Readers' Submissions

Indonesian Alternatives

  • Written by Casanundra
  • October 26th, 2005
  • 31 min read


Think you are having it rough in Thailand? Consider your western cousins in Indonesia…

Indonesia, that giant archipelago some 3 hours or so south of Thailand is one of those countries that has been vying for my attention for quite some time now, and way before I came to the shores of Thailand which had the inevitable effect of enticing me away from Indonesia, it was actually going to be my number one destination of choice.

For those of you who have not read my previous submission, I have been Internet dating for the best part of five years and travelling all around the globe meeting ladies from the net, half of whom were across Asia.

Now, without going into some sort of league table of which countries out class which for the ladies on offer, because let’s face it, we all have different tastes and ideas about what constitutes a classy/sexy/lovely lady, I will just make the statement (because I am talking about Indonesia today) that in my opinion and experience, some of the warmest, the most wonderful and ever so friendly people I have ever met have all come from Indonesia… and the Philippines… and Vietnam… and, and, and… but it is Indonesia I am talking about today so let’s just keep it simple.

Now for clarity, I am going to talk about the kind of girl you would want to take home to meet your mother and whom generally you would want to be with for marriage or most certainly for a long-term romance. I am not even going to go anywhere near the sex industry because quite frankly it is not my bag and I have very little experience or desire to go anywhere near it, so sorry to disappoint you testosterone enriched sex fiends out there but this article is probably not for you.

Now, that we have established that it is good girls we are seeking, if I had to do a like for like comparison with Thailand, I would say the ‘good’ woman that you meet over in Indonesia are generally… no actually I won’t use the word ‘generally’, I will say ‘by far’ more trustworthy and certainly more educated than those you will find here in Thailand. I would even go as far as to say that Indonesian ladies are also far more likely to make loyal and dedicated partners and wives compared to their Thailand counterparts if only because the Indonesians tend to be less ‘money’ focused and more akin to working things out and planning for the future than the ‘I cannot think or plan for longer than a week Thai ladies’ who have a tendency to let money burn big holes in their pockets. Very general in its view I know, but in most of my research and visits to Indonesia I have yet to meet a ‘good Indonesian’ lady that is even anywhere on par to what happens to some folk here in Thailand. I am sure there are exceptions to this as with everywhere but it’s a point I am stressing because it is very much an obvious one to make when doing a comparison.

Now, all of this is somewhat of a profound statement considering that I am currently living and pseudo married to a decent Thai lady in Thailand. This alone will no doubt have some of you sighing and saying things such as “hypocritical twat” or “why the fuck aren’t you there then?” or words to that effect, and to be honest I don’t care that you think this way about me. I made my choice and I am living with it but I also won’t say that I don’t have the odd minor pang of regret for not having chosen an Indonesian woman instead, and that’s the point I am going to try and get across, is to why I ultimately chose a Thai over an Indonesian. It is also the purpose of this submission, to explain to you, especially those of you who keep on ranting and raving about just how bad Thailand is, or how bad the Thai girls treat you etc… that the grass is not always greener on another side.

So, if you are having urges to wonder off to pastures new, and especially thinking about the shores of Indonesia in search of that new love or perhaps simply would like to see how your western brothers are having it on a different shore, then read on… because believe me, there are some very serious things that you need to consider before jumping ship and some of the things coming out of Indonesia specifically aimed at foreigners who want to marry Indonesians are so mind boggling that it makes Thailand a hell of a nicer place to stay in and ultimately aim for if one is deciding between the two.

So, why did I not choose Indonesia in favour of anywhere else for that matter? Well, it wasn’t because of the country over there for sure. Indonesia is a beautiful country with some wonderful scenery to explore and it has some of the friendliest people around to warm the cockles of your heart. It also is in my opinion on a par if not better to Thailand for finding a good, decent and ‘beautiful’ woman. The economy over there may not be quite as good as it is in Thailand (which isn’t too great either) but the job prospects for ‘normal jobs’ (meaning not English teaching) is better than what Thailand currently has to offer, or at least it certainly is not quite as sexist, racist and ageist as it is here… and the cost of living in Indonesia is by far certainly cheaper too, and I recently came back with a stack clothes that were significantly better quality and cheaper than what you can get here in Thailand… which is saying something!

If you put the minor facts aside that there have been bombings in Bali and downtown Jakarta, along with a few scrapes or two in Aceh and other provinces, which let’s face it will come to a place near you in Thailand soon… and anyone thinking it won’t happen here or anyone else in the world for that matter are just kidding themselves, so when you put that into perspective, then Indonesia is not the bad scary place that people make it out to be. I have visited lots of places all over Indonesia and with the exception of Jakarta where you have to be on your toes, especially in taxis, and even then as long as you use the blue bird taxis group and take the usual precautions then you should be ok.

