Why living abroad can be much cheaper than you think

My friend told me I had a twisted life — he went to Princeton and studied hard so that he could have a good career in Indonesia. I was willing to give up my comfortable life and promising career in Indonesia just for the sake of fulfilling my dream to live abroad. As everyone told me that living cost in Europe was expensive, I was ready to live humbly, eat meat only twice a month, and deny myself the pleasure of life.

I turned out to be wrong. Surprisingly, living in London/Dublin is even cheaper than in Jakarta, especially when you consider the quality of life. I compared my salary/expense as a manager in Jakarta with 20 million IDR income versus as a middle staff in Dublin with 2,400 EUR income (both are monthly, after-tax income):

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Disclaimer: This list was based on my personal experience. Yours might vary.

As implied from the table above, rent and dining out is more expensive in Dublin (and even more in London) than in Jakarta. However, a healthy lifestyle is much more affordable in Dublin/London! I remember putting olive oil and muesli in my basket at Food Hall Jakarta with tears (“sakitnya tuh di sini“) — and gym/Pilates weren’t even an option as they are ridiculously expensive. The best thing is, you can easily jog around Dublin/London stunning parks if you want to avoid gyms, while jogging in Jakarta will probably bring you either lung cancer or traffic accident.

Merrion Park, 5 minutes walk from my apartment. Bonus: a handsome European boyfriend.

Traveling is much cheaper too. I put Paris and Bali to the list, as they are both 1.5 hours away from Dublin and Jakarta respectively. A short weekend getaway is cheaper from Dublin (and even cheaper from London, with more budget flights flying from London airports!) — and the destinations are endless: Paris, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Berlin, Milan… We better make the most of 24 days annual paid time off, don’t we?

My proudest achievement so far. PS: Bus to the airport was more expensive than the flight.

What about long holiday? Bali is a dream destination for a lot of Europeans as Paris is a dream destination for a lot of Indonesians. Well, reflecting back at the table above, someone from Europe can easily afford a flight to Bali without saving for months, while it’s not the case for someone from Indonesia to Paris. Not only the actual price is cheaper (€600 for return flight from London vs €1,000 for return flight from Jakarta), but also the relative cost (compared to income level and other expense). Unfair, I know.

And musicals and concerts! Where do I even begin the list? Les Miserables, The Phantom of The Operas, London Philharmonic, St Petersburg Ballet, Mamma Mia, The Book of Mormon, Coldplay, Adele, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, you name it! While seeing a musical/concert is considered a luxury in Jakarta, it’s not that big of a deal here. Even as a student, I could afford seeing musicals once a month.

To conclude my rambles:

You can afford the same quality of life (or even higher) in Dublin/London as in Jakarta, given that you work as a white-collar employee in both places. Taking the leap (with a calculated risk) will pay off. Don’t listen to those words discouraging you.

Dreamus realitus!


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Debbie Widjaja

Traveling writer. Chevening scholar 2015/2016. Startup survivor. Now Facebooker.

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