Country info and advice - Indonesia
The following comments are from teachers who have worked, or are currently working, in Indonesia. If you are a teacher and have some advice about Indonesia, please share here.
If you wish to teach in Indonesia just make sure all accommodation, and sponsorship is seriously taken
care of. You must have all documents required by the Government, if not, you'll
be uneasy, thinking that you'll be arrested for working illegally. Before you
decide in which place you wish to work, you should double check the sponsors or
the employers. Are they reputable and reliable?
Can they give you the best place to work? You can ask them to arrange everything
you need as a foreign teacher; accommodation and round trip tickets to Singapore
if you need to extend your visa. Most Indonesian people, especially in big
cities like Jakarta or Surabaya are hospitable to expatriates. The national
language, Bahasa Indonesia and local customs are easy to learn.
Kunti 18 April 2006
I have been working on dodgy papers since last September and may return with similar in a couple of months
but I am an "old dog" and agree with Kunti - a lot of westerners are insecure
and would not cope with my situation. The upside for me is that I get paid more!
Small town Indonesia can be tiring (small town might include the third biggest
city!) they seldom let you forget that you are an alien (friendly? not really -
lack of respect. They would not dream of shouting out to their countrymen unless
they knew them. It can be similar to the unwanted attention given to zoo
animals). The usual pay is low - forget "good local salary" or similar. If
genuinely qualified and with a little experience signing for 12 months they will
(or should) kiss your feet. Recruiting halfway decent teachers for Indo is hard.
If you are the-real-thing, hold out for a good deal. Single housing and 8
million a month is good for most places here. Another drawback is that - as they
have trouble recruiting here/therefore cannot be too choosy - some of your
western colleagues may be people who came here because they cannot cope with
life back home! (who am I to speak? Well, at least I remember that I was nobody
special back home so I do not become special just by sitting in an ex-pat bar
drinking beer with other ex-pats and "tame" locals). Cynical? You bet! Looking
forward to a couple of months in Europe - especially some quiet and not being an
alien. Then I will probably get bored with the controlled-safe existence and look forward to returning. Nowhere is perfect.
Siddharta 11 June 2006
Hello to all, I am a Romanian teaching ESL at a school in Surabaya. I am not sure if I just got lucky, but I
am really enjoying my stay here. Salary is not too high (I am not a native and I
never really bothered to get any certification), but my boss and my principal
are really friendly and professional people. They listen to what I have to say,
give me extra tasks to keep me busy and make sure everything I need gets to me
on time. Weather is beautiful, food is fresh and tasty, people are nice, though,
I admit, completely "Englishless". If you happen to be around Surabaya, please
drop me a few lines and you are sure to get a reply." firstname.lastname@example.org
Lena 30 June 2006
My name is Sebastian Reed. I was born in Australia, and I hold a TESOL certificate which I studied hard for
one month to receive. I decided to teach English to foreigners because I thought
that the world needs more balance, and my sharing my language would give English
to those who didn't get the chance to learn it as easily as I did but would
appreciate it more than me. Well, for some of my students it's true. They live a
much harder life than I ever did and they really deserve my time. For those
students, I often wish I was a better teacher. Then there are the spoilt kids.
My school is not representative of the Indonesian population. Students at my
school are better off and they are often lazy and unhealthy. Motivating them can
be quite tiring because they're so unhealthy. The healthy kids are easier to
teach because they can self-start and they can learn.
Even though my school is relatively clean, the conditions of work are terrible, even compared to a very poor job in Australia. The Indonesian islands aren't furnished with western management principles and comforts.
The local teachers are friendly, yet I feel like an alien and I'm terribly lonely. My wife is a great friend to me, though, and helps me to cope. My wife is Indonesian; nevertheless she can see how lonely I am.
I follow the popular religion here, Islam, and I have no trouble reading it in English and accepting the teachings, yet even so, I feel lonely even when I talk to other people within my religion.
The level of English here is simply so low that I must learn Indonesian or get along with people in other ways (that aren't based on talking), which I do sometimes.
The good news is that it's always warm and there's mountains of tropical fruit available for next to nothing. The rubbish on the streets is disgusting, and I often feel like my city is a city of lost souls, yet life goes on and I hope my contribution helps the Indonesian society to develop. Indonesia is not the blissful peace and harmony that I imagined. It's really a country full of problems and corruption.
I am a legitimate KITAS holder, working in Kalimantan, one of the more remote provinces of Indonesia.
I recommend working in Indonesia. It is a great country. If you're not Islamic, it might be only a temporary stay, but that's up to you. Until more free trade in Asia, by maybe 2015, Indonesia remains desperate for native speaker English teachers.
Sebastian 29 August 2006
Working in Indonesia is one of the best experiences of my life. I worked for EF in Jakarta for one year. Not
only did I get a discount TEFL course before I left, they also paid my flights,
my visa, my travel insurance and electricity etc. I got paid around 7.5 mil and
although I still had to pay rent, I had enough money to live a better life than
I have back home. The school was excellently equipped and the staff were lovely
and friendly. Everything was geared to making it as hassle free as possible. The
students are lovely, but remember, in a fee paying language school such as EF,
you are going to get students from the top end of society. Sometimes they are
lazy, sometimes they don't want to be there. Mostly, they are really friendly
and nice. Grammar is hard hard work for them though. Indonesian is the easiest
language I have come across, with hardly any grammar, so be patient with them.