If I was recommending places to go and visit in Indonesia, then I would highly recommend places such as Bandung, which is renowned for its very beautiful women, and Surabaya which is the 2nd largest city in Indonesia and where nothing ever happens but is in fact a great place to launch off around the rest of Indonesia travelling and from here you can get to Bromo for the volcanoes and sunrises and Malang, two hours outside of Surabaya, and which for me would be the perfect place to live as it is very serene, tropical and beautiful with some wonderful scenery and places to call your home. However, Indonesia and even Jakarta is not the Bangkoks of this world so if you are into the sex scene, then it may not be quite as appealing to you, although these things can be found if you are that way inclined or need it in your life.

So what made me walk away from marrying and staying with an Indonesian woman then? Well lots of little things really, but the really big ones revolved around religious expectations or requirements, future children, jobs and ultimately immigration.

Having met several ladies during my times in Indonesia, with two in particular warming my heart and thus capturing my imagination, I originally decided to make a bee line towards making Indonesia my home. In fact, I would go on to say that I came really, really close to getting shacked up, marrying and living there with one of them… so close in fact that we had already paid deposits for the wedding arrangements and sent out invitations to all and sundry. Unfortunately, it was at this point however, that I started getting bad vibes from immigration and so forth as to the loops I needed to jump through to get married and after I went on to research what the implications of marrying an Indonesian would be, I seriously got cold feet and ran away, leaving my Indonesian bride to be clutching a stack of wedding planner books and RSVP wedding invitations and just leaving her to let everyone know she was now without a groom. Needless to say, I never heard from her again and it is one of the minor regrets that I have when I look across the seas in that direction sometimes.

Anyway, and in no particular order, the number one issue you will come to face revolves around religion. I hate to even approach the subject of religion because in this ever so politically correct world we live in, someone, somewhere will jump on you for it, and I always remember the advice that my father gave me when I ws a teenager and that was; “Son, if you never want to have a fight; never talk about Religion, Football or Politics”, unfortunately, my father had never been to Indonesia, and if you are serious about Indonesia, then you cannot avoid it… or at least the religion part.

So why is religion so important in Indonesia. To be honest I have no idea, perhaps it’s because it is predominantly a Moslem country and therefore that’s just the way they are inclined. I do know for certain that Indonesia has a LAW that states that every individual MUST declare himself or herself as being of one of the acceptable faiths, which means you have to declare for the records that you are a Moslem, a Catholic, a Christian, a Hindu or a Buddhist. There maybe others but not totally being in the know with regards religion I can only say the bits I know, but you get the drift. If you are an atheist or have agnostic beliefs about religion then this is simply considered not acceptable nor is being any other religion not recognised under the holy book… so I guess this rules out the Jehovah’s witnesses and the Mormons too but I stand to be corrected if I am wrong on this point. I must admit I was very disappointed at first because my plans to declare myself as being a member of the Jedi Knight religious order went by the way side and so I had to throw away my light sabre.

It is worth mentioning here (very daring of me) that I personally take a scientific view towards religion and tend to also have an open-minded view as to the existence of some divine entity having control over our lives, which basically means I could or would be considered Agnostic I guess. Now before we continue, if you have tendencies to want to bible bash me into thinking otherwise and that my soul should be saved, then please heed this retort “go away!” I don’t need it, nor do I want it in my life. I am not interested. I don’t smoke, I don’t do excessive drinking, I certainly don’t do drugs and apart from one minor experience when I first arrived in Thailand, I don’t frequent the bars in any shape or form either, and just like all these addictions I have mentioned, I don’t do religion either. Religion is a personal choice and that’s how it should be, accept it for what it is and move on. Understand? Good, glad we got that out of the way!

So as you can imagine, immediately I came into conflict with Indonesia because I was simply refusing to declare myself as belonging to any religion, why should I? However, if you want to get married there or for your marriage to be ‘officially’ recognised by Indonesia then you MUST declare yourself as one of the recognised religions. So let’s say for arguments sake then, that I declare myself as a Christian. I must be because I grew up in the West and went to several schools that had “Saint” in their name. So now that I have established this and put my stake in the ground and declared a faith of sorts, then this is where the fun begins because the girls you are likely to meet in Indonesia are either going to be predominantly Moslem with the odd Christian thrown in or if you venture down to Bali then you are likely to meet a lady who is a Hindu. There are other odd religions thrown in around the rest of Indonesia, such as Buddhism but these tend to be the minority and restricted to the Chinese Indonesians who by and large are disliked across Indonesia or at best tolerated.

