Mistakes expats make in Indonesia

Hi guys,
Just been reading through the blogs and after 5 years I can't say I've had too many problems with either the government or local Indonesians generally. A couple of points generally for expats.
1. If you lease or rent a residence- do check the closeness of the nearest mosque. I did learn after signing a 6 month lease in an apartment that the room shook and the windows vibrated at the call to prayers 5 times a day to such an extent as to make the place unliveable. There is noisy and there is LOUD- so check first before signing the lease 😊.
2. Surabaya- fantastic city, great people.
3. Government- take the right paperwork- do your homework and do dress neatly. Shorts and thongs are fine for Kuta but NOT government offices including immigrasi.
4. Immigrasi are NOT the enemy
5. Time here flows like the tide. Be flexible
6. This is not Europe or Australia.
7. Be courteous, and respectful and do learn the language. It helps.
8. Be firm with your handshake- don't break their hand.
9. Be photographed at odd times and places is normal. Not every Indonesian meets foreigners and they do enjoy our presence.
10. The Jakarta Post- even the locals laugh at the articles involving corruption, Facebook and other social apps.
11. If you park your vehicle- identify the parking attendant, pay him the correct amount and DO leave your vehicles handlebars unlocked- they often move vehicles around. He will help you get out when you need to leave.
12. Smile and listen. It will get you a long way.

I love this country, it's people and the lifestyle - wouldn't change it for the world.

Most expat mistakes are down to getting ratty or trying to turn this place into their home country.
The post above this one spells out very nicely how to adapt and remove stress from your life.

Yup careful when selecting a mover for household goods. Thought that engaging a local mover was a good idea. Hell I was wrong.... all lies... claimed to be experts with international destinations. My prized and rare fiberglass resembling elephants 4 chairs and a table fully destroyed. These movers  came to my home and did a hogwash packing and told me when they return to their wharehouse they would reinforce all valuable items with wooden crates. The donkeys told me that all items will be insured Bollocks the shock came when I tried to claim damage from them. All they compensated was a lousy Rp 1.5k for the set that cost me Rp10k real disgusting don't even batter an eye lid with local movers. Most of the other furniture and household items were packed by friends and neighbours with no breakage when shipped over here.
By the way my son's toys and music gadges all used items attracted hefty customs duties at Jakarta Rp7k.
I also paid a ransome of Rp16k to get release of my 2 pet poodles from quarantine on day 2 upon arrival. The place is tick infested, my dogs are house trained and live indoors if outdoors they are hand carried. We don't let them out in the grass if they get ticks, it is almost impossible to rid them off dogs with long fur.
Be cautious also with buying used cars My 2 year old car broke down after 6 months. Not worth the repair cost, I sold the damn thing for half the cost to the same dealer as I am not in the habbit of selling defective items to any car buyer.
Lesson learnt, never be duped by smooth talking half educated people. There are many more disgusting experiences but you will soon discover for yourself.
Believe in your inner voice to stay safe and be cautious of all sellers get black and white before parting with your hard earned cash.
Sorry to sound negative.

same experience, never use any local moving company, 80% of my furnitures are destroyed and I am still struggling with a lawyer to get it replaced. Also stay away from local lawyers, they just making the next round of money out of you. If you use a local company, and things are going wrong, thats your risk, i can tell you stories about using a local lawyer, useless and wasted money.

Hi Mr.Blue Eyes,
Somehow I am relieved. Thought that I was the only one facing problems here. Me too am married to an indonesian and she is a wonderful person. She too is shocked by the way things are going wrong for us. She lived in Malaysia for 22 years with me before returning here to be closer to her parents. We live in the desa which is away from the hustle and bustle of city life. There is not a single person whom speaks English here and am diying to have a conservation with anyone who can.

Yep it's not easy living here or getting used to the way of life and finding things go wrong for absolutely no reason or a reason that makes sense.

I have had bad experiences with health insurance, motor bike credit, supermarkets, banks and the post office, all places you assume wouldn't cause trouble.
But if you work through it and focus on the simple things it works out in the end. Although not with health insurance or the post office but you can't have everything!

ya unfortunately its the reality, foreigners are not welcome here. Foreigners are just good a pokets on legs, as long as they can milk you like a cow, you are welcome, if you close the money flow, you are suddenly and very fast not welcome anymore, the same thing is happen when you start to critic their work, they smile in your face, but the smile is just the cover for the knife which you will immediately feel in your back.
After so many years I am turning my back towards these people here, because I finally saw the real character. So please be careful special in the village you will have no privacy, you as a foreigner are public property and you can't control your life anymore. Just be careful and always be aware: a foreigner has no rights in this country. good luck.

matabiru111 :

ya unfortunately its the reality, foreigners are not welcome here.

