AN EXPAT’S GUIDE TO LIFE IN LOMBOK:
Have you ever dreamed of quitting your city job, packing some flip-flops, a sarong and moving to an exotic island? Don’t just dream it….DO IT!
Moving to any country can be daunting and challenging, but once you know how it all works you can make it work for you. So here is my ‘How To’ guide to expat living in Lombok.
Ten steps for making it work:
- Find a purpose
Like anywhere in the world, without a purpose you will find yourself questioning what tomorrow will bring, and that lack of direction can be challenging. If you are looking for work, do your research before you depart as getting work visas can take time and employment opportunities for expats can be limited. Most expats visit on a holiday and see opportunity for business, but researching and making sure that this is the right place for them long term is important. If it is a long term holiday or retirement – my advice is write a list of the things you want to achieve as once the days run into each other for too long, life does become monotonous.
- Learn the language and culture (if just a little bit)
By all means you don’t need to be fluent in Bahasa, but learning the common phrases will get you a long way with the locals and will help greatly when getting around. The local Lombok dialect is Sasak and this is completely different to Bahasa. Bahasa is taught in all schools therefore I would recommend sticking to Bahasa when learning the language. There are also small cultural differences, which you will pick-up along the way but should be respected, for example: do not use your left hand, don’t show bottom of your feet and most importantly respect what you wear. These are all things that will not only make you feel more at home (although a foreign new home) but will help in building relationships.
- Make friends
Loneliness is the hardest challenge when moving to a remote area. For me the lifesavers are my friends and the people around me with whom I can vent to about everyday life. Find a group of friends say expat or locals that have similar interests and make sure you make time for them. It is very important that you maintain these friendships and make time to catch-up. The moments you share with your friends will be happiest. I also have many friends and family coming to visit, and this is just a by-product of living in such a beautiful holiday destination.
- Live smart and stay safe
While the majority of the time living in Lombok is safe, there are risks like in any country. I have not had any problems to date with my safety but I was also well warned and I don’t let my guard down. Introduce yourself to the village leader and show respect, as he is the person in the community that has respect from all of the people living in the local area. Once everyone knows who you are and you show respect to the culture – you will find that it is a safe place.
- GET OUT as often as you can
When I mean get out – go to Bali, the Gilis, any Indonesian island or just head to somewhere around Lombok. There are so many places to choose from and if you don’t escape your mind, your mind will escape you. The need for new stimuli is extremely important. Every expat friend gave me this advice when I first moved to Lombok and it is very sound advice. Within three to four weeks, my escapes bring me back to a new place. It doesn’t have to be luxurious but a change is as good as a holiday- wait it is a holiday, enjoy it!
- Organise permanent transport
While getting around Lombok with a personal driver is relatively inexpensive, having your independence and freedom is empowering. Many opt to use the scooter or motorbike but I would highly recommend leasing a car for the first three months so you are able to get an understanding of the roads and the lack of road rules here. Know the etiquette on the roads, although at times it seems like there isn’t much, it is an organised mess.
- Be patient and humble
Many say ‘Lombok time’, and coming from a quick paced environment to Lombok it is easy to get frustrated at the pace. Take a moment and realise that the local community didn’t grow up in your environment and be patient with the process. Once you realise that you have had (regardless of your upbringing) a privileged life with education and experiences far outside theirs, you will learn to be humble. Once you work this out, you will learn to work with the pace and the people, you will feel a part of the place. A good sense of humour never goes astray either.
- Understand the currency
One habit you need to break is learning to stop converting. Expats who have lived here for years still find this hard to do. It is instinctive to calculate the rupee value to the dollar amount (or whatever currency you use). This over time will be confusing and once you stop converting you will be able to compare what products actually cost what. I am a fool for always thinking something is just five dollars, and five dollars is a full days wage for many locals.
- Learn to Love Chilli
If you are not a chilli lover – you will either become one or you will be forever searching for international cuisine. Lombok actually means chilli and they live by it. You will find an abundance of chilli in nearly every local dish. Chilli is also addictive, I have always heard this but until now I didn’t realise the extent of the addiction. Regardless of how much you are a chilli lover (which I obviously am) there will be days that the heat will surprise you.
- Have fun and enjoy
You can’t live anywhere happily if you are not happy. Take a weekend drive, stroll along the beautiful beaches, adventure out and try everything. Eat dishes you don’t have a clue what it’s made of, hang out with people you can only communicate through body language and smile at everyone even if they don’t smile back. Lombok is truly an amazing place that offers so much for the people willing to give it a go. The grass will always be greener – until you see the rolling mountains in Lombok.