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

Jakarta during Ramadan and Hari Raya Idul Fitri

Jakarta is a different city in June and July. Ramadan is the month long of fasting practiced by Muslim Indonesians during dawn to sunset. This year it will be from May 26th to June 25th of June. This period is also the summer holidays for international schools with the school break lasting for approximately two months. Expats like to take advantage of this time by returning home to their country of origin to enjoy the warmer months or go on a family vacation to popular locations like Bali or Singapore.

I find that this is a very quiet time of the year for Jakarta and it’s quite pleasant to be out and about. Whilst many malls will be busy, restaurants are empty during the day (they are very busy at night once break fast has started). Outdoor locations and recreational spots like parks and The Zoo are also quiet so its actually a good time to visit these locations without huge crowds. I also enjoy the simplicity of having a free agenda and no pressure with no school drop offs or playdates to rush to.

The end of Ramadan is Idul Fitri or Lebaran (25th June), the most important day in the Islamic calendar. If you have household staff members working for you, they are entitled to a mandatory two week period of paid leave. Many expats dread this time of the year because all staff members are on holiday simultaneously! Although some staff members may choose to work, the majority will decide to take this time off. It’s like our Christmas and New Year’s eve. This is the week where many workplaces shut down and people are on holiday mode so I think it would be very unfair of us to expect our staff to work during this festive season.

Most Indonesians will return back home to their province and leave the Big Durian for the week. The few days leading up to Idul Fitri is mayhem. This not the time to travel or be on the road! The streets are jam packed with literally 10 million Indonesians on their commute home. The roads are actually quite dangerous and many traffic accidents can occur during this time. I highly recommend to stay away and if you have staff members returning home, allow them the care and courtesy to travel before these few days to avoid the chaos. My nanny spent last year on the road for two days straight, crammed into a tiny bus full of people with no air conditioning and no water! She was terribly ill at the end the journey and she said a few people actually died!

This is when Jakarta becomes a ghost town. The streets are empty, shops are closed and no one is around. This year, we are happily staying in Jakarta once again for the third year running. We really love Jakarta this time of the year! It’s quiet, calm and there is no traffic! It’s our special family time in Jakarta where we wind down and enjoy the simple things in life like lots of television, take away food and pool time! I know many expats are afraid of the idea of staying in Jakarta during this period, fearful of the unknown. Basically, nothing really changes here, except no one is around. The shops only closed for the full day or two during Idul Fitri. Groceries, taxis and other services are readily available as usual afterwards. Tourists spots like The Zoo, Tamin Mini or Ancol are jammed packed with local tourism after Idul Fitri, so I recommend not going to any of these spots unless you like wading through huge crowds! Many Indonesians love to picnic and will use this time of the year to enjoy the outdoors with their family.

I must admit, the thought of having no nanny and maid made me really scared this year because it was so difficult last year to manage it all on our own (the kids were so young then) but I’m now looking forward to reconnecting with my family. It is my opportunity to take away that mother’s guilt that I constantly have for having a nanny in the first place and parent my kids without any outside distractions. The house will be messy. The dishes will be crusty from sitting on the sink for too long, and we’ll probably lounge in our pajamas all day but we’ll soak the stillness of the city together and remain grateful for living in Jakarta.

Below is a helpful website that I found that explains this Indonesian holiday, their traditions and salary requirements quite well  Public Holidays Indonesia

Making Friends in Expat Land

One of the best things for me as a mother with young children is being an expat at the same time. I think that if I were to have my children back in Australia, I would have struggled to make other mummy friends. My best friends had their children a lot younger than than I did, so there would be no playdates with them. I also think its more difficult making friends as an adult outside of work or university. Most women already have their core group of friends from childhood and they are not in the market for new friends. Yes, as a new mother I would have been set up with a local community playgroup but the demographics of that group may not be compatible for me. Also, I think that mothers are simply too busy to make new friends in Australia. They are washing, cleaning, cooking, juggling school runs, and making a living to pay the bills.

