Kopi!

“Is it too much to find a place with decent coffee?”  a friend asked on many occasions early on in our posting.

Catch ups would be scheduled at new cafes each month or so and secretly we would both hope that this cafe would be the one!  We were desperately seeking a place to call our “regular”, you know the one place we would always frequent for these much needed catch up sessions.  This went on for a good 18 months.  Where is all the good kopi?!

Over the past 12 months a few new cafes  have opened across the city here and there, and some even close to work and home.    Here are a few recommendations for sourcing a “secangkir kopi yang baik” in South Jakarta that are not Starbucks.

Blumchen Cafe, SCBD. 

A cafe situated close to Gran Lucky supermarket and to Pacif Placa Mall which is handy if you need to pick up a few groceries or treat yourself to some new threads.  The staff are friendly and the cafe offers muffins or a spot of lunch if you’re keen for food too.

Crematology, Kunungan. 

Agro Plaza is my pick as it is a lot quieter than the sister cafe in Senopati and offers more parking.  You may purchase something sweet to accompany your cuppa as well as indulge in a savoury dish for lunch. 

St Ali, Setiabudi. 

An Australian styled cafe that offers coffee to an Australian standard (very good) and a tasty breakfast and lunch menu.  Close to a small IGA type supermarket also. 

Anomali, Setiabudi.

Plenty of comfy chairs and lounges to sit on while enjoying a coffee in the place.  The staff are friendly and the cafe offers a small range of tasty treats to sample along with your order.  Close to a small IGA type supermarket. 

D’Journal, Grand Indonesia Mall. 

A busy cafe with a range of beverages including a delicious nutella shake.  The coffee is good as are the sweet offerings available to complement your coffee.  Friendly staff and a great people watching spot if you can secure a table out the front. 

There are so many cafes about the place, however these suggestions should be enough to get your started 🙂

@aubergine_jelly

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The Expat Experience in Indonesia

The moment I stepped out into the distinctive night air, that is Jakarta, eyes followed me everywhere as I made my way through the bustling stream of people.  As did a gentlemen who rightly detected that I was a tad lost and trying to locate my spouse who was to meet my at the exit and which me back to our new apartment, in this new city, in our new country.  Where the bloody hell is he?  I kept asking myself as I realised that I had no phone coverage to call him.  My new ‘friend’ suggested that I use his phone to call or perhaps follow him to his taxi and he would help me.  As he moved to take my suitcase an assertive and loud ‘no’ did the trick and I was soon left to my own devices.  Just then the crowd parted and my knight finally appeared.  This was my first experience as an expat with all eyes watching me and a situation unfold around me.  It was not to be my last.

Many Western expats, particularly those who look like me with pale skin and blonde hair, will share experiences of being stared at, leered at and having people look into your shopping trolley as they go about their business.  For women, it is especially unnerving.  Here there are no personal boundaries, cultural norms are very different and there is no such thing as keeping a respectful distance.  Men drive this society and for Western women this is a hard pill to swallow and not something I have accepted even after all of these years.  So from a local perspective we look different and behave usually which is definitely worth gawking at. We must look a funny lot as we attempt to assimilate and understand this new normal when we first arrive to Indonesia.  We need to remember that we should try to adapt to our new normal, rather than try to mould the culture and people around us.

The expat experience gets more interesting though – you have suddenly become a VIP in your adopted country.  Treated like royalty almost and its something that I cannot (will not/) become accustomed to.  Raised in a social minded family, my world view is that we should treat others with respect and courtesy regardless of social standing, religious views, sexual orientation, gender and so on.  Not always the reality in a country based on patriarchal and class based society.  Here, we are waved through vehicle security checkpoints due to our diplomatic plates, offered the best tables in restaurants, extended invitations to slight after events and generally extended preferential treatment all round. 

Some expats move in powerful circles and network with important people and soon find that they have drunk the cool aid so to speak.  They start to believe this fairytale existence and buy into this newfound self importance. Some expats grow to love this celebrity and rand become increasingly demanding and entitled which is not a good look, lets be honest.  Perhaps a reality check is needed at this point in time?  That or these expats are setting themselves up for an almighty fall when they return home and they are treated as regular people. 

How do you keep yourself grounded in the expat bubble?

