How I love Jakarta!

Many people who meet me are alway surprised to hear that I love living in Jakarta so much! Every city has its challenges and I think that the ability for someone to enjoy a city is more about that person, rather than the city itself. I can go on and on about all of the fantastic things that Jakarta has to offer (follow my Instagram @the_expat_housewife_of_jakarta) however, if you’re not ready to love Jakarta and give it a chance, then you may not enjoy the city to its full potential.

So how do you learn to love Jakarta as much as I do?

  1. Firstly, don’t expect Jakarta to be anything like your hometown or your previous postings! I have let go of all expectations and live for now. This may sound harsh, but lower your standards! This is by no means a way of putting down Jakarta. It’s simply saying that as an expat, a guest in someone else’s country, do not walk in here expecting so much! The city doesn’t owe you anything. You need to find the beauty of what it is and be grateful for it’s own uniqueness.
  2. Adjust your lifestyle to this city because it’s not going to work the other way around! Work with what you’ve got and take advice from other expats who have the same expectations, budget and priorities as you do.
  3. Have good friends who you can trust, to share your highs and lows with. They will be your rock in Jakarta. Limit your time with expats who are constantly complaining and are negative about their time here. They will suck you into their hole of misery. Instead, try to find a group of friends who are genuine, uplifting and empowering. Life is too short for bad company.
  4. Do not let traffic deter you from getting out and doing things! Be more flexible with your outings, such as mid week adventures and early mornings. Avoid Indonesian public and school holidays.
  5. Get good household help, even if that means going through staff a couple of times until you find the right fit for your family. And if you don’t, suck it up and take care of your own family/home by yourself…I know, game changer!
  6. One of the BIGGEST CHALLENGES as an expat housewife is maintaining a happy and healthy marriage. Hubby is working late and you’re left feeling lonely, taken for granted, and isolated in a foreign country. Ouch! This one cuts really deep. You miss your husband and his companionship. I think it’s important to make time for each other and schedule in date nights, both on your own and with other couples.
  7. Get out of the city (and country), doing regular trips and staycations. Trust me on this one! This is the key to keeping sane in Jakarta! If your budget or time doesn’t allow for this, it is still possible to drive/train out of town to places like Bogor and feel refreshed!
  8. Don’t take things personally! When things go wrong, just remember that no one is intentionally trying to hurt you! Shit happens everywhere. It’s easy to blame your mishaps and focus your frustrations on Jakarta, but is it the real root of the problem?
  9. Acceptance. This is your life now. You live here now. Accept it.
  10. Finally, the most important point…stay fit, active and healthy in all aspects of your life. Go outside to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air! Keep your emotional health in check by seeing a counsellor. Stop being angry (it is a choice!) and enjoy your adventure in Jakarta!

This is my advice, what do you think?

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

Here I Go Again…

I want to share a common emotional roller coaster ride I’ve been on recently in Jakarta, as an expat mum. My beloved nanny of two years, suddenly quit her job and left immediately, even without saying goodbye to our kids.

She recently had two months off to get married and after returning to work for a couple of weeks, she resigned. (To add to the drama, she’s asked to return again after a few months of quitting!)

Unfortunately in a city like Jakarta, where there are so many nannies available, I find it extremely difficult to keep one employed for long periods. A nanny can unexpectedly resign, with no notice. It’s actually written into a standard work contract here. That a household staff member can resign by simply being absent from work for three days in a row. And no advance notice to the employer is required.

The most common reasons for resignation are marriages, pregnancies, career breaks, and caring of sick relatives. A scary time for employers in Jakarta is during Idul Fitri, where many nannies don’t return back to their employment. It’s a hot topic amongst the mum’s during that season!

My nanny is such a crucial part of our family. Not only is she adored by my children, I also invest so much of my energy and heart with her so that she becomes a surrogate caretaker. So when we are faced with having to find a new one, again, it’s sad and emotionally exhausting. But you know what really upsets me the most in about this situation? The fact that I feel powerless. With the drop of a hat, an important person in my children’s lives can leave and I am the one to pick up the pieces (and pretend it’s ok, I’m ok, for the sake of the children, of course).

This isn’t the first time it’s happened. It always seems to be during the most critical times, like just before the birth of a baby, or illness. Or when things are running smoothly and I think to myself ‘I’m so happy right now, things are going great!’ And then, boom! A nanny quits!

It’s moment like these that I feel so alone, betrayed and helpless. I feel bitter for relying on someone else for help. I feel weak and a failed mum for needing a nanny in the first place.

What I’ve come to realize is that no matter how much I pay or incentivize my nanny, she is in her very own right, her own person. She has no obligation to me or my family, other than to do her job.

