‘Moving Back to Jakarta’ Survival Guide

If you are currently an international student (particularly Indonesian) studying in the states and wondering if you should head home for good straight after college, the answer is no. don’t.

… not until you feel like you are ready to close that chapter of your book. One big mistake that I think I made was coming back home to Jakarta right after college. I mean, I had the whole of America to explore. I never got to experience job hunting in the states, nor did I enjoy what life was like after graduation. The second I graduated, I only had 48 hours to pack my whole life and move back. I left with a heavy heart and til this day, I’ve regretted not staying back. But it’s okay; after all, life’s a grand adventure.

But! I’ve learnt a few things coming back home, and if you’re one of those like me (studied in Singapore half my life, never really lived in or liked the time spent in Jakarta, never could really fit in in local schools in Jakarta), then read on. It’s gonna be tough adjusting back, but damn, you’re gonna change into a whole new person, and hopefully for the better 🙂

Tip 1. Keep yourself busy

When you first come home, you’ll be too busy catching up with friends, going out, lazing around. But hey, don’t wait too long to look for a job. Make subsequent plans right after college. I worked right away and traveled to Europe not long after, I kept myself busy and I kept myself moving immediately. The downside of this is that you think you’re tired, but trust me, when life is a routine (trust me, it will be), you’ll regret not doing things you could do when you have that free time.

Tip 2. Try new things

Remember Jersey Shore had ‘gym, tan, laundry’? Well Jakarta has ‘work, gym, family/significant other’, that’s what life is like living in Indonesia’s most polluted city. Try new things! Always wanted to learn dancing? Do it now. Always wanted to play with stocks? Educate yourself and go for it.

Tip 3. Work. As simple as that.

Try to apply for jobs before you come back for good. Job hunting takes a long time ( I’ve been jobless for 6 months before) and you rotting yourself at home isn’t fun and you’ll feel useless.Job hunting is currently challenging in Jakarta, many fresh grads are paid peanuts compared to the amount of work you do. Those who plan to continue your parents’ business – good, your life is set. Those who are thinking of opening a business in Jakarta – hmm, there’s the market but selling clothes is what every other girl is doing, so think again.

Try to instantly start a job, even if it’s just an internship, immediately after college. I really wished I’d started working before I graduated. I love meeting new people and that’s where you brush your social skills. In a few years time, you’ll hear  and wonder how people meet new people. A common answer is Church. I’m serious, people in Jakarta do meet new people at church and my Singaporean friends can’t believe it because it sounds pretty ridiculous. But yeap, people here do go to church or join church activities to look for their “significant other” if they’re single. Some people are proud of it, I heard my friends say “You want a girl/boyfriend? Go to church/bible study!”. Not sure what’s your take on this but for me, I never agreed on that intention.

Tip 4. Repeat that ‘I’ll be okay’ again and again.

Adjusting is hard to do. But trust me, it’s not impossible and you’ll get there. Be more open about yourself and be nice. Find people who are in the same timezone as you are in terms of their goals, their morals and their upbringing. Remember that your friends should be there to inspire you and not to just be your drunken buddy in the weekends.

Things to expect

  1. Really bad traffic jams which result in inefficiency. Hence, if you end up being really busy, you’d think 24 hours isn’t enough. You’ll rot on the road.
  2. Work here can be really inefficient. People can tend to be really slow. “Oh iya…/Oh saya lupa” is a legit excuse in Jakarta.
  3. Expats who are working here are overpaid; sometimes I see a local employee doing more than their expat boss, but they are paid double, triple. It’s completely unfair, makes you question your whole diploma.
  4. How fake people can be,  how they are only trying to take advantage of you or don’t cherish you enough as a friend if you can’t bring anything into their lives.
  5. How dirty the politics/businesses are.
  6. Married couples here who have another person in their separate lives. Your friend’s dad has a mistress? Yeap, totally normal here and I don’t understand why.

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