Catch you later...probably in traffic
It’s been a minute! Let’s just say the Putra family has been quite busy lately and then got introduced to a little friend by the name of Influenza- so it’s been quite the start of the year!
But now that I am fully recovered it’s time to get back on with the series of What Makes Jakarta, Jakarta (to me)!
As for this post. We’re talking traffic… so put on your safety belt and let’s go!
(You see what I did there?)
Jakarta’s traffic is ranked the 12th worst in the world. This is why it is number 2 on my list.
‘It is what it is’ and basically there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. The End. Now onto our next topic! I kidd…
When talking with people who recently moved to Jakarta or who are moving back, traffic is one of the first things they have a hard time adjusting to (or readjusting).
I like to compare getting used to the traffic in Jakarta to the 5 stages of grief.
- Denial ("Traffic doesn’t seem THAT bad here. Plus there is so much to see outside your car
- Anger (“Ok traffic is pretty bad and what is with all the motorist zooming everywhere?
and why did it just take me a whole HOUR to drive 3 miles?! I could have walked faster!)
- Bargaining (“Ok God if You allow traffic to move again and allow us to get off of this God
forsaken street within the next 20 minutes I will LIVE MY LIFE for you!)
- Depression (“Traffic is so bad here and unpredictable and why am I so tired from sitting
in my car for the past hour and a half?! Is this MY LIFE now?)
- Acceptance (Which basically means you leave early, sometimes plan on being late, watch a lot of tv on he road, or get a lot of reading done and/or become an expert in scrolling through social media)
Its just one of those things where you eventually realize I can be angry about being stuck in traffic… or I can just be stuck in traffic and roll with it. Having this attitude about Jakarta traffic may possibly add years back to your life in what you would lose via stressing about traffic… or it could at least add back the 22 days a year you average in Jakarta traffic.
Let me tell you the traffic here is bad… now this is the limited experience of someone who has only lived in Memphis TN and Orlando Florida. I have never lived or even been to Los Angeles which is actually number 1 on the list. But I did poll a few friends from Jakarta who lived in LA for a time and here is what they had to say about traffic in LA vs traffic in Jakarta:
“Traffic in LA only happens mostly during rush hour or is caused by an accident which usually gets to be handled pretty fast. And people still follow rules and lines, plus no motorbikes and you can just exit and stop somewhere to go to the restroom or refuel.
Jkt traffic on the otherhand is none of the above. Traffic happens randomly, too many motorbikes, people dont follow lines and regulations, waze and gmaps time almost always inaccurate, and good luck finding a toilet to pee if we’re stuck in the traffic.”
“Jakarta traffic = a gazillion cars honking, polluted air, stressing out as motorcycles swerve into every little space they can fit in.
LA traffic = still have a view to enjoy, hardly ever in a standstill like in jkt, rules so that we won’t have to worry if a motorcycle is going to be less than an arm’s length away from your car
The poll that listed LA traffic as #1 worst in the world and Jakarta traffic as 12th measured traffic during peak traffic hours (aka rush hour or the time to and from work) and anyone from Jakarta will tell you that traffic here cannot be confined to peak hours! It is its own beast, and it cannot be limited!
So is Jakarta traffic technically worse than the #1 worst traffic city in the world? I don’t know…but does it feed into my everliving need to be dramatic about it? You bettcha!
After having lived here a mere three years here are some of the wisdoms I have gleaned about Jakarta traffic or at least what I would have liked to know about it before I got here!
Traffic is a get out of jail excuse for if someone is late.
You may be on a high horse your first year living in Jakarta and get so angry that a meeting you scheduled at 8:00 begins at 9:15 but is it worth the stress and wrinkles?
Jakarta is an island and it runs on island time so if you need to meet with someone promptly you may need to plan on explicitly stating it... and even then plan to wait around a little bit…Eventually you will live in Jakarta long enough to understand the traffic excuse… and maaayyybbeeee even use it for your own tardiness.
Be proactive about work and schooling locations
If you can live near your office or your kids school the better your life will be. I know some people who spend a MINIMUM two hours a day in traffic to get their kids to and from school. Don’t let that be your life if you can help it!
Plan to Walk!
Jakarta is not really a “walkable city” but it is more walkable than you would think! Outside of our neighborhood (walking distance) is Elena's school, a grocery store (sooo clutch!), a bookstore and a couple of restaurants. Seriously this has made our value of living so much better our past two years here! I would recommend living in a “walkable community” to get some exercise and avoid traffic!
Temper your errand expectations
Don’t expect to knock out a lot of errands in one day. I miss the days when I could head to the grocery store, then to target, then to meet a friend for lunch, maybe swing by the library all in one day-the luxury! In Jakarta I don’t plan running more than three errands a day (and that is a VERY good- tiring- day! Practically I’d even limit myself to two errands) The traffic is unpredictable, it just takes a long time to get to places, not to mention customer service here is preeeetttyyyyy slloooowwww…. But that is another post for another time.
Traffic is TIRING
I’ll never forget how tired I would get after sitting in traffic for hours our first few months here. When we got back home I would think “What the heck I was just in traffic for like an hour and a half, sitting down, not even driving- why am I so tired?!” Traffic is just tiring!
Not to mention many people use taxi's upon first arriving here. Typically taxi drivers speak limited English and rather than offend you by telling you they haven’t a clue where you want them to go, they would rather drive around aimlessly and ask you directional questions along the way. Its tiring in a soul sucking, mentally exhausting, emotional sort of way. So give yourself grace and maybe a half an hour head start until you get a bit more adjusted to the stop and go life. And always have google maps on in the background if you take a taxi.
Expect to spend a lot of times in Malls
Because of traffic Jakartans live their best lives at malls. Malls are like a one stop shop or a perfect place to wait out traffic. I’ll write more of this on a later post but just know traffic very much contributes to Indonesia being a mall culture. It’s also a great place to get things done in big sweeps.
Take a motorcycle
Okay I have only rode a motorcycle three time since living here, very short distances, and have yet to motor my way around the city but I have heard that it can knock a good 30 minutes or more off your travel time. It’s not the safest way to go around and the whole time my catastrophic anxiety peaks and I think about all the potential ways riding a motorcycle could kill me but I guess eventually you live here long enough where waiting in traffic also kills you…only…much more slowly.
So that’s what I got! Hope this gives you a little insight/perspective on what it’s like to live in Jakarta. As always with these posts there is so much more that can be said but I tried to limit it to under a ten minute read!
Stay tuned next week where I go into a bit of detail into the whole hiring a driver situation…or nanny… or cook… because this is Downton Abbey- I mean Jakarta!