As for the country, it is beautiful, the food is great, and the flights are
cheap so you can visit lots of places. Yes, people stare at you, yes, everyone
wants to speak to you, yes, it's like being a celebrity, get over it, wave, smile and carry on.
Anonymous 20 June 2007
As with anything, it depends on your attitude. I was able to go to Indonesia with positive energy and I
counted the positive things every day. The negative things kind of melted away
when I realized how many positive experiences there were. Be sure to balance it
against the negative aspects of living back home. As the saying goes: "Attitude
is the difference between ordeal and adventure." Truer words were never spoken.
I'm going back soon for my 3rd year in Bandung, Indonesia's 3rd-largest city on the island of Java. I love it there.
Billy 17 June 2009
Advice about living in Indonesia? 15 years ago when I first arrived in Indonesia, it was a differnt
country to what it is now. Much has changed and I stayed to witness the change
taking place throughout all its events from 1996 to the present day. Like most
foreigners I started my adventure on the island of Bali, being a city boy Bali
was fine for a little while then I moved onto Jakarta. I only lived in these two
places in Indonesia. My advice is to learn Bahasa Indonesia as soon and as
fluent as you can. This is the key to opening the door to what Indonesia is
truly about. I speak Bahasa fluently which the Indonesian people have a mixed
reaction toward. It's that invisible line that once crossed brings the whole
country into a different light.
Do not loan money. Unless it's money that you would normally throw away or burn. As the saying goes no good deed goes unpunished. The street vendors in Bali are without a doubt the worst in any country I have been to in the world. They may seem respectful and nice when they talk to you in English but they are so rude they could teach the French a thing or two in mastering the art of being rude. Also agressive and down right hostile. In Jakarta this is not the case due to money there being much more hard to make, they really appreciate it lots more.
As far as infrastructure goes it's not as developped as Mexico. Best way is to cope and have a good supply of candles. As far as domestic help goes it easier just to do your house chores on your own and send the laundry out, do this to remain sane. Driving. The best defense is an agressive offence or just take a taxi. Motorbikes are fine if you have a extra limb to loose that you normally wouldn't need. Bintang beer and motorbikes don't mix! The food is overall good. Just be careful of where you eat and enjoy !
Never talk about any political or religous matter unless you're from another muslim country or a muslim. Once you think you have seen it all something comes along to top it. Is that guy still swimmimg in the water at Kuta Beach wearing the ski jacket and hat? Beware of "friends of convenience" you will know who they are and there are lots of them. Traffic makes LA seem like a one stop light small town. Always use the toilet b4 u get in the car. Babywipes, dont forget those! Use bottled water to brush teeth! Bring a good supply of books, they will come in useful. Clean every can before you drink from it. If you have any kind of problem don't yell or lose your temper with the locals, they will ignore you. Always lock your doors in the car and don't give to beggers at stop lights. Keep some coins in your pocket to give to beggers who approch you in the street. Rp 500 coins. Also keep a good supply of small notes. Indonesia is a very interesting and special place to live, work and make a life. Have fun, enjoy the culture and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!
Anonymous 10 September 2011
I am an Australian who has been living in Bandung for the last two months and I'm enjoying myself so far.
My transition here has been much smoother than I imagined it would be and I'm
already quite settled and used to the routine of working full time as an English
teacher. The school which I work for is one of the larger employers (I won't
mention the name). They are much better equipped than I thought they'd be and
some of the classrooms even have electronic whiteboards! The school I work for
has been helpful which I attribute largely to the excellent management of our
foreign director of studies. Overall the pay is competitive (about 1000USD a
month) and allows you to have a reasonably comfortable life as long as you don't
take too many luxurious holidays.
The other positive aspects of living here include the low cost of rent (most teachers have their own house), food is good and very accessible for Indonesian standards and transport (angkots) are generally reliable and allow the city to be manageable to get around. Despite a lot of rain I think Bandung has an almost perfect climate. At 800m (higher in Dago hills) it's nice and warm during the day and perfect at night - even a bit chilly in the morning - and best of all limited humidity - as someone who finds it difficult to cope with heat and humidity Bandung is the perfect climate like no other in the country. I wouldn't live anywhere else in Indonesia for this reason. Bandung is also a great city to access parks and hot springs in the nearby surrounds. As with any new place there are also challenges.
With the job I've mostly been frustrated with little things such as often poorly serviced air conditioning in classrooms, lack of some resources and reasonably heavy teaching loads (26 teaching hours plus prep) per week. Outside of work the main challenges include the restrictive beauracracy and corruption, the extremely conservative nature of Indonesians (both culturally and religiously) and problems associated with living in a developing country such as poorly constructed housing (my brand new house leaks already) and infrastructure. I think if you can get over these minor things then living here (Bandung in particular) can be very rewarding. As a first time teacher I am shocked at how incredibly well behaved, enthusiastic and respectful the students are. Overall this outweighs many of the challenges I've listed above.