I disagree totally.

Some foreigners are very much unwelcome but, if you're friendly and show respect for this wonderful country and the great people who live here, there isn't much by way of a problem.
I've had one Muslim with more extreme views suggest something less than friendly (mostly because he was too narrow minded and stupid to do anything else) and a couple of others who were unpleasant.
Apart from those, a grand total of zero problems in ten years and no issues about being seen as an ATM on legs.
The odd small shop has tried to rip me off and most charge a thousand or so more than is normal, but I'll live with that because they have bugger all and small change doesn't make the slightest bit of difference to me.

However, to qualify that, I know some foreigners have serious problems here but, as I have never had any issues worth much of a mention, I have to conclude it isn't the locals at fault.

After 5 years I still consider myself a newbie and my bahasa often attracts giggles from locals from all walks of life who are soon to correct but also thankful that I'm having a go. I really have not had too many problems and I'm sure that every country has its unsavory types (Australia is no less an example). The biggest problem with over pricing is Kuta but many a bule run into the same problem. In Surabaya I've found goid service for the things I need to get done and many operators do understand the business principle  of "return of service" - delivering what I want to make sure I come back. I noted the comments that we have different rights (less) but that's normal too in our home countries. Finally, can we differentiate between expats, foreigners, bule and tourists? Food for thought- may raise that in a new blog 😊

Finally, can we differentiate between expats, foreigners, bule and tourists? Food for thought- may raise that in a new blog

It isn't us we need to care about, it's the traders.
That goes more so around tourist areas where (Horrible honesty here) there are masses of tourists with loads of cash (by local standards) but very little by way of a clue.
That lot allow massive rip offs because they didn't bother to do the slightest research on the area and seem to assume prices are the same as in Australia/the UK/wherever.
That hits expats as we have to get over to the traders we aren't daft tourists.
Some get ratty and even nasty with the traders, something  totally pointless as there's no gain but enemies to be made.
I've seen expats do it and go away looking stupid, but also making all expats look stupid with them.

My last meeting with such a blithering idiot was in a cinema 21, the expat (bule) in front of me getting seriously stroppy with the dude trying to sell popcorn. The very foolish expat seemed to assume to guy was trying to rip him off but he very clearly wasn't.
Anyway, the fool went away and the look on the lad behind the counter was one of pure dread as he realised another bule was next.
As I'd seen the twit before me and his extremely rude messing about I decided extremely polite and calm was the way to sort out the lad's fears.
I used my best and most polite Indonesian, taking care to apologise because I didn't have the correct change and being generally very nice.
In doing so I took away the stereotype of the evil high handed bule and gave the lad a better thing to remember than the moron who had been before me.
The expat mistake - being high handed and nasty because you have a bit of cash.

You have to realise you're just another dude.

and my bahasa often attracts giggles from locals

I keep being told I speak Indonesian with a posh British accent, much to the amusement of the locals.
I'll get round to lessons one of these days but I can muddle through most conversations and I'm getting better every day.

Expats commonly don't bother to learn a word - a big mistake.

I try to learn a new word every day and my two year old son is bilingual but not a patient trainer. I often see the fear on people's eyes as I move towards the front of any queue but my Aussie littered bahasa is a calming bridge lol and a smile from the cashier means I'm linguistically on the right track. Rude foreigners are frustrating but a quick word in their ear about what they want helps all sides. Life's too short for tantrums at our age. I still think that Indonesia has 4 geographical areas for visitors namely Jakarta, Kuta, Papua and rest of Indonesia lol. All easy to navigate if you do your homework and apply the rules of courtesy and respect. Note I didn't include Aceh here as in my list of areas because the place and people were awesome.

Oh ya i nearly forgot fred will for sure comment. its a real fred logic: to get cheated on, lied to, misued over years its never the fault of the cheater, its never the fault of the liar and its never the fault of the one who is misusing another person. In this country its always the fault of the foreigner, what a weird logic. And of course that my god sister was murdered in this country its not a serioues issue which really matters. And more over its definetely not the fault of the indonesian killer. Freds permanent trivialization of other expats serioues problems and issues with this people here is irrisponsible and bringing expats who searching for the truth about this country in danger. Irrisponsible.

