We’re originally from France and Belgium. We moved to Jakarta over four years ago with two little kids (then 1 and 3 years old).
We had been living in China for ten years prior to Indonesia and had travelled throughout the region, so we thought we were well-prepared for our next move. The truth is, we weren’t! Here’s what I wish someone had told me:
- Traffic is The Worst
What you’ve heard about Jakarta’s traffic is true and the location of your home will determine how much time all members of your family have to spend in the car. Most families choose to live close to their children’s school – mostly in South Jakarta – rather than near their workplace, but there is no absolute rule.
When looking at options, try to remember that distances don’t mean much in this city, more importantly you’ll want easy access to strategic axis or roads like the overpass or the MRT.
- 1 Year Rental Upfront
The stakes are high when signing a lease as most landlords ask for one, sometimes even two years of rent upfront.
- You’ll Spend A LOT of Time Inside Your Home
Life before Jakarta used to be very spontaneous: we’d grab our bikes and take the kids out for pizza nearby or play in the park. That’s definitely not possible in Jakarta where nice outdoor space is extremely rare (Scientia Park is probably the nicest one), and traffic means every outing requires some planning. As a result, we spend an unusual amount of time inside our home.
Luckily, Jakarta has many housing options: apartments with hotel-like facilities, compound houses with friendly communities, or standalone houses which often have a private pool. Each of them has its own plus and minus, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice from reputable expert relocation consultants such as EMC Indonesia or expat groups on Facebook like “Jakarta Moms Support Group”.
Being able to hire great household help has made a tremendous difference in our lives and it’s not uncommon for expat families to employ several workers such as a driver, gardener, housekeeper, and nanny.
I found the hiring process frustrating but also came to understand how exposed workers were to exploitation. That is why I helped to start www.Kasicare.com, an ethical recruitment platform connecting families and domestic workers. If you have any questions about salary, common practises, contracts, and so forth, we’ve answered all of them here.
Indonesia is an amazing country to explore and even with little kids, there is plenty to see beyond Bali (our favorite destination so far is Labuan Bajo, it’s breathtaking and easily accessible). Going on an exciting trip doesn’t necessarily mean having to fly. There are amazing places to visit that are only a few hours away by car (Portibi Farms in Sukabumi, Bogor), train (Bandung and Lembang), or even by boat (Pulau Macan).
On Making Friends
The “expat bubble” is very real in Jakarta as we tend to spend most of our time at home, inside expat compounds and while our kids attend international schools. There is so much out there and getting out of the expat circle is easy (at least it was pre-COVID-19) such as going to a fun workshop with MauBelajarApa or at Indoestri, explore Jakarta with Jakarta Good Guide, attending a meditation class at the Golden Space, or joining the Jakarta International Choir.
All in all, learning to navigate this city can feel overwhelming in the beginning, but with the right set up and an open-mind, Jakarta is a great place to live.
In fact, if you are interested to know more about making the big move to Jakarta and tips on hiring household staff from another expat family, click here.