Bule living in middle class neighbourhood experience

Magnum92

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If I move to Indonesia, I would live in a middle class neighbourhood that looks like in the pictures below.

I spent one month in this neighbourhood when I visited Indonesia to meet my girlfriend there. It’s a calm and quiet neighbourhood with little traffic and the streets were only busy during the evening when people got home from work.

I had no problems there and the people on the street were nice to me. I also did not feel observed by them, only a little bit but I think thats normal because I’m foreigner. Overall I felt very comfortable there and this is one of the reasons why I consider moving there.

But my thought is how will it be if I rent a house there and really live there?
I read here often that Indonesian people tend to be very curious and interested in privat affairs.

Maybe some of you have been through this experience and can tell a little bit.

What to expect as a westerner and what are going to be the challenges?
 

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HappyMan

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Your experience will be determined by your level of interactions with the neighborhood.

If you are going to hang out and be chatty with people who like to hang out and be chatty, you can fully expect all the neighbors who enjoy a bit of gossip to know who you are within two months, if not sooner. Once people "know you", then they feel free to share their insights and opinions, teach you about how things are done here...

The other option is to maintain yourself as an island or close to it. No nosy neighbors but also no helpful neighbors.

I'd add that I think this effect is amplified in many neighborhoods here, as people attend religious functions in the local mosque. It means everyone has a chance to connect with each other, whereas in the States my neighbors and I might not have ever been in the same room, unless we actively sought out the contact.

Tl:dr people here take the license you give them, plus 50% (from my western perspective).
 

Helpful Herbert

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I live in an area like that and everything is fine. Don't often interact with the neighbours, but I do occasionally, such as playing football on the street with the kids or taking part in 17 august activities. We even invited some round for kids' birthday parties (remember them?).

No other bule lives in my area, and no-one will bother you, although always good to smile at people.

Pak RT is the key person for coordinating neighbourhood events, issues, complaints, fundraising etc. Also he helps with various documents you need.

If your wife gets very friendly with neighbours then maybe they will search for gossip about you. I guess being married is important too these days.

Personally I much prefer it to living in a block of flats. I like how there are always tradesmen passing by too.

My two complaints are usually 1) mosque loudspeakers 2) security people banging the gate at 1am 2am etc. I complain to pak RT quite a lot about the second one.
 

jukung11

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I would call this middle class for Indonesia, especially outside of Jakarta. I get a little tired of when I talk with Indonesians and they talk about middle class from a western standard and don't realize the income to afford that is the upper class of Indonesia. The median income in Indonesia is $180 per month. That by definition is the middle.

I also did not feel observed by them, only a little bit but I think thats normal because I’m foreigner.

When you learn the language more, you will notice it more. Most of Indonesia is a direct conflict avoidance culture. The neighbors talk about you, not too you as much. Outside of Jakarta and Bali, only a small portion of the population will speak English and almost no German. I remember my first time in Surabaya, which is the second largest city in Indonesia. I got lost a few times and tried dealing with cabs. I could barely interact with most people. Most of the people that could speak English were usually the younger crowd that were educated. It was helpful because they were coming up to me for free English language interaction anyway. I couldn't even speak with most of the people in the larger malls. It is a world of difference once you get better at the language.

If this is a quiet kampung a foriegner staying there was probably one of the more exciting things to talk about. Not a lot of bule stay in rural areas outside of Jakarta and Bali. I would bet everyone knew who you were there and everything about you. Did you stay with your future spouse while unmarried? Are you muslim? How old are you? Where are you from? Who are you here to see? Are you getting married? What do you do for money? Are you rich? A lot to talk about.

If you connect with local social media, you may find mention of you too. Indonesia is a much more socially connected society. Indonesia is one of the highest users of social media in the world. It is over 3-3.5 hours per day vs. Germany at just over 1 hour. This has been a problem in Indonesia. Because of the kepo nature of the culture, false information can more easily spread and be believed by social media compared to other cultures. I bet there was a few WhatsApp conversations about you.

You can easilly ignore most of this. Most of the time, it will have little impact on your life. Just realize you can't stop it.

