Making the Most of Expat Life in Jakarta with Daleen Fourie

Sunda Kelapa
Sunda Kelapa with daughters Kate and Gabi

Today we introduce you to a very special person. Daleen Fourie (pronounced, ‘Dalian’) has been an expat for numerous years, having lived in 7 different countries (and counting!). As a mother of 4 children, Daleen is a very busy lady indeed, yet as you will see, still has time to give to others through engagement in her community; whilst also making the most of every opportunity to explore her adopted home of Indonesia.

Daleen’s ‘half glass full’ approach to life inspires us, and for those of you new to Jakarta, sharing in Daleen’s story will definitely set you on the right track. To those of us who have lived here a while, Daleen’s insights are a gentle reminder of what a wonderful opportunity living in Indonesia really is. And if you are less than familiar with the world of expat living, we are sure Daleen’s story will warm your heart and fill you with a sense of hope.

As Daleen prepares for her 7th move (this time to Singapore), we asked her to share some personal insights into life in Jakarta as well as advice on how to make the most of this wonderful experience.

*Kenalkan Daleen Fourie

Daleen with her husband Richard and three of their four children at Pulau Macan, Thousand Islands

Can you tell us a bit about yourself – where are you originally from?
I was born and raised in South Africa. I left South Africa for the first time when I was 18 to go to Argentina as an exchange student and my love for traveling started. I am now moving to my 7th country and it’s the 25th time in my life I will be packing up!

What were you doing before expat life?
I worked at a merchant banking and corporate finance company.

Can you please share a little about your family?
I have 4 children (ages 22, 16, 10 and 3). The eldest moved back to South Africa when he turned 16. My youngest was born in Australia, my 3rd in England and the older 2 in South Africa. My children, like myself and my husband, have embraced the lifestyle we have.

Family holidays in Bali
Those very important Bali holidays with all my kids

For how long have you been an expat?
We have been expats for just over 13 years.

As an expat, where have you lived?
I have lived in Argentina, England, USA, South Africa, Australia, Indonesia and as we speak, I am preparing to move to Singapore.

For how long have you lived in Jakarta and what brought you here?
We have been in Jakarta for 6 years now. We lived in Sydney before and I found it quite hard to settle in Australia. My husband, Richard, arrived home one afternoon and said…’Do you want to move to Jakarta?’ and my reply was…’Sure, where is it?’ Best ignorant decision I ever made! We move around with Richard’s job, he was GM for Campbell Arnott’s in Indonesia.

In what part of Jakarta do you life? Why did you choose to live there?
We live in Executive Paradise (even after 6 years I cringe every time I have to say that!). It’s in Cilandak, in the South of Jakarta. We chose to live in a gated community mainly because we wanted the freedom with our children. I have loved living here and would make the same decision again – next time I might start a petition to have the name changed though 😉

What have you learnt along the way regarding ‘successful expat living’?
ALWAYS keep an open mind, and never forget that you are a guest in someone else’s country.
LEARN, LEARN, LEARN and if you have the opportunity – teach someone something.

Jakarta orphanage
Spending time at one of the orphanages helping with lunchtime

Your family are your best friends, they are your only constant so love them, appreciate them and support them.

Daleen spending beach time with her youngest daughter, on Gili T, West Nusa Tenggara

Join committees even if you’re not a ‘committee person’ (I have yet to meet someone who admits they are!!). It’s a great way to get involved, there are so many different positions and you will find something that makes you happy and keeps you busy. And also it’s the best place to meet people.

BWA Jakarta
Friends become your family and lifeline. Joining an organisation such as the BWA or ANZA is a great place to start.

What does a ‘typical’ week look like in your Jakarta life?
Besides school drop off and pick ups for my littlest child, (the older 2 took the bus), I am a pilates instructor so until recently, I had a few clients in the morning. I have also kept myself busy with various committees and social welfare work. I love cooking so when possible, I like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

cleft palate operation
Baby Natan, the little boy who stole Daleen’s heart in the burnt out kampung. With the help of various organisations, a cleft operation was arranged for Natan.
Pilates in Jakarta
Daleen loved her Pilates courses along with the people she met

What delights you about life in Jakarta?
The people!! I can walk around the whole day looking at the people, their smiles, their eyes, their kindness, their resilience during challenging times, the way they improvise and their happiness. There’s a lot we can learn from these people.

