Expat Living in Yogyakarta
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Teeming with students, Jogja enjoys a relatively slow-paced lifestyle that residents and tourists find endearing. It’s cooler than Jakarta because instead of high rise buildings and cement - mountains, beaches caves and rivers are all around the city. Also known as Indonesia’s primary education center, Jogja is home to a multitude of academies, colleges and universities, including Indonesia’s oldest and largest, Gadjah Mada University and ISI, the arts university.
Yogyakarta is a Special Province, reporting directly to Jakarta rather than to the Central Java government. It stretches roughly from the base of Mt. Merapi to the Indonesian Ocean. North of the city are mountains and nature, while south of town are stormy seas shrouded in legend.
The city, affectionately called “Jogja”, is best known for its cultural attractions. Thanks to nearby ancient Buddhist and Hindu temples and monuments, Jogja is the second largest tourist destination in Indonesia. A smallish university town, Jogja is a delightful mixture of past, present and the future.
About 640,000 in the city of Yogyakarta and 3.55 million people are residents of Yogyakarta Special Province (DIY), with the majority living in small hamlets and villages on the outskirts of the city.
Jogja’s small expatriate community is largely comprised of artists, students, teachers, aid workers and exporters (i.e., furniture, handicrafts and natural fiber handbags). The largest group of foreigners is Dutch, but this can change with the different development projects as they begin.
Opportunities for weekend and family activities abound. (See “Yogyakarta & Central Java Sites” below.) How expats choose to spend their evenings or where they hang out depends largely on their ages and lifestyles. Outside the hotels: for the young and young-at-heart there are many coffee shops serving somewhat average cups of “Java” and desserts, a growing number of “lounges” where alcoholic beverages are served, and one music club, Java Café, that’s popular with Westerners. In the hotels (international chains include Sheraton, Hyatt, Quality and Mercure, among others) are the usual bars and restaurants. Hotels frequently offer special foods, such as barbecue or Mexican food.
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Large houses with western amenities are available in newly-built housing complexes . If you’re looking for something smaller or with a yard, be prepared to search long and hard and then have a renovation budget on hand to upgrade kitchen and bathrooms. Most better quality houses are part of a perumahan (gated community) and they are build wall by wall with very small yards.
Electricity is reliable (220 volts AC), but Jogja is experiencing the same infrastructure overload felt throughout Indonesia and there are occasional power outages. Although still using a six-digit telephone number system, phone service and Internet connections are good, far better than in Bali for example. Some houses are on the city water system; others have wells. A few have both.
Some expats are using Klinik Asia Medika . Dr. Paulus, who speaks English and has several years’ experience treating foreigners in Bali, can arrange medical evacuation to Singapore if the need arises.
There are several other hospitals in Jogja but only three are recommended for expats. For hospital stays: Rumah Sakit Panti Rapih, a private hospital run by Catholics, is clean, has pleasant surroundings, nice nursing service and competent doctors. Offers acupuncture in its integrated medicine department. For emergency service: Rumah Sakit Bethesda, a private hospital run by a Protestant foundation, has the best emergency services. Also offers acupuncture and jamu (herbal medicines) as part of its integrated medicine regime. Prior to Happy Land, the most advanced, modern equipment could be found at Rumah Sakit Sarjito, a public hospital at University of Gadjah Mada. The drawback is that it’s known for poor nursing service, as the nurses are primarily students in training.
Many expats still prefer to go to Jakarta, Singapore, or their home countries for elective care.
Since 1995, Alam Bahasa has given Indonesian language courses to people of various occupations from around the world. Foreigners can learn the Indonesian language (bahasa Indonesia) as well as the Indonesian culture and local language in a home-like atmosphere.
The classroom activities are presented in the frame of the Direct Method, which is based on the Communicative Approach toward language teaching and learning. Using the Direct Method, we help learners to identify concepts and expressions. Thus, they are able to speak as naturally as Indonesian people do. This way, the language items presented are treated as a communication means instead of soul-less linguistic building.
Alam Bahasa provides the language courses not only to be conducted in Yogyakarta, but also in other cities in Indonesia, among others Jakarta, Bogor, Bandung, Bali, Surabaya, Aceh, Sorowako, Manado, Papua and Tapanuli. E-learning has also been preferred by the students to learn the Indonesian language with Alam Bahasa. Please visit Alam Bahasa website and contact us for further information.
Yogyakarta International School
Interfaith services are held every Sunday in the Jogja Plaza Hotel, Jl. Gejayan, at 5:00 pm Services are in English. For more information on the Yogyakarta International Congregation call 0812-27440134, or email [email protected] - or Dito at (0888) 271-1771 or email [email protected]
Catholic mass is held in Panti Rapih Hospital Chapel every Sunday at 5 p.m. Services are in English.
English mass is held at Gereja Hati Santa Perawan Maria Tak Bercela Kumetiran (Gereja Kumetiran) at Jalan Kumetiran No 13 - +62-274-512-817. The parish is located near Malioboro and English mass is open to all persons every Sunday at 7 pm. For more information contact Yosef.
Jogja has several shopping malls with a growing number of internationally branded shops and many local ones. Matahari is the main department store. Shops carrying English language books include Gramedia and Periplus. Periplus in Malioboro Mall has a pleasant café attached.
The clothing found in Jogja shops is primarily sized for small Indonesians. There are a number of penjahit (tailors) who can make clothing to fit any size, but at the onset larger-framed foreigners should bring an ample supply of clothes from home.
With several golf courses nearby and a growing interest in trekking and camping among Indonesians, there are many specialty shops carrying goods aimed at these markets. Footlocker is one of several athletic shoe shops in Jogja, but again, the selection of sizes is geared toward smaller Indonesian feet.
