Expat Interview With Rachel - British Expat in Bali

Published: 6 Mar at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Indonesia
Rachel Adnyana sold and gave away everything she owned, quit her job in the UK and left with nothing but a RTW ticket and a backpack. 4 years ago she landed in Bali in the middle of a tropical storm and never left. After enjoying the single travelling life so much, she surprised herself by settling down, getting married and having two children - a whole different kind of adventure! Rachel blogs about cross-cultural relationships, raising bilingual children, life in a Balinese village and everyday adventures atd How to Escape (see listing here). She's now happy to call the lush green rice fields and palm-fringed beaches of Bali home but she still misses salt & vinegar crisps and shopping in Primark.

Meet Rachel - British expat in Bali
Meet Rachel - British expat in Bali

Here's the interview with Rachel...

Where are you originally from?
I'm from Newcastle in northeast England

In which country and city are you living now?
I live in Ubud, a village in Bali, Indonesia

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I first came here in February 2009 and never left! I don't intend on going back to the UK any time soon.

Why did you move and what do you do?
I decided I was bored of my life in the UK so I quit my job to go travelling and find some new
adventures and opportunities. I didn't know that I'd end up being away permanently (although I was in no rush to come back).

I didn't plan to move to Bali, in fact I originally had plans to work in New Zealand for a year or so after travelling, but I'm glad that's how things worked out!

Taking baby for a walk, Bali style!
Taking baby for a walk, Bali style!
Did you bring family with you?
No, but my family do enjoy visiting now! Now my family is here - my children were both born in Bali.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I had already been travelling in Asia for several months before coming to Bali so it wasn't a shock. In fact, I experienced reverse culture shock when I went to Australia to renew my visa! I gradually transitioned from being a traveller/tourist here to being an expat/local. I met my husband-to-be after being in Bali only a few days and we married after being together less than a year. I did find it a little difficult at first to adjust to living in his family compound with his parents, as Balinese tradition dictates, but 3 years later and I feel right at home here, although I am still learning new things every day.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I'm not really into the expat scene here - I do have a few friends who I meet up with regularly but a lot of people in Ubud are just passing through. I am starting to make new friends now that I've had children and meeting up with other mothers through facebook groups etc. Most Balinese women don't really socialise much outside of the family and village once they're married which is a shame. I think mainly because they're too busy!

Women taking offerings to the temple
Women taking offerings to the temple
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Ubud is really beautiful and a great central place to explore Bali - you can reach beaches, mountains and jungles in a short car ride.

There are some gorgeous rice field walks around Ubud and it's a nice place to just shop, eat and chill out. I love just having a coffee in one of the many lovely cafes and people watching.

Ubud is famous for its monkey forest which is home to hundreds of pretty tame monkeys that will be happy to eat any bananas you bring in (or steal your camera!)

Visiting temples is also a must and there are plenty to choose from in the Ubud area. There are frequent ceremonies which are fascinating to outsiders - women wearing brightly coloured kebayas and carrying tall offerings on their heads to the temple is a common sight.

Cremation ceremonies are the biggest of all so if you get lucky and there is a Royal cremation ceremony while you're in Ubud, make sure not to miss it!

Meeting the 'locals' in Sangeh monkey forest
Meeting the 'locals' in Sangeh monkey forest
What do you enjoy most about living here?
I love the devotion of the Balinese people and the community spirit. Every household puts out offerings of rice, flowers and incense every day which are really beautiful and everyone from toddlers to sullen teenagers to old grandmas take part in the ceremonies. Pretty much every Balinese person I've met believes that if they live a good and honest life, they will be taken care of both in this life and the next.

The offerings are a way to give back to the earth, say thank you and be mindful of the gifts you receive every day - food, shelter, family, health.

Living in a Balinese village if you ever have a problem or need help, the whole village is there to support you. All our neighbours helped making offerings for our wedding for weeks beforehand.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
If you live like a local, it can be very cheap living here and plenty of families get by on 1,000,000rp or less every month (about 100 USD). The basics of the Balinese diet - rice, vegetables, fruit, meat, tofu and tempe are very cheap in the local markets and eating out or getting takeaway from a cheap local warung (restaurant) is just as cheap as cooking at home. Eating out in western restaurants is more expensive but still much cheaper than it would be in the UK. Renting and buying property also gets you a lot more for your money so you can have a lovely big villa for the same price as a small flat back in the UK.

