I used to live in Jakarta a couple of years ago. I lived there for 6 months, doing an internship with UNDP. This was my first time to Indonesia and my second time to Asia. But before I’ve only been to tourist places in Thailand, so it doesn’t really count. This meant that I learned a lot about that country and culture, and about myself.

I’ve also kept on visiting since I moved back to Europe, and kept learning lessons about this amazing city. Make sure to read the blog about why you should visit Jakarta.

These are some of the lessons I learned about Jakarta while living there:

None of this is based on facts, just my experiences in an every day life in Jakarta as an expat. 

  • Don’t be on time if when meeting an Indonesian person (except maybe in very official circumstances, with emphasis on maybe). As a Swede, I am always on time, usually even early, this seems to be in most Swedes’ DNAs. In Indonesia, this meant a lot of waiting. Waiting for people showing up for meetings, and waiting for friends. Don’t get me wrong, I get it. I also came late sometimes due to traffic jams.
  • Plan time for traffic jams. I never really had an issue with traffic jams as I could walk to work. But whenever I had to be somewhere on time, and had to go by car, I always planned in some extra time. Hoever, it usually meant that I sat around waiting. But Jakarta traffic can be awful, and I was just lucky. It’s better to expect traffic jams.
  • Bring a sweater or light jacket to hotels and malls. It is often very cold in the bigger, more expensive hotels and western malls, with the AC on full blow. Cold in comparison to outside will say. I learned this the hard way, sitting in an ice cold conference room in a hotel for 10 hours hardly being able to feel my fingers after a while. Trust me, bring something to wear!
  • “Choose” your air. If you can, choose to walk on smaller, less trafficked roads instead of the bigger roads. There is a difference in air quality. On the busiest roads I had so much issues breathing, but there was a clear difference walking on the smaller not so busy roads! 
  • You will be stared at: people in Jakarta will look at you, say hi. Many will want to take a selfie with you. But this is all done with a smile and the warmth only Indonesians can bring. 
  • The western fashion has not arrived in Indonesia: as good you think you’re looking leaving the apartment in your western fashioned outfit, people will look at you as if you looked like a clown. Yes in malls you will see western fashion, and some Indonesians wearing it, but in general, this is not the case.
  • Talking about clothes, Don’t wear anything to revealing: even if some Indonesian people show a lot of skin, as a westerner you will attract even more attention than you already are. And also, more negative attention. Plus in most areas it is highly inappropriate.
  • Read the labels on any skin products before you buy them: as many skin products include whitening ingredients. This is also true for deodorants. Unless you want whiter armpits, make sure to read the labels.
  • Even if you walked passed the same Ojek guy 5 times a day, he will still ask you if you want a ride. 
  • It is hot! And very humid, you will sweat!
  • Tell the taxi driver where you’re going before getting in! Some drivers doesn’t want to drive to certain areas, or if they know it’s a lot of traffic they might not wanna go there. But if you’re already in the taxi they can’t say no (this is only applicable in Bluebird taxies as far as I know, and not all drivers care about this). But to be polite, ask before getting in.

More Indonesia!

Make sure to see our Indonesia page with tips about travel in Indonesia, map and all our blog posts about Indonesia.