Raising Expatriate Children in Indonesia
Special Considerations for Kids Growing up as Expats
For some expatriate children living in Indonesia may present a whole new way of life from what they were used to in their home country, yet you may find be able to find/create many similarities to your former lifestyle as well. An advantage to living in Indonesia is that the experience provides a wealth of new cultural opportunities to enjoy and celebrate, both from the host culture and other international communities.
Separation from Family and Friends
Children need special attention in the transition of a move overseas as they leave behind beloved grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends who they may not be able to see until the next yearly home leave. Take care to ensure that you find ways for your children to Keep in Touch with those loved ones left behind. Be aware that children may deal with culture shock in very different ways than their parents. Mood swings, drops in grades at school, and changes in personalities are classic symptoms of culture shock. Talking with your child and sharing what everyone in the family is going through often helps address the issues they are experiencing.
For many expatriate children, their time in Indonesia may be their first exposure to living in a society where their native language is not spoken by everyone around them. Encourage your children to learn the basics of Bahasa Indonesia as it will ease their everyday dealings with shopkeepers, household staff, your driver and other Indonesians they meet. Most international schools offer Bahasa Indonesia courses for children. Your children will also learn, as you will, from their everyday interactions with household staff. Encourage your staff to teach the children Indonesian whenever possible. In most cases, children learn a new language very quickly.
In general children's activities are centered around their schools, the friendships they develop in school and any outside hobbies or interests they have. This is especially true in company camp situations and in cities that have a small expatriate community.
Unless you live in an enclosed housing complex where there are other expatriate children, it may be difficult for children to play with neighbor children due to language limitations. While many children ride bicycles in housing complexes where there is little through traffic, you would not want to encourage your children to ride on most public streets. Your children will most likely have to go by car to visit their friends' homes. Even though friends houses may be located within what would be considered walking distance in your home country, sidewalks are almost non-existent, in very bad condition or occupied by street vendors, so walking is difficult and hot. Going by vehicle is normally considered the safest option.
Many activities are available for expatriate children, including a wide range of sports, music, performing arts, visual arts, and boy/girl scouts. Such activities are generally organized through the international schools as part of the curriculum or by parents or community organizations as extra-curricular activities. Many activities are available through private organizations, e.g., horseback riding and ice-skating. Sports activities include swimming, soccer, basketball, tennis, baseball, cricket, golf and gymnastics. Private lessons are generally much cheaper in Indonesia than in the West, so it might be a great time for your kids to take up a new hobby or sport. Expatriate homes in Indonesia often have a swimming pool, and many have a basketball hoop. Many expatriate families choose to join one of the private sports clubs which offer many sports and recreation facilities geared towards family use. Most of the foreign language churches also have Sunday School and other religious training for children.
The Family Guide to Jakarta is a good resource for further information.
Special Events and Holidays
Children frequently attend or participate in special events organized by expat families and community groups. Birthday parties are held in homes or other public venues and may include clowns or magicians as well as the usual children's party games.
Most expat families find that it is important to maintain significant family traditions and celebrate special occasions associated with their home culture. The pre-Christmas holiday season has a flurry of community activities including Christmas plays, Christmas carols, photographs with Santa Claus, and children can enjoy decorating the house and a Christmas tree just like at home. While the public celebration of Christmas is not as evident as it would be at home, Christmas decorations and music in major department stores is quite common. There are also special Christmas TV programs aired on Christmas day and in the days before and after the holiday.
Chocolate Easter Eggs are available for the traditional Easter egg hunt from specialized supermarkets that cater to expats, as well as from the chocolate/bakery shops in major 5-star hotels. On Halloween children can dress-up in costumes that can be bought in specialized costume shops or made by a local seamstress to go Halloween parties, trick or treating within closed housing complexes or at prearranged homes.
Most current movie releases can be seen at cinemas or by renting VCDs or DVDs. Children often participate in family excursions to the beach or hill resorts or vacations in other destinations in Indonesia or overseas, as well as school excursions, which expose them to Indonesian culture and lifestyles outside Jakarta. In the city of Jakarta there are numerous attractions for children such as Dunia Fantasi amusement park, Sea World aquarium,Taman Mini Indonesia in Miniature Park, the Jakarta Zoo, miniature golf and arcades. After a short drive south from the city to the Puncak area you can visit Taman Safari wildlife safari park which is also a popular family-oriented destination.
Locally made clothes for children are attractive and inexpensive, and there are many toy shops with imported as well as locally made toys, including delightful dolls' houses. Older children will enjoy the excellent buys on international branded clothing at the Factory Outlets.
Game/computer enthusiasts will enjoy the access to a wide range of computer games and software. Both original (legal) and copy (illegal) versions are available which are much cheaper than in more developed countries..
Many expatriate families bring their family pets along on their move, as a long-term separation would cause family members worry. If you do not bring a pet with you, rest assured that there are many domesticated animals which can be purchased here for your children to raise. Special concerns regarding pets are discussed in our article on Pets in Indonesia.
Children in Indonesian Culture
Children are greatly treasured in Indonesian culture and generally they quickly develop a close relationship with household staff who are happy to see to their needs. There is no need for outside babysitters for young children, as live-in staff are always available to look after them when the parents are busy and to provide before and after school care.
There is a group of cloth diapering parents in Indonesia (non-profit) that has a mailing list in yahoogroups (Milis Popok Kain) and a Facebook group (Cloth Diapering Parents Indonesia). The members are also including local brand owners and imported brand distributors (for cloth diapers, of course). If you need information about where to get imported cloth diapers or anything related to cloth diapering in Indonesia, please do not hesitate to contact us!
Living abroad can be a truly mind broadening experience for children, with many new experiences for the family to enjoy together.
For more information on hiring and interaction between expat children and household staff, read Baby-sitters, Nannies and other Child Minders in Indonesia.
Child rearing methods in Indonesia are very different than in other cultures. It may take some time to train your staff as to exactly how you'd like them to treat your children. If your child is in the care of a Care Minder throughout the day, you may want to share our article on Training your Indonesian child minder in the developmental needs of toddlers with them and discuss your expectations for interaction with your child while you're away from the house. If safety is a concern, you may want to enroll your household staff in a Child Care Provider First Aidcourse.
There is a wide range of choices for both Pre-School education and formal education for children in International Schools. Many organizations also offer courses for children to develop interests, talents and hobbies.
Our thanks to Colliers International for their generous contribution of this article!