21 September 2008

Going Home

I read a lot of blogs and this is probably because I like to see what others are doing and their take on the big things like life. Blogs tend to be personal, kind of like an open journal, that allows people to comment on your life and your experiences. This undoubtedly has pros and cons attached. Some people will take issue with your experiences, the manner in which you process them, and the conclusions you may draw from those experiences. This was certainly the case over at David Goldsworthy's blog when he wrote about his personal experiences as they relate to living in Indonesia and his return to Australia early next year.

The topic was very much one of experience and perception. It was personal. It reflected on stereotypes and the ability to talk about and have others understand one's experiences.

Stereotypes are what they are. I always find it interesting that people believe that the best way to defeat a stereotype is to ignore it. If you ignore it then is somehow ceases to be real or ceases to exist. I, on the other hand, think that the best way to breakdown stereotypes is to confront them head on and prove that they are false. To confront a stereotype we have to raise it and discuss it. Simple really.

On the personal experience front. I often wonder about how people will understand my experiences here. It is one thing to talk about an experience it is another thing altogether for that person (the one you are talking to) to understand the experience.

The wife and I are intending to head to Australia sometime in the future. Probably late next year, and it is interesting for me for two reasons; most of the people I know here are like "why would you want to go home when life in Indonesia is so easy?" and "Australia is a different place to the one you left".

It is interesting that people seem to think the life of a foreigner is so easy in Indonesia (this in itself is a stereotype, is it not?). I am an expat in the sense of being a foreigner living in Indonesia. However, I am not on an expat package that includes all the fringe benefits in addition to a large salary. I work for a local company, on a local wage, and with local conditions. I would guess that whacks me somewhere in the middle of the middle class in Indonesia. This should not be construed as a complaint as these are my choices.

The point though is that the wife and I have the same struggles as everyone else such as budgeting and the like. So, is life easier than it is or would be in Australia? No. In many ways perhaps life would be easier in Australia than in Indonesia. Just one example would be not having to run the immigration gauntlet every 12 months to renew a working and living permit.

The idea that Australia is a different place to the one I left presupposes so many things. I am also a different person to the one that left. I am married for example, I have a kid on the way, my priorities and expectations are different. Time changes many things, not just places but people too!

I am looking forward to getting home. I am hoping that the wife is looking forward to moving to Australia. I am sure that moving back home is not the end of the Indonesian story for me or my family. My wife will always be Indonesian and the Kid will always be part Indonesian and carrying an Indonesia passport until he is 21 at least. I have deep connections to and in both countries.

My experience is telling me that it is both hard to leave and hard to stay. I wonder whether people can understand that dilemma as easily as I can.


Katadia said...

It is still hard for us to decide where we'd like to settle. That's why we haven't built on our small piece of land in jkt (west java rather :D) nor commit on a mortgage here.

I get excited about different things in each place. I get hung up abt different things.

Best of luck for the move. Traveling with kids is always a nightmare. Carseat, check,stroller check, diapers, check, baby panadol, check, must-have-blankie, check, precious cushion, check... you get what i mean...:D

Rob Baiton said...


I am sure that I will get what you mean soon enough :D

David said...

Hey Rob. Thought I'd wander on over now that I've (finally) got a bit of free time:)

Nice post. I like your way with words.

When people ask me, "If I really like living here, why don't I stay?" all I can say is, life ain't always that simple.

Whether Indonesia is such an easy place to live in depends on our perceptions and experiences. Those on the lower end of the pay scale would think differently to those with the 'expat package'. Like you, I'm in that mid range. Life can be good, but often we are limited by our budget. Like you, I'm not complaining. That's my choice.

Perhaps your wife may experiece what my wife experienced in her early years in Australia - a longing to go back to Indonesia, yet upon returning discovering that life in Australia was in fact very liberating, to the extent that she became an Australian. Perhaps she'll be like me and find life in both places enjoyable. Either way, I wish you both (soon to be three) all the best. I'll be in Brisbane. I take it you'll go back to Sydney?

Anonymous said...

Happy moving!

Hope you can sort everything out. Is it easy to move to Australia when you're married to one? (Immigration rule - wise?) just curious.

Anonymous said...

Hey, many Indonesians in Indonesia also stereotype those living abroad. While as you said, we have different type of struggle living in a foreign country, like the permit and visa issue. I just wish that one day we could also live in Jakarta for a couple of years, you know for our kids exposure to part of their cultures.

I just realized you're actually a lawyer? I used to work for HHP for a couple of years as a rookie, before moving to Amsterdam and worked as an in-house for a bank.

Anonymous said...

Hey, many Indonesians in Indonesia also stereotype those living abroad. While as you said, we have different type of struggle living in a foreign country, like the permit and visa issue. I just wish that one day we could also live in Jakarta for a couple of years, you know for our kids exposure to part of their cultures.

I just realized you're actually a lawyer? I used to work for HHP for a couple of years as a rookie, before moving to Amsterdam and worked as an in-house for a bank.

Rob Baiton said...


Life never is simple but that's what makes it fun and worth living.

Yep, Sydney. Although this particular plan is going to be at least another 12 months in the making. I am signed up till August 2009. Then it is a matter of seeing where things are at. Yet, the lean is definitely to going back to Australia, returning home!