This is when I feel extremely guilty as a expat mum for not providing my children with consistent care or a ‘normal’ non expat environment, where they have their extended family or lifelong friends around in their upbringing. People who I don’t have to pay, to help raise my kids. I get extremely envious of my friends back at home, who have aunties, uncles, cousins and grandparents; neighbors and friends, who establish a permanent village.

So here we go again, with a new nanny. She’s quickly adapted into our family. A positive from this all is that my kids have grown resilient to the constant changes.

The other day I thought to myself how happy I with our new nanny, and discovered that she too, will be getting married soon. And I know what that means….


Rinka Perez Gunn

A Million Things To Do in Jakarta

I recently spoke to an Indonesian friend of mine about how great Ancol is for children and was bewildered to discover that he hadn’t visited Ancol since he was a younger child, 20 years ago! He lives in Jakarta and has three kids!

This conversation has inspired me to start a new Instagram series with 1,000,000 different things that expats (and locals) should do and discover in Jakarta. It will be somewhat of a ‘Bucket List’.

Stop making excuses about traffic and go on this wild ride with me!

Follow me @the_expat_housewife_of_jakarta

Mummy’s Night Off – Jakarta’s Night Life Instagram Series

It's the first day of the new school year and after a long, exhausting two months of having my kids at home on school holidays (and no nanny); I am so over anything to do with children!

That's why I am going to start a new Instagram series of venues and fun things for expat housewives in Jakarta. So book your nanny, get a blow wave and join me in discovering this vibrant city!

Follow me @the_expat_housewife_of_jakarta

The Invisible Expat Princess

Once upon a time, in a land, lush, and green; there lived a princess. Like many princesses of her time, this princess didn’t believe in sitting in her tower and waiting for her Prince Charming to appear. So instead, she worked hard, studied, and built her own castle. She embraced her freedom and traveled the world. She danced with frogs on table tops, jumped into the sky and swam with creatures of the ocean. 

During one of her crazy adventures, she collided with her Prince Charming and madly in love, they got married. The prince was suddenly summoned to work in lands, far, far, away; so the princess left her magical kingdom and followed her new prince. This is when a powerful spell was cast upon the princess. As soon as she left her kingdom abode, she became invisible. 

This was a very unique spell because it grew stronger with time. Whenever the princess moved to a new land or had another baby, she disappeared even further. The princess thought that she was being punished for doing something wrong. And so she tried tirelessly to be good. She thought that if she gave more of her self, more of her mind, body, spirit and soul, she could break the spell. It didn’t work and she eventually accepted her fate and lived her life as being unseen…

I recently took a break from Jakarta. With amazing love, and selfless support from my Prince Charming, he forced me out of the door and took care of our children (now this is during Idul Fitri with no nanny or maid! 😱) He gave me space to reconnect with myself and travel to Europe. On. My. Own.

It wasn’t easy for me to leave my family. I had never fathomed a trip away before. I accepted my life and role in our household, and for the most part, I happily embraced it.

The vacation itself had many challenges. I had constant feelings of guilt and sadness. Sadness for being away from my family and guilt for loving every second of it. Sadness for feeling like I’d lost myself. Sadness for feeling guilty for doing things that I loved, and for my own pleasure only. And the biggest sadness of all…is that I had fallen down into such a deep spell of feeling invisible and I accepted this nothingness as being normal.

Well, on this vacation, I let my emotions outpour, felt the highs and lows. I tried to be kind to myself and began to fall in love with myself again.

I did things that I never allowed myself to do at home. Like sleeping in a bed on my own without being interrupted by my kids. Eating a complete meal that I enjoyed, rather than picking on left over scraps from my family. Drinking my coffee while it was hot. Going out and socializing without worrying what time I should get home or whose needs I should tend to in the morning. Talking about myself as an individual person, with no relation to how many children I have, or what job my husband does. Sunbathing. Listening to songs that I liked with explicit swearing. Watching three movies in a row, on my plane ride. Being seen as a person, as me.

Although I can’t say that my journey to self discovery is complete, all of these things definitely helped me to get out of that ‘mummy and wife mode’ that I was stuck in. I felt like I was reappearing in the world again. And the most unbelievable thing happened when I returned home. I felt like my husband and children saw me differently, and I felt a positive shift too. An intangible change that I can’t explain but it definitely has been good for all of us.

One day, a hungry dragon tried to enter into the princess’ castle! The princess quickly leaped up with her sword and fiercely swung it towards the dragon. This scared the dragon away. That night, the princess couldn’t sleep. Something inside of her had awakened. Where did her power and bravery come from? How did the dragon see her? Wasn’t she invisible?

This was the night she realized that there was no spell. She wasn’t invisible! She had chosen to shrink. She was never unseen; she simply stopped slaying dragons and hid behind her prince. She took off her tiara and slipped on her crown. She took a sip of wine, kicked down the door to her castle and walked outside with her sword, ready to fight! And then she lived happily ever after.