As an expat however, its the complete opposite. Especially in Jakarta. The market is saturated with other expat woman who are looking for new friendships! Continue reading

The Advantages of Condo Living in Jakarta

A few days ago I embarked on a life changing event that occurred within the walls of my condo complex. I stepped foot into my gym for the second time since living here (I’ve been here for three years) and joined a “Body Combat” exercise class. I was absolutely blown away by this class! It was challenging, professional, very popular, and so much fun!

This realization has revolutionized my life! I can now exercise without leaving my condo and avoid sitting through the infamous Jakarta traffic!

This little find has once again solidified my decision to live in a condo rather than a stand alone house.  Continue reading

The Expat Soul Sucker

I’ve been silent for a while and the main reason is that I’ve been having an incredibly difficult time in Jakarta. Ever since our return from our vacation in Australia, three months ago, myself and all three kids have continuously been sick. It’s been an endless episode of fevers, coughs, tests, nebulizers, antibiotics and trips to the Doctor.
During my lowest point, when I had a flu and was bed ridden for 5 days, we coincidentally had to fly out of Indonesia to renew our visa. This came at the worst possible time because I felt so weak, was in pain and couldn’t imagine having to fly with three young children as well.
It then got worse with my two youngest kids falling ill when we arrived in Singapore. Miss 2.5 was so sick, the Doctor wanted to hospitalize her! I thought my head was going to explode from the stress! But, like all mothers in this world, my super powers kicked in and I took care of my family. We all finally recovered towards the end of our trip and had a few days of walking around Singapore to enjoy everything that the beautiful island has to offer.
I have to tell the complete truth here. This was the first time that as an expat housewife in Jakarta that I actually didn’t want to return to Jakarta. Having previously lived in Singapore, it just felt like home to me. I met up with old friends and when you are an expat, there really is no better feeling than seeing old friends again. It makes me feel like I belong somewhere and the home sickness goes away. I feel like I’m ‘normal’ to have a friend that I’ve known for a longer time than the term of our current expat assignment.
Singapore was also easy in the sense that I already know the country and how it works. I understand the culture and the system. Know which shops to go to and what food to eat. I knew where we could walk to and where we could play. All of this made me feel so warm and safe. I never feel threatened in Jakarta. That’s not what I mean at all. It just feels natural to be in a city that you’ve already lived in versus the feeling of settling into a new city. Mind you, I’ve been in Jakarta for three years now but I’m still learning my way around this big city!
Every time I move to a new country, as an expat, I get a little bit more exhausted. I feel like I’m diving further away from who I was, (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because I’ve grown so much with this experience) but I feel like the old me is slowly slipping away. It’s hard to explain and I’m trying to process this myself. The only way I can truly explain is that I miss the old me. I miss being in my comfort zone and I miss stability. This expat adventure is so exhilarating but at certain times can also be so soul suckingly challenging.

Happy Expat Wife, Happy Expat Life


It’s the new year and what that usually means for Jakarta, in the world of expats, is that many old friends have left the city to go onto their next assignment (or are sent home) and many new expats will arrive. I have already met so many new faces this year and have seen new families around my condo. One of the things that I really enjoy doing as an expat housewife is helping new fellow expat housewives to assimilate into Jakarta, and make sure they they too, love their time here as much as I do!

The most common questions that I’ve been asked by newbies are, “Why do I love living in Jakarta so much?” and “How have I achieved this level of happiness?” To help answer these questions, I am going to focus my posts on providing advice for new expat housewives into the city. Please bear in mind that this is my personal advice only, highly based on my own personality, preferences and experience.

I am going to focus this post on families that are similar to mine, where there is a working husband and a stay at home expat mother. My first form of advice for any new family moving to Jakarta is to choose the area that you live in very wisely. It can “make or break” your time here and will have a huge impact on whether or not you will be happy with living in Jakarta. Continue reading