Hi guys! Welcome back to the blog!
I hope last week's post gave you a bit of a poetic take on what it can be like for a Bule to live in Jakarta. (Bule* pronounced boo-lay, is a term used by Indonesians to describe Westerners, like myself)
Today I wanted to briefly share the top ten things that make Jakarta, Jakarta (to me).
This will be my first “series” on the blog (So, ya'll get excited!!)
I will list and briefly describe the top ten but go into further detail about each one in the following weeks.
Honestly, I had a hard time narrowing this list down to ten things but I really enjoyed limiting the list to basic, lay of he land things that make up my daily life here. This list is NOT about the differences of worldview, mindset, or mentalities of Indonesians and Americans (although I did make a list of some those things... which I look forward to discussing in another post!)
So without further adieu…here we go:
1. The Weather
Jakarta has two seasons. Rainy season and dry season…. And it is HOT and you will sweat for both…the end.
Ok, Ok, this is probably the one on the list I get most flustered about because three years into living here- I still have not gotten used to the weather! In Jakarta it is hard to escape the heat or the little critters that thrive in the heat, mosquitoes. Jakarta is a crowded place, one of the most “populous urban agglomerations on earth” with an estimated population of over 10 million and I do believe there are the same amount of mosquitos in the whole land. So do come and visit... but if you're the one person who gets bitten from the group, like myself, be ready to put up a fight!
Jakartans spend 22 days in traffic a year. YUP, basically to know Jakarta is to know traffic. You plan your day around it, you work in your car if you will be in it for long periods, you stand amazed at how many people can pack onto one motorbike just outside your car window. The good thing? Some of the best people watching glimpses I have gleaned have been from the passenger seat window. There is always a site to see! And being here long enough, you develop somewhat of a callus to traffic or maybe it just becomes your new normal?
3. Household staff
In Indonesian it is not uncommon to enter a household and find that you have entered in none other than a scene from Downton Abbey.
I Kidd…kind off… at least thats how it can seem to the Western eye! Houses vary with how many staff they hire but it is not uncommon for people to have at least one person who works for them, if not multiple staff. Very common staff could include a housekeeper (pembantu), a driver (b/c did you read what I wrote about the traffic?!), a nanny (sometimes one nanny per child), a cook, a groundskeeper, and maybe even a security guard (satpam) for the front of the house or to guard the complex. I myself have two women who work for our family… I'll go into more detail in a later post!
4. Cultural and Religious Diversity
Most people know that Indonesia is the most populated Muslim country in the world, so there are a lot of Muslims here but that doesn't make it scary. Maybe because I grew up in a Southern state in America, I have found that many people find this fact alarming but I have never felt alarmed by any Muslim I have met here, in fact, its usually quite the opposite, I have always felt welcomed.
I was also surprised upon arriving here to find that there is a strong Chinese Indonesian population in Jakarta. Both Muslim and Chinese cultures are cultures I have not had ample experiences with before moving here but now, I am proud to say, they make up a majority of my friends!
5. Expat Community Living
Last year we moved into an expat community and, while I had my hesitations about this when I first moved to Jakarta because I wanted to immerse myself in the Indonesian culture, I have found that it doesn't have to be either or! I can immerse myself in the Indonesian culture while still having some pretty cool friends from all over the world. Our community is full of friends for Elena and Liam to play with everyday and I have met so many of my mom friends through my daughter's friends. Also, since all of us expats are figuring out this Jakarta life together, I find it brings a sense of camaraderie amongst us that can help you feel not so alone in this ever booming city.
You may be thinking "Really Tatiana? THIS has made your top ten list" and I will respond with a resounding YES.
Massages here are an art form. A literal art form. I am not being dramatic, the masseuses here are doing THE LORD'S work and you can get the best massage of your life from the tiniest woman for a fraction of what you will pay in the US. So I make sure to get a massage whenever I can, if not weekly especially when I was pregnant!
7. Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
I have known people who come to Jakarta and are fluent within the year. I am not one of those people. I have had two babies in the three years we have been here and baby brain is a thing... at least that is what I tell myself so I can sleep better at night. Look, Indonesian is so simple its hard. If that makes no sense to you allow me to explain in a later post, but if you want to get by here it is best to learn some Indonesian!
Indonesia is a mall culture. One of the first things I was able to recognize in this city were
the malls and I still use them as reference points of location. If you need to know where something is you say it's by such and such mall. You head to a mall, grab brunch with a friend, get some work done at a coffee shop and leave with groceries from the grocery store (most likely located in the lower floor of every mall). To know Jakarta is to know its malls and there is one for every class of people and every occasion.
9. Go Jek
Go jek is a magical group of messengers who brave the traffic of the city on their motorbikes in order to bring you anything you want for a small fee of aprox $1 - $2. Groceries, food from a restaurant, your laptop charger you left at a friends place. Ubereats got nothing on these guys! I have had people go to America to come back and tell me how much they missed go-jek while they were away, seriously. Well done Jakarta, these guys are the real MVP's.
10. Crazy Rich Asians
Have you read the book? The first one mentions Jakartans as well as the third one. I have had friends ask if the books were an exaggeration because it is hard for them to think in those categories of wealth. Well, the book may be full of stereotypes but I will say it is true in so many ways. Look, I have many friends from Jakarta who are wealthy- whose families have worked hard and have earned their money so I do not talk about this category lightly but the wealth of people here is something that was a bit shocking to me upon my arrival and being faced with the wealth/povery divide is a big part of living here in Jakarta.
So there you have it folks. My top ten list of things I encounter daily in Jakarta.
This was such a fun list to come up with I can't wait to dive in deeper about each category in future posts.
Come back next week to hear about what its like living in the tropics- am I making a big deal about this or just being a big baby? You decide for yourself! But, in my defense, I may just have to tell you about that one time I counted FOURTY ONE mosquito bites on my body...so until then.
Thanks for visiting!