The truth of this country is simple.
Indonesia is generally safe and the people generally welcome most foreigners.
Getting angry is always a mistake.

No the truth is, it is not a safe country. And none is saying that anger is a good thing, but covering up evil with a smile is even worse than showing openely disappointment.

Expat mistake - and a very big one.

Local laws take a very dim view of illegal drugs so what will get you a slap on the wrist in Manchester could very easily get you six years slammed up here.
Illegal drugs are available here but it's a very bad idea to even consider messing about with them.
I know some expats (and tourists) play about with a bit of weed or whatever but it's very easy to find yourself in serious trouble for having even a tiny amount with you.
This policy means all the usual drug related crimes such as muggings or other thefts are minimised as there is nothing to drive the crime rate.
That low crime rate changes in the very few areas where drugs are more common.

Basically - Don't go near illegal drugs.

To my exposure here, there are 2 kinds of foreigners with family here.
Short term - The spoilt ones "C" level, the often refered to as exparts living in Indonesia and connected to their embassy for their every little need. All expenses is paid for by their employers :D
Long term - The foreigners that are married to locals living off pensions or off life savings.  :sosad:
For the long term, it's a cultural shock expecially so when spouse does not prepare you for life here (can't blame, most of us met our wives/husbands in our home land and they have forgotten the tough living conditions and hardly any changes for the better years forward)
I have come to terms that we are living in a 3rd world country and burried the past. As in marriage the saying  "for better or for worse"  :dumbom:

Supadave :

A couple of points generally for expats.

Loved it :)
I'll add a few points, mainly applicable amoung the Sundanese people in & around Bandung:

- If a foreigner asks the Driver of an Angkot (public transportation) the cost of travelling from point A to B, he will almost always over-quote you.
The reason for this, is that he knows you probably come from a country with a MUCH stronger financial currency, that his higher cost will still be VERY cheap for you, and so he has an opportunity to make a profit when you don't know the correct price.
It is better to ask a few locals for the price first, and then just pay the Driver the correct amount when you get off (and smile & say thank you).

- If you put your bag, suitcase, or whatever NEXT TO you on the Angkot seat, you will be expected to pay double (i.e. for 2 people). The same applies if you sit in front and have e.g. a big suitcase or backpack with you.
The reason for this, is that your stuff occupies an extra seat (which the Driver could have made money from), and so he will expect you to pay for that seat.
It is better to put your stuff on your lap or in front of you on the floor, even if everyone has to climb over your stuff getting in & out. The locals are totally used to climbing over each other's stuff on the floor (incl. things like baskets overflowing with vegetables they take to the market).

Because they translate directly from Indonesian into English, some words and instructions will be confusing, for example:
- When you visit them in their homes and they ask you if you LIKE something e.g. watermelon, and you say "Yes" they will send someone to go and buy watermelon for you, as they actually wanted to know whether you WANT watermelon.
- They will ask you if you do not want to OPEN your jacket, when they mean TAKE IT OFF.
- They will say that you can FOLLOW them, when they mean that you can GO WITH them.

- When you visit them in their homes, they will usually within an hour, ask you THREE times whether you have already eaten. I used to become extremely irritated when they asked me the 2nd time, because I thought that they didn't believe or hear me the 1st time when I clearly stated that I have already eaten and are still very full. And when they just brought out food the 3rd time and put it down in front of me (without even asking the 3rd time), I became extremely rude by saying something like "I feel SICK already from all the food everyone shoves down my throat!" (hoping that THAT would be clear enough for them to hear and believe). But all I accomplished was hurting the hosts, making the environment uncomfortable for everyone, and seldom to be invited there again.
I later learnt, that in THEIR culture, it would have been rude to answer the 1st time that you have not yet eaten (even if you are extremely hungry), then depending on how well you know the hosts, you may or may not give an honest answer the 2nd time, but the hosts build in a delay before asking the 3rd time (or just bringing out food and putting it down in front of you, saying that you should eat), them assuming that you will definitely eat something after some time has passed, and it is their honour to make sure that guests never leave their home hungry. And you really don't have to eat it all. They will be perfectly happy if you just eat a little.

@ Zoe-7
Great stuff- would love the chance one day to visit the Bandung area 👍🏻

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