My last observation of living here is how small the expat community is in Bandung. I think in time when my language skills improve I will hopefully make more local friends. For the time being my social life is restricted to the foreigners that live here. As an Australian I find there is a strong culture of Englishness and this is often difficult to handle when you're already living in an incredibly conservative country. Despite almost all foreigners I've met here to be incredibly friendly and helpful, I'm also feeling a little isolated, particularly as there is only one other Australian teacher currently living here. I feel im quite social and extroverted and as am Australian i think it will take me a little longer to settle here and adapt to the extreme conservatism of locals and the very English culture of foreigners here. Over time when I settle more I hope this changes.
Overall I am glad I've chosen to come to Indonesia and in particular Bandung. I would recommend giving it a try and do your research first. Be aware that once you have arranged a job you will arrive on a tourist visa and it takes some time before you receive your visa (on a paid trip to Singapore). You should also arrive here with a little cash behind you as you have to pay most things 12 months in advance. As Billy stated earlier 'attitude is the difference between adventure and ordeal' Indonesia is definitely a place with it's challenges but I know it will be a great adventure.
Grant 17 November 2011
My name's Sri and I am a principal of a language school in Bandung. My school is a franchise outlet from
a big language institution in Jakarta which has been in this language learning
arena for more than 30 years.
I've read comments on Indonesia from Bill, Sebastian Reed and Grant. They are all very true and honest about how to deal with living in the cities like Bandung and Jakarta. I live in Bandung now but used to live in Jakarta for 15 years. When I was in the head office, I started as a teacher and dealt with lots of native speaker teachers. To me, they are all are fine. Some are very friendly, well-behaved and responsible for the job. Some are just like any other western people in general do not really care of small things yet professional. Basically, it takes two to tanggo. When you deal with Indonesian, make sure you understand what they really want and try to do your best and you'll get something in return. Repetition of instruction would be helpful especially when ordering food at a local restaurant (warungs, etc) as they have very low level English, actions will also be useful (demo). Just try and don't be shy...
Sri Herawati 6 Nov 2012
Really interested in teaching in Indonesia but not sure about the best way to move forward. Some people say go
through a company whilst others say just come over. Any advice from those who
have done it would be greatly appreciated, thanks.
Carl 26 June 2012
Do NOT accept a teaching job in Indonesia unless the school has given you PROOF that they are sponsoring your
KITAS, i.e. work visa. Some so called 'reputable' schools are not at all. They
lie to get you in the country and then they ship you to Singapore or similar to
get you a business visa. What they don't tell you is that an Indonesian BUSINESS
VISA is NOT a WORK VISA. That's why they pay you cash in hand and show you no
record of your gross salary ... they are not paying any taxes on your behalf,
because you are not supposed to be receiving a salary !!!
Anonymous 3 Feb 2013
Bandung is about 200km from Jakarta. The weather here is close to perfect, despite the rather long wet
season. Temperatures, by and large, range between 20 and 30 degrees all year
round. If you are serious about teaching here and want to do it legally (i.e.
NOt being at risk of being deported) make sure the school processes your KITAS.
I cannot emphasize this enough. If you TEACH on a tourist or business visa you
are breaking the law!| Don't be fooled by schools that get you to sign a
contract that does not match your legal status. Schools often give teachers
contracts that are not at all enforceable if you do not have a kitas. On a
business visa you have no right to receive a salary in the first place. Beware!
Anonymous 10 Feb 2013
Don't be fooled by the deliberately vague and misleading information provided to newly arrived
teachers. Schools are saving money by deliberately leaving teachers open to
illegality and therefore deportation or, worse, arrest. This is because teachng
on a tourist or business visa is illegal in Indonesia. Teachers are often told
that their kitas are being "processed", but this is often simply not true and
even teachers that were on a kitas haven't had it renewed at the end of the
year, because the school is unwilling to pay the fee imposed by the Immigration
Dep. This means that they are still working on an expired kitas!! Fancy that?!
Maybe just when your bonus is due?!
Anonymous 10 Feb 2013
There are some great jobs in Indonesia. EF is the flagship brand but there are also many other schools
around. Have a good look around, and try to go there before you agree to work
there. EF does provide stable, steady opportunities that give you good grounding
in working life in Indonesia. Visit www.expatseek.com for job opportunities.
expatseek 17 March 2013
Interesting posts... While it is nice to go round smiling all day calling all white people 'Bules' (same as the Dutch used to do to locals in Jakarta), it's sad to see Indonesians have not progressed to seeing the wrong they do since they claim they where vicimised by the Dutch - yet happy to do the same today to Bules, ironic this behaviour to say the least.
So with advice for working in Indonesia it would be best to wait until they change the law and update the situation with more rights for foreigners to do things like get married and provide for their wife and have a home in their own name. Owning things in Indonesia is a real problem for foreigners as Indonesians are extremely racist in their policies towards foreign workers. For example, I was not allowed to pay tax on my own motorbike and could only register the bike in my Indonesian wife's name... totally sucks the ownership rules in Indonesia and hope that they can update these travesties to basic moral rights.
David 9 April 2013
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