By Rosemary Greaves (Semester 4/Feb 1997)
Wife of a Murdoch University student

Bringing your family to Indonesia for six months or a year, although not always easy, is a fantastic experience. The following is some advice, hints and insights you may find helpful.


Can be difficult. It is possible to try and arrange a house prior to arriving, by contacting a family already here or a family that has just returned to Australia. Many landlords require the rental money upfront for the term of the lease and don’t have contracts. Ensure that your landlord will repair any faults that occur during your lease eg toilets, lights, fridge etc ….. We had a large house (6 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms), which included a satellite TV, fridge, gas burners, telephone and furniture. We paid 8 million rupiah for 6 months. Our house was in Pogung Baru, which is 10 minutes by bike from UGM and is a nice area.


Primary school students can go to Yogya International School in Pogung Baru. UGM student’s children should get a discount on request from the Principal. As I am a Primary School teacher I chose to teach my daughter, aged 7, Distance Education which I organised in Perth WA. Being a mother and a teacher in Indonesia is no easy task, so beprepared for minor conflicts. I do recommend the Distance Education program as I found it to be well-planned and easy to follow, with a high level of interest for the children. For Pre-Primary children there are a number of playgroups, expat and Indonesian. We chose an Indonesian Playgroup called ‘Blossom’ behind Hero supermarket in Jalan Solo.


For our children’s sake we tended to eat Western food from supermarkets such as Gelael and Hero. Ensure you don’t always eat Western style. Find good warungs and use the kaki lima which pass your house each day. For example we had a sate man who came to us every Sunday and we had a regular fruit salad man. I shopped at Gelael in the BCA bank building as I withdrew cash from our Visa card on the 4th floor. We ordered ‘Aqua’ water in 19 litre bottles, and we averaged 3 or 4 per week. We used the water not only for drinking but cooking as well.


Be prepared and bring any likely medical requirements with you. For example, I have an asthmatic child and I brought the appropriate medicine. We went to Rumah Sakit Ranti Rapih as some doctors speak English. We were fortunate our pembantu spoke good English and was able to interpret for me. We used this hospital for a number of ailments including infections, minor injuries, and stomach complaints.


It is not part of our everyday culture to have a pembantu, so it was not easy for me to give ‘orders’. We were warned before we came that you shouldn’t be too friendly as you lose respect and thus the pembantu may ‘cut corners’ when doing jobs. I found if I set a work schedule for each day then the pembantu knew what was required and then all I needed to do was monitor this. Occasionally when standards lapsed I had to speak to my pembantu but this was not often, as she knew I was monitoring.

Yogya Living

When my husband went on excursions with the university the children and I were able to go too. Other ways to occupy yourself there, are Indonesian language courses, batik lessons, exploring the areas near you by bike, have a membership for the Radisson Hotel Health and Fitness Club and visit swimming pools such as IKIP, Kridosono or local hotel pools which allow you to visit for a small fee. I also found a good 2nd hand bookshop in Gang 1, Sosrowijayan called ‘Boomerang’ that sold a good variety of English paperbacks.

Cultural Shocks

Prepare your children for the attention they will receive such as cheek pinching, gentle pushing in jest and being asked their names constantly. Best advice to your children is to grin and bear it as the Indonesian people love anak-anak and they are only being kind. The children may be without friends initially but we found they made friends in the neighbourhood both Indonesian and Western. Our son made friends at his Blossom Pre-Primary and numerous friends from babies to adults while riding his bike around Pogung Baru. We had to get used to the fact that it was quite safe for him to ride near and far, and he often came back here with food and photos people had taken of him on his previous visits to them. We found we could not keep him at home. He picked up a lot of Indonesian language this way. Of course we had to set boundaries of distance and acceptable behaviour from him and others he met.

Two or three times a week we ate Indonesian food either prepared by our pembantu, or we ate out or had meals at one of the many kaki lima passing our house. It was good for the children to be introduced to different types of food.

Be prepared to ‘go with the flow’ and enjoy your stay in Indonesia. It has been a wonderful experience for all our family.