24 April 2018

April Bautista Cabello - Expat in Indonesia

April Bautista Cabello - Expat in Indonesia

We’ve had the chance to talk to April Bautista Cabello, 39, a Filipino expat who has moved to Indonesia with her husband . Ms Cabello, who has been living there for 22 months works as telecom executive and is also a blogger and a social activist. Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?
A: Manila, Philippines


Q: What made you move out of the Philippines?
A: It’s already my second expat stint in Indonesia now. I was here first from 2010 until 2012. My first move was very sudden: an ex-boss needed someone with a combination of telco, UX and digital expertise. That time, that combination was quite rare so I had to fly out in 3 weeks to start the project!

In 2012, I moved back to Manila because my former company offered me a role that was hard to refuse. I went back home for two and a half years. I was still single then so I was very mobile and I can go pretty much everywhere I please.

In June 2015, I moved back to Jakarta for the second time around because my husband landed a gig with Google Indonesia. He followed me for a couple of years in Manila already so I figured, it was my turn now.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?
A: I live in Mega Kuningan, south of Jakarta. The choice was pretty easy. Traffic in Jakarta makes it rather challenging to get around, so it’s a necessity to live near the office. My office is a stone’s throw from our apartment. I can walk on a good day.


Q: How long have you been living in Indonesia?
A: 22 months now.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?
A: I’m with my husband and we adjusted quite well. He’s Malaysian and there is similarity in the Bahasa Malaysia and Indonesia languages so he’s quite prolific. This is already my second stint here so admittedly, it was a breeze.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?
A: Definitely! It’s a good thing that Manila is just 4 hours away from Jakarta so I try to come home every 2 months to see my family and friends. Things got very busy in the early part of 2017 and I didn’t get to come home for almost 5 months and that really depressed me. Facebook, Viber and Whatsapp helped a lot to get in touch with my family and best friends.


Q: What do you think about the locals?
A: One of the friendliest, most welcoming and politest people I’ve ever met on the face of the earth. They appreciate the simplest of things and if they know you are exerting effort to learn the language and their culture, they will welcome you with open arms.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Indonesia? How did you manage to find a social circle there?
A: I’m generally friendly and sociable so it wasn’t tough for me. My circles are mixed. I hang out with an expat circle and we come from all over: Malaysia, UK, Mexico, Spain, Korea. We are literally the United Colours of Benetton. I also have a solid group of Indonesians that I spend time with frequently too. If you want to know the hippest places, where to eat, where to go, the locals will always know better, of course!

I also attend embassy events and I’m very active in my university alumni association, which happens to have a chapter in Indonesia.


Q: How does the cost of living in Indonesia compare to your home?


Q: How much is a cup of coffee?
A: Rp. 50k – 60k

Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?
A: Rp 75k – 150k

Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?
A: Rp 400 – 600k

Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?
A: Rp 500k – 1,500k for a bottle of wine. I don’t smoke (quitter!) so I wouldn’t know the price of cigs.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Indonesia?
A: It can be a tedious process because most big banks will require you to present your Kitas (work visa) before you can open a savings account. Credit cards are tougher for foreigners!


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?
A: I’m lucky that this is done for me by my company but it also takes some time. Getting the visa is not difficult, it just takes long! The visa/work permit needs to be retrieved in either your home country or the nearest country of your choice. For me, this is usually Singapore because Singapore is also more organized for things like this and it only takes a day.

If you are already in Indonesia, the process will take a month for the “telex” to be ready then you need to exit. Exiting takes time and there is cost: hotel, food, transportation. To me, I just do it in Singapore and while waiting for my telex, I shop for books or eat at my favorite restaurants there. There’s always a silver lining to anything. =) Renewal is a lot easier because it’s done in Jakarta and recently, when I renewed mine, I didn’t need to exit to Singapore anymore.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Indonesia is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?
A: Honestly, it could be better. I still do my executive check-ups in Manila. For simple things, like when I catch a cold or a flu, I go to SOS Medical Clinic. Most of their clients are expats and there are English-speaking doctors who can explain your medical condition thoroughly.

My dental clinic however is amazing! I go to Escalade in Menara Prima, Mega Kuningan for my dental check-ups and I highly recommend it to friends.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in the Philippines or Indonesia? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?
A: My health insurance coverage was obtained through my company. Expats should have hospitalization and out-patient coverage, including dental.


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Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Indonesia? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?
A: I didn’t use any mover when I went back to Jakarta in 2015. I just had my suitcase containing my clothes and bags – that was it! For my repatriation back to Manila in 2012, I used Asian Tigers. They’re very efficient and easy to coordinate with.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?
A: The biggest challenge for me is understanding the cultural nuances and differences. I’m a straightforward person. What you see is what you get. I don’t mince words and I’m quite opinionated. Certain ethnic groups or culture are naturally more polite and diplomatic than others --- too polite sometimes that you don’t get a straightforward No for an answer. So I struggled in the beginning and I had to read between the lines whether some are fully agreeing with me or if they are being too polite to say no. I’m also very careful not to offend anyone by my straightforwardness, so I can say that Indonesia has made me more conscious and gentle in the things that I say. It’s for the better, in a way.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Indonesia?
A: I’m a hopeless optimist so I choose to thrive wherever I am. My Indonesian experience has been great, so far. I like the people, I love the food and culture. I love their art! I’ve amassed paintings, teakwood furniture and wooden sculptures from all over Indonesia.

I’m also a pesco-vegetarian, vegetarian mostly, and I find that Indonesia is friendly to vegetarians and vegans. There’s a plenitude of vegetarian and vegan restaurants and food delivery here that I don’t feel marginalized when it comes to my choice of food.

The downside, there will always be a part of me that will always miss Manila.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?
A: I’m very lucky in terms of my work location and residence since there are so many things to do in South Jakarta. In the Mega Kuningan area where I live, everything is accessible on foot: grocery, mall, cinemas, the newest restaurants, wine bars, gym, banks.

For good Spanish food and wine, I always default to Basque in Noble House. For Asian fusion, I always go to E&O in Menara Rajawali. Lotte Mall is also nearby, which has a lot of restaurants and good brands for shopping.

For fitness, Fitness First has two branches nearby: one at Oakwood and Fitness First Platinum is inside Lotte Mall. There are also pilates studios in Menara Prima and in Bellagio Mall.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?
A: Yes. Since I’m not from here and my husband is Malaysian, it’s in our nature to move and be somewhere else someday. We have family in the Philippines, Malaysia and Australia so we are reviewing our options, but admittedly, we haven’t decided on our end game just yet.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?
A: Patience is an important virtue. Indonesia has rough edges but the people are friendly. If you become an expat anywhere, you must be flexible. To me, what is important for us is to have higher cultural quotient or CQ. We need to be able to adapt and blend in without compromising the skills set and talents that we have, which is why we were hired in the first place.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Indonesia?
A: Yes, yours and mine. Hahaha. I have my blog Bella Expatria (www.bellaexpatria.com) where I chronicle my (mis)adventures in Jakarta, Manila and KL. I also enjoy reading TripCanvas (www.indonesia.tripcanvas.co) because they feature places to visit in Indonesia. That’s where I get travel trips in terms of hotels and resorts to book.