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!


Three less known tips on adapting in the UK

Prepare your vocabulary of positive adjectives

I found it surprising to hear how positive European people are about everything (although later I doubted their sincerity). After attending a workshop, for example, my response was only, “Meh. It was okay.”, while theirs would be, “It was amazing. The speakers are all fantastic.” You will find yourself talking with people you are not too close with, and that’s when you need those positive adjectives. And you will look stupid if you only repeat awesome, great, and nice all the time. Ah, and lovely particularly works well with grandmas and grandpas.


Say ‘please’ when asking or ordering something

It might sounds obvious but it took a while to get used to it. In Indonesia, you don’t say please that often. Say, in an airplane, and the flight attendant asked you, “Mau kopi atau teh, Mbak?” (Do you want coffee or tea, Miss?) – You will answer, “Teh aja, Mbak.” (Just tea, Miss.) while smiling politely. Your tone and smile are already counted as ‘please’ in Indonesian.

While here, you have to end every sentence with ‘please’ when you are asking something.


You: “Can I have one chicken, please?”

Him: “Dine in or take away?”

You: “Take away, please.”

Him: “With sauce?”

You: “Yes, please.”


Few months ago, there was a bomb threat in Baker Street, and the traffic was held. Everyone was panicking. My friend’s bus was stopped, and she wanted to get off the bus instead of waiting for uncertain hours. She said to the driver, “Can you open the door?” – and the driver replied, “Can you say ‘please’?” Yes, even in the time of crisis, you can’t never be too polite. Can I hit you on the face, please?


‘Sorry’ is the magic word

Use it all the time. And I really mean all the time. When you bumped into people on the street, no matter whose fault it is, just say sorry. I once watched The Book of Mormon Broadway, and during those two hours show, I exchanged ‘sorry’ five times with the lady who sat next to me. First when I arrived to my seat. She had to move her leg a bit to give me room, and we both said sorry to each other while smiling friendlily. Then in the middle of the show, my huge backpack touched her feet, and we both said sorry. Then during the break, she needed to pass to go to the loo or something, and we both said sorry again. Et cetera, et cetera. Saying sorry doesn’t mean you are really sorry. It can be a magical and practical replacement of ‘excuse me’ or ‘thank you’ in some situation.