Living and Working in Indonesia
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Indonesia is divided into 33 provinces, each administered by a Governor. Jakarta is the capital of the Republic of Indonesia and is the center of government and economic activity. It has a population of over 8 million, although if the surrounding areas are taken into account the total would be well over 12 million.
Indonesia is a string of more than 17,000 islands that stretches 5,150 kms from west to east and 1,770 kms from north to south along the equator. It is inhabited by more than 220 million people, roughly 3 percent of the global population, from 336 ethnic groups, speaking about 250 different languages, but possesses one national language, Bahasa Indonesia. The majority of the people live in Java (nearly two-thirds of the nation’s population), Sumatra, Bali, and Madura – with the largest islands of Kalimantan (the major part of the island of Borneo), Sulawesi (formerly the Celebes), and Irian Jaya/Papua (the western part of New Guinea) being more sparsely populated. Indonesia is rural country; there is some urban overcrowding, particularly in Jakarta, which has rapidly growing population. Indonesia is a land of endless diversity and variety. It is a thousand worlds within a world.
Indonesia is one of the ten biggest oil-producing countries although it is a net importer of crude. It ranks first in the exportation of liquefied natural gas (most of which goes to Japan); and it has vast timber forests, gold, rubber, tin and coffee. Its natural resources surpass those of Japan, Korea, Taiwan or India.
The country has also made gains on the diplomatic front. Despite controversies over human rights issues and labor practices, Indonesia has managed to strengthen relations with its key neighbors and allies, including the United States and Australia.
The history of civilization in the archipelago dates from the Sriwijaya Empire in the seventh century, when Indonesia was famous as a seat of learning. Indonesia is rich in history and culture. One of the earliest homo sapiens, the remains of Java Man, was unearthed in Indonesia. In the modern sense, as a nation, Indonesia is a young country, having only declared dependence from Dutch in 1945. Indonesia is pursuing the development of its political, social and economic institutions in keeping with an official ideology called Pancasila (Five Principals) affirming belief in God, humanitarianism, national unity, democracy, and social justice.
The people of Indonesia are predominantly Malay, the inhabitants of Irian Jaya are Papuan; in eastern Indonesia, the people of Moluccas and Halmaheras are a blend of the two. The official language, Bahasa Indonesia, is a variation of Malay. English is spoken by most educated Indonesians. Dutch is still spoken by many Indonesians who were born prior to 1950.
Indonesia’s motto is “Bhineka Tunggal Ika”, which means “unity in diversity”. When they declared independence from the Netherlands in 1945, the Indonesians had little more than a mercantile empire in common, the Netherlands East Indies. They were separated by culture and by some 300 ethnic groups speaking more than 200 distinct languages.
The climate is tropical with high humidity, slight changes in temperature and heavy rainfall. Except at higher elevations temperatures generally range from 23 to 34 degrees Celsius. Humidity is between 60% and 98%.
Rainfall in Java is heaviest between the months of November and February. Driest periods are from June to September.
Because the country lies across the equator, the length of day and night throughout Indonesia remains constant throughout the year, with sunrise at around 6 A.M. and sunset at around 6 P.M.
Indonesia is divided into three time zones:
- Western Indonesia time (Sumatra, Java, West and Central Kalimantan) is GMT+7;
- Central Indonesia Time (Bali, South and East Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara) is GMT+8;
- East Indonesia Time (Maluku and Papua) is GMT+9.
Culture and Traditions
The population is predominantly Muslim, but there are also many Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus.
Pork is forbidden to Muslims and beef to Hindus. Many Muslims do not drink alcohol. During the fasting month, Muslims will not eat during the day, i.e. from about 0400 to about 1830 hours.
Indonesians are very polite. Handshaking is customary both for men and women on introduction and greeting. Smiling is a national characteristic. The use of the left hand to give or receive is taboo. Also, crooking your finger to call someone is considered impolite.
Places of worship are open to all, however for mosques and temples, permission should be requested before entering, particularly when ceremonies are in progress. Please respect all local customs.