Food, especially imported food, is pretty expensive in the supermarket and they rarely have special offers - I always end up spending a fortune food shopping!

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The Indonesian government don't make it easy to stay here long term unless you have lots of money and even though I'm married to an Indonesian, I still have to pay every year to renew my visa. I also hate how I'll always been considered a 'tourist' no matter how long I stay here even though I live within a Balinese family and my children were born here.

Cremation ceremony in Ubud
Cremation ceremony in Ubud
If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
I read so many posts on message boards from people thinking about moving to Bali and they've never even been here!

It's easy to get an idealistic picture of somewhere in your head when you haven't experienced it properly. Bali is indeed an island paradise but there are other places in Asia that are easier to live for expats. I would say that you really have to love the Balinese culture and peopleif you want to live here successfully. It's so important to respect the importance of the religion and the banjar (village community).

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Getting used to living with my inlaws, particularly after having children, has been tricky!

I also find the language aspect difficult - Balinese people speak Bahasa Indonesia to people from outside the island which is fairly easy to pick up but

Balinese is the preferred language and it is notoriously difficult to learn! I've only managed to pick up a handful of words in the whole time I've been here so I never know what anyone's talking about if they don't switch into Indonesian for me! There are very few resources available for learning Balinese so I think one day I will just have to hire a teacher. I am starting to learn a bit more now that my daughter is talking fluently though!

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Just go - so many people have told me that they would love to do what I did but they always have an excuse for staying in the same job and doing nothing new year after year. Sometimes you just have to make that leap and trust that things will work out or nothing will ever change!
  2. Work for yourself - it's not easy for foreigners to find paid work in Bali so many expats have their own business. Before I left the UK I freelanced in addition to my normal day job. There are so many ways to make money without a traditional 9-5 job now, there is no reason why anyone should use their job as a reason for not living their life the way they choose.
  3. Diversify your income streams - My income comes from various sources including freelance writing, web design and renting out a house here in ubud. I don't worry about losing a job because there are always other ways of making money.
  4. Do your research - I knew absolutely nothing about Bali before I arrived here and it would have really helped to have some background in the culture and some basic Indonesian. On the other hand, I didn't realise I would be here for longer than a couple of weeks and over-planing can really take the fun out of travelling!
  5. Build a support network - living in a foreign country can be frustrating and isolating at times. It is really important to have people to talk to, especially those who are going through the same thing. I have some great friends here who I can meet for a coffee and a chat when I need to let of some steam and I'm also part of some fantastic online communities.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I started my blog after I got married as an easy way for my friends and family to catch up with what I was doing out here. After my children were born it became the obvious place to put photos and progress updates. A few people emailed me about reading a post I wrote about having a baby and that's when I realised I could be writing for a wider audience and connecting with people through my blog. I've met some great friends and had some great opportunities through blogging which really makes it all worthwhile.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I try to reply to all comments on my blog (see link below) or contact me on twitter - @deletia.

Rachel blogs at http://www.howtoescape.co.uk which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. How to Escape has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Rachel, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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Comments » There are 3 comments

Joe Writeson wrote 5 years ago:

Hi Rachel I'm from Newcastle as well and lived on Bali for some time, I was trying to run a technical manpower support business from there but was constantly being tied up in red tape and the system. In the end we were sick of being ground down, gave up and moved in with my wife's family in East Java, Kampung culture shock in the extreme. Been here seventeen years now,two children 13/8, now writing for a living.......contact me and I'll end you a free copy of my first book 'From Jarrow to Java' Take care. JW

Ary wrote 4 years ago:

i just wanted to find expats around Ubud. i want to practice my English with one of them since it is a lot easier to do it with an expat. Besides i want to be with them for certain time to do certain activities and ask few things about their cultures.

Joan O'Meara wrote 3 years ago:

Hi Rachel I am from London living in Australia and plan on living in Bali Would like to know we're most of the expats live and can I get a 6 month visa ? If you can give me some information that would be good many thank Joan

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