Living in Indonesia
Indonesia isn’t really on the radar for a lot of people who are considering teaching abroad. Fewer tourists make it out to the island nation compared to the mainland, so fewer people ever think about settling down there to teach. However, don’t forget that this quickly-developing country is the fourth-largest in the world by population, with over 300 million people. There is a large push among people there to learn English, to the point that a recent Indonesian beauty queen was chastised for being able to answer the judges’ questions in English better than in her mother tongue, Bahasa.
For those willing to look a bit beyond the beaten path, Indonesia offers some interesting opportunities for English teachers.
One of the biggest advantages of moving to Indonesia is that the language is one of the easiest to learn in the world. Bahasa, the language of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, is written using Roman script. There are no tones to worry about, and the grammar is simplified such that you don’t even need to worry about conjugating verbs. Many expats in Indonesia become proficient in the language after just a few months, which greatly helps to enhance your experience in the country.
Interestingly, while Bahasa has been the national language for over 60 years, most people still speak it as a second language, instead using their local dialect when speaking with friends and family.
Eating in Indonesia
You’ll be able to find plenty of local food at small restaurants and food stalls to keep you satisfied. Local food includes lots of fresh vegetables, seafood, and sauces from spicy to think and nutty. Tempe, a thick cake make of mashed and fermented soy beans, is one of the country’s unique ingredients. While pork is rare, as the country is predominantly Muslim, you’ll find lots of beef curries, grilled chicken, and seafood as well.
You’ll find a variety of international cuisine in large cities like Jakarta or in tourism centers like Yogyakarta. However, given that Indonesia is rather removed from the Southeast Asian tourism trail you won’t find a lot of international food in smaller or medium-sized cities.
You can shop for food at local markets and food shops, as well as at more modern supermarkets.
You’ll find a sizable expat crowd in Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Bali, but outside of those cities you’ll just find a few English teachers here and there. Those larger cities have all the social-life options you’d expect of a large city, including artistic events, bars and clubs, gyms and sport clubs.
Since it will be comparatively easy for you to pick up Bahasa, one advantage of living in Indonesia is that you’ll be able to hang out with local friends and communicate with them more easily!
Traffic is one of the least-appealing aspects of living in Jakarta. It’s by far the largest city in the region that has no metro system at all. The best it’s managed to do in terms of public transportation is to establish an express bus system with special cordoned-off lanes. If you want to get around in a bus or a car taxi, be prepared to spend a lot of time waiting in traffic. You’ll soon want to take motorbike taxis or get your own motorbike so that you can get around the city in a reasonable amount of time.
Other smaller cities may be manageable on a bicycle, but you’ll probably want to get a motorbike to be sure you can get where you need to go without getting too sweaty or dirty along the way.
Teaching in Indonesia
As usual, the best way to find work in Indonesia is to show up in the country and have a look around. There’s not yet any sort of website that serves as a central job board for teaching work in Indonesia, as there is in Thailand and in northern Vietnam. However, you can find some job offerings through the language school chain and placement agency English First.
You’ll find work at a variety of universities and private language centers if you’re interested in teaching adults. There are also a fair number of private kindergartens, elementary schools and secondary schools as well. There are a few public magnet schools which also have the budget to hire foreign teachers.