I am sure that in many ways people are the same in how they experience a long term move. The initial phase of adventure, the something new, makes it all exciting and you're not thinking too much about what has been left behind. Once that novelty wears off is when I think the longing to be home kicks in. This lasts for a while with the usual comparing of everything good and bad between the two places. Then the reality phase sets in as you get on with the job at hand, your day-to-day existence.

Generally, if I write this sort of sentiments elsewhere people think that I am complaining about myu life or that I am a miserable bule. However, it is quite to the contrary and is a recognition of the choices I have made and the manner in which I experience them.

My philosophy in life is simple, no regrets. I do not wallow in the what might have been and I don't usually discuss what alternatives I could have taken to the path I have chosen. To do so serves no purposes and most people would think I was crazy :D

That's life!

Writer One...

The move, if it does happen, is not for a while.

Is it easy? Now, that is the million dollar question. The Embassy assures us that there is bureaucracy but that it is not difficult. A going through the motions if you will.

I will be sure to post the good and bad of going through the process. The wife and I did start the process once before, way back in 1997. That was a nightmare. We were still doing the pacaran (boyfriend / girlfriend) thing. We handed in all the forms and got through to the interview stage and came up against some you sprog first overseas posting wannabe. If you have ever seen the movie Green Card, then think about the sort of questions immigration was going to ask there and multiply the invasiveness by 10.


I am writing something on this for work in light of the new Citizenship Law, dual citizenship, permanent residence, and the like in Indonesia. The problem is not always the law but the complete lack of implementing regulations to give the provisions teeth.

Yep, a lawyer once (perhaps still) currently working as the Managing Editor of a website that deals with Indonesian law and legal developments.

I carry a British passport as well as my Australian one. So, working in Europe is not a problem for me.

This is a reason that the wife and I are still hesitant on whether to even apply for an Indonesian passport for the Kid as he could hold both Australian and British passports.

I am not sure that Indonesia is far enough down the track to contemplate 3 passports or 3 citizenships :D

Anonymous said...

This implementation of dual citizenships is indeed still unclear. Indonesian embassies and consulates abroad have their own rules. I heard those living in Europe are having a hard time since their Indonesian embassies require so many things with lots of money involved. Many even just forget about applying because of those ridiculous rules.

We were lucky enough to have applied for our kids when we were still living in Chicago. Indonesian consulate in Chicago didn't make a big fuss about it. For no.2, it was even a snap, as she was born in 2007, she got her Ind passport within 3 days, with $15 only. For my son who was born in 2003, the consulate had to send it to JAkarta and the last time I called Chicago (we moved to Munich a couple of months ago), it's still in process in Jakarta.

Having Indonesian passports for our kids is still an advantage. The visa only allows foreigners to stay in Indonesia for a month. Their Indonesian passports solve the overstay problem (or having to go to spore for extension). If we ever live in Indonesia in the future, my kids won't need the KIMS/KITAS etc, so less headache for us.

My eldest (will) hold two passports, French and Indonesian. My 2nd is now having American, French and Indonesian passports. LOL. The airport check-in counter had a headache taking care of us when we were leaving Chicago. Husband and eldest with their French passports, me with my Indonesian, and the baby with American passport. On top of that, I use a different family. LOL.

Many Indonesian regulations have vague implementing procedures. In practice, this is another good reasons for government officials to receive bribes.

Rob Baiton said...


I am not surprised on the Consulate or Embassy confusion.

The cynical me says that without implementing regulations this whole thing could be painful and expensive. That said, I have heard that people are getting through the bureaucratic hurdles without too much trouble.

I guess I will report how it works out.

I am not under-estimating the advantage of the Kid having an Indonesian passport. I was more wondering whether having three was possible (everything is possible I suppose).

Anonymous said...

Ooh yeah, Green Card. I love that film! I'm amazed that they asked you all kind of weird questions like that.

Here in Denmark, the immigration is tough, but on the decision front, it's easy enough for the applicants. Basically you just need to fill out some forms (by this I mean a thirty-something page form) and attach the required documents (bank guarantee, apartment rent / house ownership, etc etc) you don't get to be interviewed at all,

And the toughest part is that they can just reject you without giving any reason. The couple can be perfectly fine, no forced marriage intention whatsoever, able to support themselves but still got rejected. That's how crazy Danish Immigration Service is

....and I almost forgot to mention the waiting time, from 2 months to eternity :)

Rob Baiton said...

Writer One...

We are working on the philosophy that was then and this is now. There has been much happen in the interim, such as 7+ years of pacaran, 6 years of marriage, and the Kid on the way.

It would be a little rude if the Australian government was not to issue permanent residence now.

I think my Ma + Pa would be onto their local member of parliament in a flash to complain :D

As I said this is something that I will post on as the process develops.

tere616 said...

Hm .. it's a new perspective for me :-) But the stereotype issue, wherever you go, it's always there.

Will looking forward for your post Rob.

Anonymous said...

Rob, my daughter has 3. When she made her Ind passport, we showed husband's french passport (part of the requriemetn to show father's passport). I had no problem with the indonesian consulate in chicago .. it's her rights to have all those three anyway (US by birth, french from father, ind from mom), and there is no regulation forbidding three passports.

Rob Baiton said...


I figured that it was possible and I would imagine that the Wife and I will try and make sure the Kid has all three :D

The law does not forbid it, but rather is silent on the issue. The law does talk about dual citizenship though...

Argh...go for three :D

theexilesclan said...

This can't work in reality, that is exactly what I suppose.