Hypermarkets include Makro on North Rinn Road, Hypermart in Jogja City Mall, Carrefour in Ambarrukmo Plaza. Supermarkets that include Western products include: Hero Supermarket in the basement of Malioboro Malland Giant near Cinema XXI.
A city of students looking for cheap meals, Jogja is filled with lesehan-style eating spots that pop up on the sidewalks just before dusk. Seating is on floor mats, and they serve everything from noodles to steaks. Street musicians often provide impromptu entertainment in exchange for coins. The specialty of Jogja is Gudeg, which is made from young jackfruit and served with egg or chicken.
International and Indonesian cuisine are served in upscale restaurants, particularly in the hotels. Two popular restaurants outside hotels are Gadjah Wong and Gabah. The trend in new restaurants that are opening is definitely towards the world kitchen. You can find Italian restaurants, serving pizzas and pastas. Also, Asia fusion restaurants which mix Javanese dishes and western taste. Go to Jl. Prawirotaman to find more than 10 restaurants to choose from. International fast food outlets include McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut.
Home to Indonesia’s largest university dedicated to the arts, there is always a selection of art exhibitions and dance performances available in Jogja. Several art spaces offer interesting programs for the public. Hours are usually 9 am-12 noon and 5-9 p.m. Exhibitions and discussions are generally free, but there may be a small charge for films. As exhibitions and opening times are continually changing, call for current schedules.
Tennis, swimming and fitness centers are found in large hotels, most payable on a per use basis. Sightseeing is also popular, as are language schools and batik courses. Nearby are river rafting, lava-watching, volcano climbing, trekking, caving and bird watching opportunities. Beaches to the south are not suitable for swimming because of strong undertows but are good for strolling and freshly-caught fish meals cooked to order. The Yogyakarta American Jeep Club holds off-road rallies and there is paragliding near Borobudur. A movie theater complex is under construction and is expected to be completed by the end of 2005. And Jogja’s first bowling alley opened in 2005.
Jogja has two Hash House Harrier groups. Notices of the times and locations of their runs and contacts for the groups are listed in Jogja’s local newspaper, Kedaulatan Rakyat. One group even provides transportation, picking up on Jl. Mangkubumi and delivering to the site, if necessary. Alternatively, simply go to the site of the next run at the stated time and you can register on the spot.
Golf courses suiting a wide variety of skills and time limitations range from the 9-hole beginner course at Hyatt Regency Jogja to the 18-hole Merapi Golf Course, one of the best in the area, used for international tournaments. Others are Adisucipto Golf Club, 18 holes near the Jogja airport; and Tidar Golf Course in Magelang (near Borobudur), 18 holes.
Far more affordable than in western countries, spa and beauty treatments are on practically every expat’s leisure time activity list. Nearly all Jogja and Central Java spas incorporate traditional Javanese massage (with some offering European techniques too) and Javanese lulur, a body scrub once enjoyed only by royalty. Favored are the Hyatt Regency Jogja Spa and the Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa at the Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta. Several of Java’s spas are owned or operated by companies specializing in jamu (traditional herbal beauty concoctions) and feature their products. One of the best known is Martha Tilaar, on Jl. Cendrawasih. Outside of Jogja, Hotel Puri Asri in Magelang also has a spa as does Mesa Stila Spa Retreat & Coffee Plantation near Magelang.
Yogyakarta (Jogja) and Surakarta (Solo) are the centers of classical Javanese culture, kept alive by the patronage of the royal families of the two cities. Gamelan orchestras, sultans’ palaces, graceful dancers, buffalo-hide puppets and batik decorated with spiritual motifs all play important roles in the lives of even the most modern Javanese.
The highlands of Central Java are rich with historical and archeological sites, and more ruins are uncovered each year, usually by farmers plowing their fields. The magnificence of Borobudur monument in Magelang is an unequaled example of Buddhist architecture.
In western Central Java, the cool mists of Dieng Plateau surround silent temple ruins, smoking volcano craters and steaming geothermal energy. In 1891, at Sangiran (near Solo), archaeologists discovered remains of one of mankind’s early ancestors, Java Man. There’s a small museum there housing bones and fossils.
Not largely promoted, but growing in popularity is the “other side” of tourism in the Yogyakarta / Central Java region: early-morning lava watching at Mount Merapi, volcano climbing, caving, river rafting, and bicycling through small villages. The south coast, shrouded in legends of the mystical sea goddess Nyi Roro Kidul, houses beaches where freshly-caught fish are cooked on-site to diners’ specifications. And off the north coast, in the Karimunjawa Islands, PADI certification and scuba diving are relatively undiscovered.
For the less adventurous, Yogyakarta and Central Java Provinces offer a wide range of starred hotels and resorts, spas, golf courses and fine dining. There are many fine language schools in Jogja, attracting students of Bahasa Indonesia or Bahasa Jawa (Java) from around the world.
Education, tourism, foreign aid programs, the arts and exports (i.e. textiles, batik, furniture, natural fiber handbags, hand-rolled cigars) are the primary industries in Jogja. In nearby Kota Gede silver crafted jewelry is created throughout the village.
The nearest American Consulate is in Surabaya. Tel. (62-31) 295-6400.
Honorary Italian Consulate
While it doesn't provide consular services, the French/Indonesian Cultural Center is a program of the French government.
An early version of this page was excerpted, with permission, from “Introducing Indonesia” published by American Women’s Association of Indonesia, Jakarta (1999). Updated in 2005 by Linda Hoffman and Pius Marmanta in 2008 and in 2012 by Sylvain Leroy of Yogya Business.
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Last updated September 15, 2016
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