There are active cultural groups in the community, both Indonesian and international. The National Museum has outstanding ethnographic and ceramic collections. Local clubs provide opportunities for squash, badminton, tennis, swimming, and golf. There is an active softball league for men and women, a local branch of the Hash House Harriers and Harriets (a cross country running social group), rugby clubs, soccer clubs, and cricket clubs. The Jakarta Players Theater Group offers several productions throughout the year for those with an acting flair. There are expat associations, which have gatherings periodically. Two resort areas – Thousand islands and West Java are weekend escapes for expatriates and the growing urban middle class. The Thousand islands, less than two hours by high speed ferry from Jakarta, offer excellent snorkeling, scuba diving, wind surfing and sailing.
Bogor and Jakarta are closed by and shared many activities. The most famous place in Bogor is its Kebun Raya / Botanical Garden. One of the oldest of its kind in the world this botanical garden was conceived at the order of Sir Stamford Raffles and officially opened in 1817. It is strategically located in the central of the town and is crowded on the weekends with visitors. Bogor also has a local branch of the Hash House Harriers, which gather every Tuesday.
What to wear
Dress is normally casual and light cotton clothing is advisable. Smart trousers and shirts (with tie as an option) are generally considered appropriate for men at work. A jacket/suit with a tie is required for formal occasions or when making official calls. For receptions, dinners etc Indonesian men usually wear long sleeve batik shirts or suits. Women generally wear short sleeve cotton dresses during the daytime or cotton shirts and blouses with skirts. Sleeveless dresses are not suitable for office wear. For formal meetings suits or smart dresses are worn. Long dresses are rarely worn.
For travel to mountain areas, a light sweater or jacket is useful.
Although Indonesia is a relatively liberal Asian country and you will see many people wearing fashions much like their counterparts in a European city, skimpy clothing, backless dresses, halter tops and shorts are frowned upon in most places except around sports facilities or on the beach.
Long distance calls within Indonesia are by direct dial. International Direct Dial (IDD) systems are available from major cities and almost all hotels have this service in their guestrooms. International calls from Indonesia are generally expensive. Much of the country is now covered by mobile phone networks and mobile phones can be used reliably. The international access codes are 001, 007 or 008.
Internet and facsimile services are available in offices and hotels in major cities. Growing numbers of hotels, shopping malls in major cities also support WI-FI connection. Postal services are becoming less reliable.
The tropical climate of Indonesia has a dry season from May until September and a rainy season from October until April. The daytime temperature is usually around 30 degrees Celsius and the humidity is very high. Living in this environment, you should take a number of medical and hygienic precautions. Check with your family doctor or a specialist in tropical medicine regarding necessary immunizations and prophylactic drugs. Practices differ in various countries and recommendations change.
The Indonesian staple food is rice steamed, boiled or fried. Some accompanying dishes can be pepper hot (pedas) big red peppers or small green chilies so do check before ordering. There are many restaurants specializing in European, Japanese and Chinese cuisine. A variety of beverages are available everywhere including good, modestly priced Indonesian beer. Wines and spirits are generally very expensive.
Avoid indiscriminate sampling from noodle stalls and markets. Select one of the better known places, frequented by locals and clean in appearance. Eat only freshly prepared cooked or fried foods served hot. Eating raw meat and seafood involves high and unnecessary risks. Avoid produce that has not been peeled. Drink only boiled or bottled water, avoid ice from small shops. “Aqua” water coolers can be rented cheaply for use in the home.
In general, food prices range from slightly lower to slightly higher than in the U.S., depending on the proportion of imported goods purchased. There are many good and reasonably priced restaurants in Jakarta–local ones, where you will find only native dishes, as well as restaurants that offer the finest international cuisine. Bogor has less selection of restaurants, which serve Indonesian as well as international cuisine.
Springs contribute most of the drinking water in the city of Bogor. As these springs do not provide enough water for the entire city, the spring water is partly mixed with purified river water. A well-equipped laboratory and adequately trained staff secure a permanent control of the water quality during production and in the waterworks. Upon leaving the production plant, the water is potable. However, defects in the pipes transporting the water to your home may result in some pollution. Therefore it is necessary to boil the water. Bottled spring water, readily available, is advisable for drinking.