There are plenty of posts over the years about various neighbor disputes, but those can happen everywhere. Get to know the local Pak Rukun Tetangga (RT). He is the most basic level of politician for a neighborhood. His job is for basic civil population government functions and to resolve disputes.
 

gemima

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What to expect as a westerner and what are going to be the challenges?
Everyone has mentioned the gossip part!
There is some other more practical stuff to be concerned about - housing quality varies considerably so if you are renting a house you'll need to check that out (does the roof leak in a heavy downpour for instance)
Check the water quality...does the well run dry regularly?
Does it flood in the area?
Check the power supply to the house - there are different supply types and some are really low meaning you cant run high draining electrical items at the same time.
Rental can be nuts here - the only place I've ever lived where you need to pay 1 year up front, this is changing in recent years but many landlords still want to keep it like that.

Note - I have just heard people complaining about this type of thing since I moved here - I avoided all the house issues by living in an apartment building full of foreigners (boring but as a woman living here solo much of the time I appreciate the safety).

Where are you going to work? Is it far away? traffic is a flipping nightmare. I recommend you live as near as possible to where you/ your future wife works.
Oh, and being close to your wife's family could be nice but maybe you don't want to be too close at the same time (so they need to arrange visits rather than just walking in...but you know their habits better than any of us).
 

Magnum92

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Where are you going to work?

As for now, my future spouse and me plan to operate a home business and freelance online work.

Since I'm a foreigner I would be in a grey area with my business, the fact that the neighbours are so curious does not amuse me.
 

HappyMan

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As for now, my future spouse and me plan to operate a home business and freelance online work.

Since I'm a foreigner I would be in a grey area with my business, the fact that the neighbours are so curious does not amuse me.
Ya know, nosey, opinionated, neighbors is probably the only place where I have appreciated the hierarchical parts of the Indonesian social structure... kind of. While there is nothing you can do to stop people from randomly gossiping about you, you can easily stop them from gossiping at you.
Calmly telling someone that you think their questions are rude and inappropriate almost always works to get them to leave you in peace.
Obviously, this would also work most of the time in the West, but the difference is that your status(somehow boosted by birth) and the Indonesian dislike of confrontation (huge generalization) combine to have the person just accept this and leave without a huge fight. They will still think you an ass, but the high handed behavior will be better received than it would abroad, in my opinion.

I'm not a fan of confrontation myself, but my language skills in Indonesian are not so good as they are in English. So, I have to take the direct approach when I am fresh out of tolerance. I suppose it is a bit like typing things into the forum here, so much is lost to the medium that you have to be rather more blunt than you would face to face in your native tongue.

Just to add a bit of context, I have had people I didn't really know ask me: if my wife married me for money, if I married my wife so I could buy land here, whether prostitutes in Indonesia were better than American ones, how often I get drunk, various questions about religion, all sorts of questions about my personal finances, etc. At least the first three were clearly out of line and the last two I would openly discuss with actual friends, were they open to discussion of the same.
 

centurion

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The biggest challenges will be sewage smell and low-octane-fuel smell from motorbikes, pollution in general and dengue mosquitoes. For rats, it is advisable to have a good alpha-cat with territorial instincts. It helped me at the time.

Houses are usually dark. A power-hungry RT could be a problem. For some documents, I had to engage the Lurah as the RT was not cooperative. After one year, my first year of stay in Indonesia, we moved into an apartment building.
 

Wisnu

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I always tell people that I married Ibu for her money. Usually I get a confused look, or a chuckle.

“Suami bankrut, Ibu bayar”.
Reminds me, 20 years ago, a bule - good friend of mine - married a wealthy businesswoman, five years older than him.
A lot of friends were talking about him. One day he came to me and asked, what is "mokondo"
I can only say - don't worry, it's something to be proud of.
The next day when I saw him again, he pointed his middle finger at me.
 

Dharma Police

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Live in an apartment, and you'll never deal with nosey neighbors. What to expect: things move slower here, such as anything administrative. Assuming you'll move to Jakarta, the traffic crawls most times. People are generally really laid-back when it comes to punctuality, to the point that you might see it as rudeness, but it's just the culture. All I will say is, thank god for smartphones. There was a time when all I had was the game of "Snake" waiting on people, if I forgot to bring a book.

As a westerner, you'll likely face a lot of challenges being perceived as someone with money. It doesn't matter if you're frugal, or actually broke. Fact is, you have more money than the poor. If you get a maid or driver (or both) expect to get asked for pay advances and 0% interest cash loans. The good thing is, you can just deduct it from their next pay. I almost never get asked for cash donations, except when my driver's father fell ill, or when his family's house needed emergency repairs. I was generous with this one time, and told him he's welcome to ask for overtime, but that I'll no longer give cash gifts. Otherwise it'll never end.

