Sunday, October 20, 2013

Coping with reverse culture shock - Case Study of Jakarta

Living 2 years in Melbourne has inevitably affected my daily routine. As a commuter, I got used to the on-time bus, tram and train or at least a notification when the public transport experienced delay. Usually, with a little bonus like free ride for one day as an apology for such delay. And that's how we (as Melburnians) forgot and forgave the mistake. I was a cyclist too back then, and I did enjoy the privilege of being cyclist in the so-called the most livable city in the world. This is my perspective as an ex-Jakartan who converted to be Melburnians. I, with abundant exposures of non-convenient, over-crowded public transport along with polluted urban air, felt in love with public transport in Melbourne right away. Those from Europe (perhaps) have different view than mine, but I can assure that most of my Indonesian friends felt the same as I did.

I did not experience a severe culture shock syndrome when I first arrived in Melbourne except for the constantly cold temperature and my craving for Jakarta's fully fat yet extremely delicious street side fried food. But it was forgiven, the city was just too mesmerizing (I did curse about the weather in some of my facebook statuses and salivate when my friends in Indonesia posted Indonesian delicacies in social media).

My two amazing years was short enough. Time to go back to Jakarta, a job was waiting and suddenly I questioned myself whether I could re-adjust myself back to the chaotic Jakarta. I was too comfort in Melbourne and Jakarta sounded like a nightmare all of a sudden. Yeah it was my bad, comparing an apple with durian. I've heard from my friends that such reverse culture shock is way harder when we move from the more ordered premise to the chaotic one. I agree.

Most of my ex-Melburnian Indonesian mates finally adjusted themselves with chaotic Jakarta. The question is how quick did they conquer their reverse culture shock. I've heard some stories from friend: some were too afraid to drive their own car on their first weeks, some were scare to commit jaywalking, some were pissed off by Jakarta's continuous traffic, some were devastated by the commuting time which took almost 4 hours average per person per day, some had stomachache after tasting Jakarta's street side food, some were desperate that the public transport quality deteriorated and still, there are many more type of shocks which is too long to be listed in this post. The healing period surely vary to each one of us. I needed one week to recover. Such a quick recovery, right? Wanna ask me how?
Welcome To Jakarta
 Well, I have made my "come back" plan. Here are some tips I from my side:
  1. Commute with train from Jakarta to Bogor at peak hours weekdays. Jakarta -Bogor train line is possibly the most crowded train line in the area, please choose the 5 pm to 6 pm train. I tried it on my third day upon my arrival in Jakarta and it was fasting month. The air conditioned train was no longer effective with the over-crowded passengers with their sweaty shirts. Not to mention body odors and oxygen shortage. I felt like sardines in a can. The train was so full yet passengers kept coming in at each station. In this situation, I converted my backpack to be a front pack and hold it tight. You never know how many pickpockets were there in the train. My long suffocated journey finally ended after one hour when I reached Bogor station. My image of Melbourne tram's convenience slowly faded away. 
  2. Do not stop munching the street side food. I got stomachache on my first day. I think my "Aussie" belly could not recognize Indonesian bacteria attached to the food I consumed. The stomachache is a sign that my stomach started adjusting with Indonesian delicious yet fatty food. My second trial of street side food finally went well.
  3. Try TransJakarta a.k.a busway at peak hours. Another way to lessen the expectation of Jakarta is by trying TransJakarta or busway at 5 pm. I tried this on my fifth day in Jakarta. I took one of the most crowded busway line from Kuningan towards Ragunan. Kuningan, as one of the business center of Jakarta, did teach me how to be patient when waiting for the bus to come. Seven buses passed but they were all full passengers. The eighth bus finally arrived after I waited for almost 25 minutes and amazingly the people surround me seem very very very patient. My trip to Ragunan was even more excited when I hung on the bus' hand holdings and my head position was next to a man's sweaty armpit. Perfecto, what a fancy way to cope with reverse culture shock. 
  4. Try "Ojek" in an emergency situation. I lie if I say Jakarta's traffic is bearable. It doesn't. However, there is one mode of transport that is "very" reliable in any Jakarta traffic situation. It is called "Ojek" or "motorcycle taxi". Ojek helped me a lot in some emergency situations, particularly when I want to attend my meeting timely. Yet, it comes with price, the ojek driver tends to charge us a lot particularly when our destination is located at the heart/lung/intestine/liver of the traffic jam. Well see the bright side: "Practice your bargain skill". 
  5. Music keeps me sane. Well, stranded for hours in traffic jam is definitely not a good way of using your time, isn't it. Thanks I have my refuse-to-die iPod that constantly fed my tortured mood and soul. Music also started shaping my new habit: Sleep in the bus during traffic jam. Or don't get surprise when you find people who are able to sleep while standing and being pushed by other passengers, you'll get to that stage soon. One tips when this habit occurs, train yourself sleeping while hugging your backpack/bag tightly. There might be some people who are looking forward for the sleeping passengers in the bus. 
Well, those are my tips for conquering reverse culture shock, particularly in the crowded and endless traffic jam city. I am interested to find out how do you guys cope with your culture shock or reverse culture shock. Mind sharing? 


indobrad said...

conquering the culture shock by revisiting the most chaotic parts of Jakarta to be able to enjoy the rest?

I never thought of that. Good idea! :)

Anyta Tamrin said...

Great story and english indeed!!

Arham said...

I was not leaving in a long time base in abroad but for my first one-week short visit in Japan, I cried out loud in the deepest part in my heart to taste the severe Nippon foods which raised my longing to my mother-hand-made cook. The only step I could make was chewing them by recalling how delicious and 'ngangenin' my mother's cook.

Anjani said...

Arrrrghh..This is absolutely true..After coming back from Korea, I feel so nervous living in Jakarta again wkwkwkw...and during the first three months maybe, I always comparing Jakarta and Seoul...

Pengobatan TBC said...

thanks infonya