Jakarta floods 2012
After the Jakarta floods in 2012

What concerns you about life in Jakarta?
I was asked this question the other day and realised that I never really think of Indonesia as a concern. The political climate always gets mentioned but Indonesia has always had its ups and downs and besides the uprise in 1998, Indonesia has always managed to keep things fairly peaceful and amicable.

Sayap Ibu
Dancing with a group of ladies at Sayap Ibu

I think it’s quite a feat that a country with so many different tribes, cultures, languages and religions has kept it peaceful for so long. Indonesia has been strong economically for the past few years (despite a slump in the past 2 years). I hope that Indonesia will prove the world wrong and go from strength to strength. If I had to mention something that concerns me it would be the legal system in Indonesia.

What has been your most profound experience here in Jakarta?
Undoubtedly the resilience of the local people. I have been very involved in very poor communities in Jakarta and surrounds, and even though I was born and raised in a third world country with a very high poverty rate, I was always in awe at the positivity of Indonesian people. These people who fall asleep on a trash pile, with a baby full of mosquito bites, very little food, no clean water and not much hope for the future are still able to give a genuine smile. They are never aggressive, they don’t play the blame game, they get up the next morning and do the best or the only thing they know how to do to survive.

Lebak Bulus fire
Setting up temporary accommodation for the victims of the fire at Lebak Bulus, South Jakarta
helping out others in Jakarta
Helping out at a burnt kampung in Lebak Bulus, South Jakarta

3 words to describe Your Expat Life in Jakarta.
Unforgettable, beguiling, persistent

For our friends who have newly arrived in Jakarta, can you please share some of your best advice:
1. First and foremost, you must learn the basics of Indonesia’s national language, Bahasa Indonesia.
2. Take full advantage of the delivery services – this will save you time and potentially your sanity on occasions!
3. Treat your staff like gold, they can make or break your time in Indonesia.
4. Get a motorbike – It gets you to places faster and you can stop and appreciate the little things.
5. Get the number of a bajaj driver and call him when you’re not travelling far. It’s fun, it’s reliable, it’s easy and it supports a transport system that is struggling.

House staff Jakarta
Baby Ben with Daleen’s house staff
motorbike in jakarta
Daleen’s advice? Get a motorbike!

Every expat in Jakarta should eat… Nasi Goreng made with red rice and beef lung soup (only once)

Every expat in Jakarta should drink… I’m partial to a whiskey so I love the Whiskey Sour at FJ’s but you also have to try those strange drinks with the jelly bits inside – not my thing but the kids love it!

Every expat in Jakarta should visit/explore … A kampung (local village) at Sunda Kelapa harbour. You need a guide to take you through the kampung to have the full experience.

Every expat in Jakarta should experience
A wet market

Eating a real kampung lunch

Walking the streets during the celebration of Idul Adha and seeing the greatness and giving aspect of this holiday

Climbing Krakatoa and spending the night on the island to wake up to one of the most beautiful sunrises. Experiencing a black sand beach is also quite incredible.

What are your favourite place/s to visit in Indonesia?
Pulau Macan, Stay at the Ocean Queen near Sukabumi, and visit the Gili Islands – my favourite is Gili T

Ocean Queen
Ocean Queen near Sukabumi, West Java
Gilli T
The beautiful island of Gili T, Nusa Tenggara

Do you still have any places on your Indonesia ‘bucket list’?
Definitely – Misool in Raja Empat, Flores, Komodo Islands, Sumba islands and Sumbawa.

The Next Chapter…

Where to from here?
We are off to Singapore

How do you feel about your next move?
I try to never think about my next move until take-off. I am very neutral about it for now. I have to first say goodbye to this place that stole my heart and is keeping a little piece of my soul. Singapore is a very different world and is going to need a very different mind set, I’m not there yet.

As you prepare to depart Jakarta, what do you feel will be your lasting memories of this place? What will you miss?
Everything but mostly the people, the chaos, the unpredictability, the ‘Jakarta moments’, my friends and my house.

Anything else you would like to share that may help others make the most of their time in ‘The Big J…’
Enjoy every second, make it home, don’t think of it as a short term placement. Make friends with a bajaj driver, a taxi driver, the delivery people, your security guards, the guy who opens the school gate, the guy who mans the *kaki lima on your corner. Buy sate off the street – who can resist the smell of sate on an open fire at 5:30pm?! And SMILE!! That’s what Indonesians do, that’s how they communicate. Don’t get frustrated when you order something in a restaurant and you get the wrong thing, pull out your google translate and try again or just eat it AND SMILE – but the best thing would be to NOT try and change a menu item ?, it gets very complicated!! In general I have found that Indonesian people love foreigners, they want to know everything about us, they want photos, they want to speak English, indulge them, it’s probably one of the only times in your life that so many people will find you interesting!! – Don’t take it for granted and don’t abuse it!

