Here Thar Be Monsters!

From the other side of the argument to the other side of the planet, read in over 149 countries and 17 languages. We bring you news and opinion with an IndoTex® flavor. Be sure to check out Radio Far Side. Send thoughts and comments to luap.jkt at gmail, and tell all your friends. Sampai jumpa, y'all.



"After a year, ya know pretty much everything you need to live here," my companion said.

I thought for a minute and that was pretty much true. By then, you should know enough of the language and culture to get on with life. You should also have built up enough of a network to be able to call folks for a night out, a connection or advice in a jam.

Jim is a Canadian who's lived in Jakarta for 14 years, gone through a couple of wives, sired a kid or two. He's figured out his niche and does pretty well at it. He's a networking fool, too. He has joined a business club, goes to various ex-pat functions and helps reasonably bright newbies get linked in as part of building his future prospects.

There are about 5,000 westerners living in Indonesia at any given time, most in Jakarta. The vast majority are transfers here working for companies that pay them their regular salary plus hazard pay (Indonesia is considered a hazardous assignment, LOL!) plus free house, car, driver, and domestic staff. Those who don't have "trailer wives" (spouses who move with their husband) will often get a 'contract wife,' a local girl who performs all the functions of a wife in consideration of a generous payment to her family. These guys work here for a year or two, then go home. While here, they live like kings and give westerners a bad name and a reputation for being insanely rich, which makes life somewhat difficult for the rest of us poor joes.

There's a contingent of guys like me, who are living here long-term, having left their home country for various reasons: better health care (!), better women, more opportunity, and so on. Many of the ones I meet have been here past the 10 year mark, speak Indonesian fluently (and usually a couple of other dialects), have married locals and started families, and run their own businesses. They stick together, trading infornation, contacts and opportunities.

"Most start with teaching, but it's a trap if you don't break out," my companion said. "It's a good place to start while you get your sea-legs, as it were," he added. I nodded in agreement.

"The best thing is to get yourself a good lawyer. Here's a card," he offered. "If you set it up right at the beginning, you can avoid a lot of hassle and set some targets. Just makes your life easier in the long run."

Most of the ex-pats I know get married within 6 months of stepping off the plane. In about two years, they regret it because they hadn't learned all the ins and outs yet. My companion has an ex and a current, with whom he is not happy. Another I know is trying to divorce his first after two years. All married Javanese and all wish they had waited longer. They always ask why, after two and a half years, I haven't fallen into the trap yet. Many convert to Islam because they are told that they must in order to marry a muslim girl. It is true that Indonesia doesn't allow marriages between mixed religions, but had they waied, they would have learned that culturally, the woman MUST follow her husband.

Some came and set up PMAs first thing and are now regretting it. A PMA is the only type of company that a foreigner is allowed to wholly own. It is very expensive, highly taxed and closely watched. Other options include a PT, or public corporation, a CV or partnership, and a Yayasan, or non-profit. They must be significantly owned by Indonesians and have varying rules for capitalization.

For those who wait and watch before diving in, there is a fine alternative. Once you have found a good and trustworthy wife (they do exist here), then you set up a corporation together, which then employs you, thus giving you a spouse sponsorship, which is cheaper, and providing a work visa that is more stable far less prone to the vagaries of a third-party employer. If you marry well and trust your spouse, this can be a very lucrative and satisfying route, as well as reducing stress.

A good lawyer can be as important as a good wife. Good legal advice, a well-planned course of action and someone to call in a jam will make your life so much easier. Formulating a good plan of attack with at least two backups would seem like common sense, but we all know that 'common sense' is an oxymoron, right? That approach to life works at home, and is virtually de rigeur when moving abroad independently.

"The biggest mistake bule make here is thinking they are at home," my mate cautioned. "They jump in and fall into the same traps over and over again. I see it all the time," he added, a look for painful memory flashing across his eyes.

When I got off the plane, I had a plan, but I also had two backups. I'm on Plan B now. After two and a half years, I have avoided the first major pitfall, I haven't yet married. It's easy to do. Indonesian women ate nothing like western women. They are polite, submissive, deferential, and all the things bule women have tossed out the window on the road to feminism. However, Indonesian women are conniving and will take advantage of unsuspecting foreigners, and their families are lined up behind them. A bad lawyer will charge you more than Rp.40,000,000, and drag things through the courts for ages. A good one will charge you Rp.2,000,000, and hand you a form letter to fill in the blanks and mail to the estranged spouse.

Nothing like a little education and planning before you dive. There's a lot of rocks below and good aim will reduce the chance of injury.

Ex-pat and transnational living can be very rewarding for those with a little intestinal fortitude, a good plan and the discipline to wait a while before jumping in to unknown waters.

Full sails and smooth seas!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave your own view of The Far Side.