Australia Expats in Indonesia - Expat Interview With Jason

Published: 24 Nov at 1 PM
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Filed: Interviews,Indonesia
Since beginning a career and life in mining nearly 10 years ago, Jason and Julie never thought they'd one day be living in remote Indonesia, let alone overseas. But in that time lots of exciting adventures have taken them to nearly every state in Australia, seen their son be born a Territorian (Northern Territory), have a stint in the Middle East, and moved 7 times in 8 years. When the opportunity arose to live for 12 months in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, they jumped at the chance and their blog covering the last 12 months records all the new and exciting experiences that come with living in a whole new part of the world. Jason blogs at Our Spice Islands Adventure (see listing here)

Our Spice Islands Adventure

Here's the interview with Jason...


Where are you originally from?
My wife and I were born and raised in Brisbane, Queensland and our son Harrison was born in Darwin, Northern Territory, during one of our many postings around the country in mining.

In which country and city are you living now?
We are currently in Manado on North Sulawesi in Indonesia. It’s 90 miles north of the equator and right on the corner of a few tectonic plates, hence regular earthquakes and many volcanoes.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
Our contract is for a 12 month period. We arrived in late December 2011 and will depart in December 2012 though I (Jason) will be back and forths on a roster from Australia.

Why did you move and what do you do?
The company I work for, Newcrest Mining, has a joint venture mine in Indonesia on Halmahera Island and there is a project under way that I offered to lead.

Our Spice Islands AdventureDid you bring family with you?
Yes, my wife Julie and son Harrison who is 7 have come along for the adventure. This is our 7th relocation since Harrison was born, many of which have been in Australia though some have been overseas as residential and FIFO.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I guess we found it a lot easier than most people as we’ve lived overseas before. It is much easier when you have experience with moving even if it is just within your own country. It makes you more organised and able to cope with that side of things whilst we embark on learning about a new culture and the way things run in a new country. The company assists with moving by providing a contact in the city which helps with such things as opening a bank account, showing you where to shop, etc.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Manado does not have an overly large expat community. There are only a few expats from the same company living in Manado although they do run a Hash House Harriers fortnightly where you’re bound to meet a handful of great people from all over the globe. We had our close friends but we always tend to keep our circle of friends small, as there can often be a lot of drama circulating in close knit expat communities where you’re practically on top of each other all day long. We found a good blend of having local friends along with expat co-workers and their families.

Our Spice Islands AdventureWhat are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Diving and the surrounding islands! Definitely visit Siladen Island, Bunaken and Tasik Ria Resort. The diving is amazing. Tomohon is a lovely cultural drive where you will see the pottery markets and Chinese temple. Manado is a unique place in that the balance between Muslim and Christian is nearly 50:50, so the cultural aspects is quite dominant – this includes food which is the spiciest in all of Indonesia.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
Having access to the beautiful islands would be number one – all are within about 1 hours boat journey from Manado. The diving has been a great experience and our son has become a ‘fish’ and avid snorkeler. We have enjoyed the different foods of Manado; even I can just tolerate the local dabu-dabu which is a tomato, chilli and onion mix at it’s best! I dare you to have some of this with your grilled fish!
Most of the people here are very friendly and interested in you as a person since Manado is not known to have many international visitors as opposed to somewhere like Bali.
Overall, when we leave we’ll will miss the carefree lifestyle Manado has offered us.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
Grocery shopping is relatively cheaper than Australia but not as much as we originally anticipated. Brand name items seem to be around the same price and items such as electronics and brand clothing are the same. Eating out, taxis and parking is cheap!
Julie’s massages and hair salon trips cost a third of the price of Australia however she seems to be going three times as often.
We are spoilt in that the company provide us with fully paid accommodation including a driver and vehicle.

Our Spice Islands AdventureWhat negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The language barrier is often a cause for problems as Manadonese people are very limited with their English. They do try though. When you do find someone that speaks English it is almost a relief.
Whilst the traffic isn’t as bad as Jakarta, it still takes 1.5 hours round trip to go to the shopping centre and if there are police checks then sometimes it can take longer.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?

Manado is a very livable city however you need to be prepared that things do not always go right and that something may take 3 days instead of 1.
As mentioned earlier, the English language is not common so come prepared with basic Bahasa words which will help you with everyday tasks.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Jason works on Halmahera Island, about 350kms to the east of Manado, during the week so Julie is alone with Harrison. Whilst this arrangement is better than say a 4 week on, 2 week off roster it certainly hasn’t been an easy road.
There is always a risk the Twin Otter plane or helicopter will not be able to make it’s journey due to weather, then you can’t get home, or you get home late and half your weekend is gone.
If things go wrong for Julie, I (Jason) can’t do anything expect give her support over the phone and there is no family to turn to.
We have all definitely developed thicker skins coming here.

Our Spice Islands AdventureWhen you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I don’t think we’ve been away long enough to have it present any real problems but we’ll certainly miss aspects like the food, cheap and excellent diving and generally a much cheaper cost of living overall. Having said that, what we used to take for granted back home like good steaks, nice wine and a coffee shop on every corner will be new again and seem like a luxury (even if we’ll have to pay a small fortune for them)!

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Be prepared, buy books and research your new country. Learn a little of the language.
  2. Speak to other expats in the location and post questions on forums.
  3. See a Travel Doctor prior to get any required vaccinations well in advance along with any medicines you need.
  4. Don’t have any expectations. Every country has it pluses and minuses.
  5. Travel lightly. If the company is providing furnished accommodation there is no need to bring an entire container.


Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
This is our third blog and we originally created it for family and friends to follow. Over time some really interesting people from around the world have been in touch with us.
A fellow expat from the UK followed our blog prior to his family moving to Manado so it just goes to show that people are reading it and gaining knowledge.
It will also be a memory for our son Harrison to look back on.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
We can be contacted through our blog which we’ll update every now and then once we return back home and will remain active for people to read and comment.

Jason blogs at http://spiceislandsadventure.wordpress.com/ which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Our Spice Islands Adventure has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Jason, please also drop him a quick comment below.
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Comments » There is 1 comment

JON & JAN wrote 1 year ago:

We have followed Jason, Julie and Harrisons blog and found the interview with Jason a refreshing reminder of where and how the adventure all started and paints a great picture of their time in Manado.

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