Children of Indonesia
Beautiful People!

Also remember, this is probably a very different world than the one you’re from. It sometimes breaks your heart, you just want to help…..I did and it made me feel good and it can change someone’s life but don’t try and do it alone. Find an organisation or a group who can give you advice, support and information. There are so many people in Jakarta who spend their days researching, doing due diligence, getting to know the right people, and you should lean on them if you need help or advise, whatever you decide to do, be it social/charity work, teaching, working or just getting to know this crazy city.

On behalf of A Journey Bespoke, we say a very big Thank You to Daleen for sharing her story with us all. We wish Daleen and her family much happiness and many more adventures as they settle into their new life in Singapore.

Interested in more posts about Expat Living? We recommend these:

Expat Parenting – Raising Little Children in Jakarta
ajb’s Expat Guide on ‘How to Thrive in Jakarta’
Rubbish in Jakarta – The mounting problem and the Ffrash Solution

*Kenalkan – Let me introduce
*Kaki lima – mobile food cart

Words: Daleen Fourie and Jo Stevens Photography: Daleen Fourie


    • ajourneybespoke says

      Hi Anna, glad you enjoyed this post. Daleen’s such a great woman, we felt she needed to be recognised for all the selfless work she has done during her time in Jakarta 🙂

  1. Claire Bear says

    Daleen is an amazingly positive and inspirational expat. We all should take her advice and live a Jakarta life like hers. All the very best in Singers and thanks for sharing your outlook Daleen 😍😍

    • ajourneybespoke says

      We agree Claire, Daleen’s one pretty special woman. Thanks for taking the time to read our post 🙂

  2. Christine Stevens says

    Amazing what a busy and motivated person can achieve. Acceptance of your environment leads to a fabulous adventure when fully embraced. Best wishes to Daleen on her next Expat chapter.

    • ajourneybespoke says

      Your words are true, Chris. Making the most of each new adventure can lead to amazing experiences. Great to hear from you 🙂

  3. Sheila Smith says

    I enjoyed so much Daleen’s optimistic input on how to become a contributing member of this lovely community in Jakarta. She is such a wonderful person and I wish her yet another great opportunity in Singapore.

    • ajourneybespoke says

      Hello Sheila, it’s been so nice to share Daleen’s story with our wider audience. If we all took even the smallest leaf out of Daleen’s book, we could contribute to a greater positive difference. Thanks for taking the time to share your comment. Best wishes,

  4. Sarah @ Stat Dec Life says

    I love your fearlessness Daleen! Jumping on a motorbike in Jakarta is not for the faint of heart!!
    Best of luck with your next stint in Singapore. And thanks for the lovely interview guys 🙂

    • ajourneybespoke says

      Hello Sarah, great to hear from you and so glad you enjoyed Daleen’s interview. We agree, hopping onto a motorbike in Jakarta is not for the faint hearted.. so jumping onto your own motorbike in Jakarta is seriously impressive! Best wishes,

  5. Emer P says

    Hello. I have just come across your blog as we will be shortly moving back to Indonesia with three small children in tow (my husband I actually met in Jakarta when we lived there ten years ago!). I love all your posts but Daleen’s spoke to me as I am a development professional looking for volunteer opportunities once we get to Indonesia while I find my feet and look for work on a longer term basis. Is there anywhere you would recommend to seek these out? I have one or two contacts but more are definitely welcome. We have lived in Zimbabwe, Colombia and now heading back to Indonesia so I always want to try to make a difference in each country we live. Thanks so much in advance.

    • ajourneybespoke says

      Hello there! Lovely to receive your email and also to hear that you’ll be returning to Jakarta -this time with your young family as well. Our suggested first port of call to identify opportunities for volunteering would be the various Women’s Associations in Jakarta; in particular the Australian & New Zealand Association (ANZA), the British Women’s Association (BWA) and the American Women’s Association (AWA). Of course there are also many other associations that you can contact. These Associations work closely with many charities and yayasan organisations and are always looking for volunteers. Wishing you all the best as you prepare for your return to Jakarta. 🙂

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