This challenge may extend to friendships that you develop. The simple solution is to always have cash on you so you can cover your part of the bill when going out. I personally stopped loaning money to friends. I only give cash gifts in amounts I won't miss.

I can go on, but I don't want to be longwinded and sound negative. If you want to know about the opportunities, I could go on and on but that's not the topic at hand.
 

Nimbus

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Reminds me, 20 years ago, a bule - good friend of mine - married a wealthy businesswoman, five years older than him.
A lot of friends were talking about him. One day he came to me and asked, what is "mokondo"
I can only say - don't worry, it's something to be proud of.
The next day when I saw him again, he pointed his middle finger at me.
The middle finger is an accurate representation of mokondo, I wonder how he learned about it.
 

Nimbus

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That is middle class in Jakarta, although it is typically above the median income. I believe working class people in Jakarta mostly rent rumah petak or flats.

Many good suggestions have been shared, so I’m only adding one: find an area that’s not prone to flooding. It’s not fun to lose most of your furnitures and all of your electronics when it floods up to your neck.
 

Dharma Police

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That is middle class in Jakarta, although it is typically above the median income. I believe working class people in Jakarta mostly rent rumah petak or flats.

Many good suggestions have been shared, so I’m only adding one: find an area that’s not prone to flooding. It’s not fun to lose most of your furnitures and all of your electronics when it floods up to your neck.
It looks similar to the neighborhood I lived in in Semarang.

A lot of Indonesians live modestly as far as their home and car, but when you get to know them you quickly see that they're swimming in it. My friend in Semarang kept a very low profile, decent house and Pajero, but would take his family on month-long annual Christmas trips that'd make movie stars' holidays pale in comparison.
 

Methblinkz

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Usually there are no big problems in such areas. I lived in a kampung before, with poor to middle class people and never had any problem. Sure the people are curious, but they always are(ik an apartment tower or super high class neighborhood probably less, yeah but also not totally NOT from my experience). If you plan to take your distance that is as fine as if you plan to have a bigger relationship with your neigbhours.
People are e always curious, no matter where in Indonesia. "Gosip" is also normal.
Just be friendly and respectful and it should be ok. As long as all of you feel safe there it shouldn't be a problem and it is quite interesting, cause that is more like the real experience if you care for it.

And yeah, from my experience that is a middle class neighborhood. Not upper middle class, but middle class.

Ps: i would say it also depends on your wife. Indonesian people are easy to chit chat with everyone, so if she is really talkative you will probably have more neighbors around than you maybe wish for.

Like other people mentioned you also have to check carefully for the condition of the house. The overall quality can't be compared to many European places, even more expensive houses often leave something to wish for.
 
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Nimbus

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It looks similar to the neighborhood I lived in in Semarang.

A lot of Indonesians live modestly as far as their home and car, but when you get to know them you quickly see that they're swimming in it. My friend in Semarang kept a very low profile, decent house and Pajero, but would take his family on month-long annual Christmas trips that'd make movie stars' holidays pale in comparison.
These days it’s not a bad idea to live in an outwardly modest home. While Jakarta seems to be safer than the past, house burglary and robbery are still common.
 

Helpful Herbert

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Bule living in middle class neighbourhood experience​


Here is one experience that I would have never got if I was still in an apartment. During the Ahok election in 2017 they put a polling station in our garage. A guy from the army slept on the floor next to the ballot box the night before. On election day there was this whole system of queuing and punching paper, dipping ink etc. in different parts of our front garden. When it came to the count, the voting papers were opened one by one and scores chalked up on a board, and as Anies inched ahead, certain members of the crowd who had come to watch the count started to cheer whenever he got a vote. The others, who wanted Ahok to win, were I guess too embarrassed to cheer when he won a vote since it was clear many of the neighbours regarded it as an "Islam vs the rest" election. It was all good-natured but by the end, having seen the character of some of the neighbours I decided our garage would not be used for this purpose any more, and we refused the request to do it for the Jokowi 2019 election. I did find the whole thing fascinating though, and a bit of a window into life in the country.
 

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