Social Media and the Expat

Many moons ago, I packed a suitcase and headed for the UK, A place close to Manchester to be precise.  This was back in the early 2000s when social media was slightly more than emails – no Facebook or Skype – where staying touch with loved ones back home was reliant upon well timed phone calls and letters. 

Social media has transformed into a wonderful place where we can chat to loved ones face to face online, simply send a text message or instantly update others on where we are and what we are up to.  Further to this expats find that the world of technology offers much in the way of support before even leaving home.  We can now research and network our new home at the click of a button.  Amazing! 

For me, I researched all things “Jakarta” and “Indonesia” as soon as we knew we were relocating.  Womens organisations, expat Facebook groups, things to do, recommendations for cafes, language apps, the list goes on!  The unknown became less of an unknown and this in turn allowed me some control of the situation.  Surfing the web from the comfort of home was ‘safe’.  I didn’t need to know the language to commence researching and I was able to dip my toe into the culture and  investigate what the city had to offer before we had even left home. 

Social media supported me to connect with expats and expat groups already on the ground; experts who provided guidance and encouragement when needed and who offered to be my guide when I arrived.  Small gestures make a huge difference to newcomers.  These Women’s groups host many expat events, post relevant information on their Facebook pages and facilitate networking opportunities for members. Further to this, social media allows one to connect with expats around the globe; a very supportive bunch of people who truly understand the joys and challenges of that present as a result of this lifestyle.  These people who have selflessly shared their own personal experiences and advice with me, a perfect stranger, have proven invaluable to during my time abroad – here is my opportunity to say ‘thank you’. 

Many expat spouses take to blogging in an effort to document their thoughts, feelings and experiences abroad.  A vehicle for good mental health and wellbeing perhaps?  At times these may seem quite dark and at others quite uplifting and surprising.  My blog was created as a means to work through issues about finding myself and finding my way as a former career gal grappling with suddenly not working and not being so busy.  Using this platform has shown me that my experiences are commonplace amongst expat spouses and I realise that I’m not alone if I reach out to others.  Blogging has been quite cathartic and feedback from readers has been very positive and affirming – give it a try!

@aubergine_jelly

Jam karet (rubber time)

In many ways the Indonesian perspective of jam karet is a small reminder that we a living in a country with many different customs, habits, norms and values than those of home. It sho20161020_101341.jpguld be noted that there is no real normal when discussing Indonesian culture due to the vast number of cultures within Indonesian society itself!

Time is flexible in Indonesia This cultural norm of life and time being flexible has been something I have grappled with during our time in Indonesia.  In the western world, being late to appointments or even simple catch ups with friends or family is considered tardy or rude – not so here.  Many times, people are late for appointments or do not show up at all (other times they may show up early) and the reasons given can be quite amusing – tired, hungry, traffic, rain, flat tyre, whatever.  These excuses are deemed acceptable and it is rude to take issue with the person who is ‘late’ which is difficult for expats to deal with.

To cope, we have taken the approach that we wait for an hour or so for repairmen or deliveries and if we need to head out, we do.  Arrangements will be made for besok (tomorrow or thereafter) and the job will get done – eventually.  Fortunately employing a pembantu helps greatly, as she can liaise with these people should they show up in our absence.  No stress, no problem (tidak apa apa).

Jam karet is also about building and maintaining relationships.  Life’s hiccups allow people to stop and connect with others.  If it’s raining why not stop and share a story over coffee with a stranger?  Most homes and shopfronts have chairs out front where people sit and chat to pass the time. Time and patience are a way of life and there’s a beauty to the mindset that we are all connected.  Not such a familiar concept in the West these days.

The idea of time being elastic brings with it a lovely approach in many ways to dealing with life in general.  Why not just go with the flow and make life easy?  Let it go and let it be.  Whilst I will continue to be punctual, my take away from this experience is to not sweat the small stuff and that has to be a valuable life lesson.

@aubergine_jelly

Useful apps for Expats in Jakarta

Below are just a few apps that have been useful for us during our time in Jakarta.  You’ll find many more of your own.

WhatsApp – used by most expats

XE Currency Converter – easy to use & no explanation required

Go-Jek – for all manner of deliveries, cleaning and beauty services

HappyFresh – online groceries and delivery

Uber – similar to taxi service

Eztable – online restaurant and cafe reservations

Google Maps/Waze – handy for travel times and online directions

TripAdvisior – helps to plan things to see and do, recommendations for hotels, restaurants etc

Facebook – connect with other expats and community groups