Teach English in Indonesia – the following comments are from English teachers who have taught, or currently teach English in Indonesia.
If you wish to teach English 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.
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 English teachers for Indonesia 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.
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
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.
Working in Indonesia is one of the best experiences of my life. I worked for a great school. 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, 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.
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.
Advice about living in Indonesia? 15 years ago when I first arrived in Indonesia, it was a different 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 aggressive 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 developed 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 aggressive 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 religious 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 swimming 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 before you get in the car. Baby wipes, don’t 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 beggars at stop lights. Keep some coins in your pocket to give to beggars who approach 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!
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 bureaucracy 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 i’m 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.
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 !!!
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 English 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!
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 teaching 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?!
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.
What can I say?! Indonesia; a culture shock but truly an amazing place.
I am a young Irish catholic lady who has been teaching English in EF Bogor. At first when I came to Bogor, I didn’t like it and I was so lost not being to converse with the people. EF set me up and picked me up from airport and put me in a Kos; rental for a month, living with an Indonesian family and a newly-born baby. We all bonded so well and I was accepted as one of them; the family.
However, I suddenly got very sick and had to stop work as I got Typhoid. Not very nice though. The family found it hard to cope with and then after much speculation with them and my school, they helped me to rent a house by myself in Cimanggu. I had to stop working at EF as my body was so weak from being sick over a month or so. I coped by immersing myself in the community with people, conversing in Indonesian with the locals, the neighbors and started to even teach privately at my house most evenings. I taught groups of students and privately.
To be honest, I was enjoying the harmony of this place but my landlord became a nightmare and of course, I felt lonely and alienated especially at the start.
I took a break back to Ireland to reflect on my next step in Indonesia. I have since returned here, to find my landlord had rented out my house without informing me. Nevertheless. I found another Kos home to live in Pajajaran where I stay at moment. Its better for me here now as people are more open-minded I feel, although I miss the peace and tranquility and community in Cimanggu. I am waiting for interviews after Idul-Fitri for Bogor and Jakarta. I have been already invited to have dinner with the wife’s ambassador for the Indonesian Embassy! My luck!!
Fingers crossed for a good offer of work. Any tips welcome :)