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Shopping for Essentials from the Provinces
While the majority of expatriates living in Indonesia are based in the urban centers of Jakarta, Surabaya and Medan, thousands of others are based throughout the country. They are involved in exploration work, live in company camps near job site, serve as missionaries in the jungle, as English teachers in universities and in aid projects as well as in a wide variety of business ventures.
Expatriates that live in Jakarta have the best access to goods and services, both domestic and foreign. In Jakarta you can find several foreign retailers and a fully developed retail sector providing many goods and services, both domestic and foreign. However, those expatriates living in company camps, small cities or remote locations face a big challenge to acquire the goods they need to provide for their families. While there may be company stores in the camps or those open to the general public in provincial cities, their supply of goods may primarily cater to Indonesians. This may hold true even in a company camp because the majority of the people residing in the camp will be Indonesian.
One obvious option is to 'go local' and eat as much of the local food, produce and cuisine as you can. However, there is always that craving for foods from home, the favorite chocolate bar, really effective deodorant, a can of peaches, a nice thick steak or your children's favorite bubble gum.
If you are moving to a remote location, plan well to determine what goods you will need to bring with you to last your family until your next flight out. Some companies will fly camp-bound expatriates out to remote locations for R & R on a periodic basis. Many expat families utilize this time to fly to Singapore for medical care or to Jakarta for shopping or even to Bali for R & R! Ask your company, before you accept your assignment, how often you will have the opportunity to fly-out of the remote location you're posted in.
If you are allowed 3 days in Jakarta once every 6 months, for example, these quick trips will take a high amount of planning to maximize your time for shopping. Ask your friends where to find items you're seeking. What a shame to drive through heavy traffic across Jakarta to the one shop that you think carries something you're looking for, just to find they are out of stock!
This is more of a problem with the Indonesian government regulations passed in October 2008, which now prohibit numerous previously plentiful imported goods from entering the country.
If you live in a remote location, you will soon learn the Indonesian custom of 'nitip'. When you nitip, you ask someone else who is traveling to pick up something you need when they're on a medical or business trip to Jakarta or another big city. Then, when you travel, you return the favor. This inter-dependent supply chain works very well!
What are some of the things you may want to stock up on? Favorite brands of toiletries, recreational items, children's birthday gifts, special items needed to celebrate upcoming holidays, ingredients for the family's favorite dishes, and other personal necessities. Don't skimp on recreational items as you will find your avenues for entertainment limited in remote locations. You can easily utilize this posting to take up a new hobby, so bringing all the items needed with you.
Services to help you
There are several companies in Jakarta such as Caswell’s E-shop that cater to expatriates posted in remote locations. They will ship bulk quantities of meat. They will ship bulk quantities of meat, dairy products and other items, according to your requests. You can obtain a copy of their current product list via fax or Email, then fax or email your order in. They then arrange for shipment to your location. This reduces the need for travel to Jakarta for shopping and improves your access to goods from home.
Custom made clothing can be ordered from Jakarta tailors who have taken your measurements during previous visits.
If you have questions, or information you'd like us to add to this page, please contact us.
Partially updated September 14, 2022.