave birth to my baby wombat. The hospital, medical staff and whole birthing experience was great (I will post more about this in a later blog).

As an expat, giving birth abroad can be emotional, lonely and scary. I don’t have the support of family and friends from home. So I’ve had to make do with what resources that I do have. Having household staff to help at home is a blessing. I will be eternally grateful for this kind of help with my family.

Now to the flip side, where I am out of that newborn tunnel. I am discovering a new side to Jakarta where I can enjoy it as a true expat housewife! I am starting to attend lunches, balls, shopping (for non baby items!), and the nightlife. And boy, does Jakarta have a nightlife! It’s a city that doesn’t sleep!

I think the best way to enjoy Jakarta is to embrace having household help, give yourself some time away from your family (you’ve earned it) and get out more on your own. Say ‘yes’ to every invitation. Make friends with people that you initially may not think are your kind of people. Join groups that host social events. Call up charities that sound interesting and ask how you can help. Schedule in a regular date night with your husband. Go watch a movie in First Class on your own. Do that hip hop dance class that you’ve always dreamed of doing, or quilting, or karate! What ever it is, just do it! Prioritize your time to do the things that make you happy. This expat parenting thing can be tough and isolating. This city can wear you down if you focus on the hard parts. So you need to be the one who leads your family towards the Expat sunshine. If you’re happy, your joy and enthusiasm will flow through your family, friends and community.

My husband once told me that if he were to be reborn as anything again in his next life, he would choose to be an expat housewife! I am starting to agree on this!

Fall in love with Jakarta with me by following my Instagram series, #amillionthingstodoinjakarta @the_expat_housewife_of_jakarta

The Expat Housewife of Jakarta Instagram

Goodnight Jakarta, We Love You!

Last week hubby and I represented Australia to our school for UN Day. We taught fun facts about our homeland and introduced traditional Aussie food and slangs. Most of this information was new to our own children themselves, who are all born in Asia, and have never even lived in Australia!

Our kids are a beautiful blend of many cultures, derived from their ethnicity (they are Latino / Eurasians), their cultural upbringing (having parents who are Australian) and their surroundings (growing up in Expat Land). They speak 3.5 languages (!) and have a peculiar American/Asian accent, that definitely does not sound Australian!

I sometimes wonder, is this expat upbringing confusing for my children? Am I doing them more harm than good by not raising them in one consistent home and culture?

I always had in my mind that we would be back home once our children were at primary school age. Well that age has come for my eldest son, and we are still happily living in Jakarta. Most times I am so grateful for having the opportunity to raise them in this vibrant and dynamic setting. Other times, I feel like I’m robbing them of a pure Australian childhood. I fear that by not having them in Australia from a young age, my children will not feel a connection to their home country, and will not feel Australian at all.

When I see my Aussie friend’s children on social media, enjoying the typical upbringing that I experienced as a child, I feel homesickness and guilt. Who is happier? A child that grows up in a suburb in Australia with the same childhood friends since Kindy (what I was blessed with)? Or my children who get to travel the world and experience different cultures? I honestly don’t know. And I guess I will never know.

What keeps me going is the reassurance that children are resilient and have the ability to be internally happy with whatever situation they are given.

I currently can’t provide them with the same stable Aussie childhood I experienced but what I can do is keep them grounded in whatever country we are living in. Although Jakarta isn’t our permanent home, I have never stated this to our children because I don’t want them to feel unsettled. I try to be a good role model by falling in love with the country we are living in and making the most of where we are. Acknowledging that every country has negative aspects, and that’s ok. Let’s focus on the positives.

We create our own family traditions a well as maintaining as much of our own childhood and cultural traditions as well.

Finally, I try to teach my children gratitude. Each night, we say goodnight to the city… “Good night stars, good night moon, good night cars, goodnight city lights, goodnight Jakarta. Thank you for a beautiful day. We love you!”

Fall in love with Jakarta with me by following my Instagram series, #amillionthingstodoinjakarta @the_expat_housewife_of_jakarta

The Expat Housewife of Jakarta Instagram