Ok no big deal, so the first objective is to find a girl of the same religion and have done with it. Great! If the lottery of life finds you one, but what if like me, you don’t consider religion to be ‘that’ important and decide to just follow your heart and to fall in love with the woman you like first because she is intelligent, cute, funny, that you like her, and that she is your ideal mate… well… if you do this, if you put religion to one side first, then very quickly you will find that this is the first Indonesian hurdle you will have to overcome. In many respects, this hurdle is just like the dowry you are likely to encounter when in Thailand, and although there is no specific dowry in Indonesia per se to worry about, you can be sure that the dowry equivalent of Indonesia in many respects will be the issue of religion. OK, no big deal I hear you say, just as we can refuse to pay the dowry in Thailand, we will also refuse to follow these religious demands in Indonesia too… but as we all know, that is very much often easy to say than do, especially when you love the girl and want to spend the rest of your life with her.

So what happens, if like what happened to me, the girl of choice happens to be a very sweet Moslem girl? Well I can tell you that you are in for an immediate conflict because the rules of that particular religion state that you cannot marry a Moslem girl unless you convert to being a Moslem too! On top of that, there is a second rule, if you convert to being a Moslem, then you must also get circumcised too – really? Oh crap! Now straight away these two reasons alone would be enough for many to want to walk away but then again it all depends on how much you ‘really’ love the girl and what hoops you are prepared to jump through. There are also other rules/guidelines that they would like you to follow, such as they would prefer that you adopt a Moslem name and embrace Islam with all your heart and so on… which let’s face it comes as a major shock for someone who doesn’t really put religion anywhere in their life.

To re-enforce this point further, this is what I found from the rules and regulations book in Indonesia: In accordance with Law No. 1 of 1974 concerning marriages in Indonesia Article 2 (1): "a marriage is legitimate if it has been performed according to the laws of the respective religious beliefs of the parties concerned. "All couples that marry in Indonesia must declare a religion. Agnosticism and Atheism are not recognized. The Civil Registry Office (Kantor Catatan Sipil) can record marriages of persons of Islam, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian-Protestant and Christian-Catholic faiths. Marriage partners must have the same religion, otherwise one partner must make a written declaration of change of religion.”

Good eh? Ok, some of you may decide that this is no problem or that you have found a partner where conversion doesn’t apply, well great! But what if it is a problem for you, and you both decide to leave the shores of Indonesia and decide to marry elsewhere, like in Singapore for example. Well, many couples purposefully decide to do just that in a bid to get around the whole issue, returning with the marriage a fait accompli … legal documents and all … and that is one way out of having to convert in order to marry. However, this simply overcomes the legalities of an Indonesian wedding. Once you move back to Indonesia, you are likely to find that the pressure from the Indonesian spouse's family and friends will be so great that it will ultimately start affecting your marriage and therefore eventually influencing your previous decision to not convert to your wife’s religion. Even if your Indonesian wife isn't particularly religious, be prepared for her family to be so and generally speaking Indonesians find it very difficult to go against their family's wishes and with all things Asian, family does tend to come first, even before you, her husband!

As for the circumcision, well you may decide not to simply have your foreskin taken away. Unfortunately, in many cases the man is asked (by the girl's family or religious leaders in her community) to provide visual proof, whilst in others, they'll simply take your word for it! Personally, I would be affronted if someone other than my wife or Doctor wanted to look at my wee willy wodger and I would have a blinder of a fight if forced otherwise.

OK… so now let’s assume we find all of this acceptable and just decide to grit our teeth for the sake of marrying our sweetheart or that the girl you met is actually the same faith and therefore doesn’t present you with any conversion problems… well great, we can all move along and get married… but wait… this is Indonesia, there are other things to consider too, and the next problem you may encounter revolves around the issue of kids, or rather future kids that you may have together.

I am going to assume here that at some point you are likely to approach the subject of having a family or children in the future. Well, ok for balance I recognise that some of you may not want kids or have kids from a previous relationship etc… but let’s assume you both want kids for the sake of getting my point across. Now, the way the Indonesian government looks at things, and under Indonesian law, the nationality of the children automatically takes on the nationality of the father. According to the law, all children of foreign men are also considered foreigners (WNA – warga negara asing). And before you ask, it makes no difference where the children were born either as to whether or not they have the right to Indonesian citizenship.

The sad things is that there is absolutely no scope for them having joint nationality either. If you are currently scratching your head and wondering why this is all so, well it all boils down to some ancient and very old law of understanding that the father, THE MAN, is the “head of the house” and therefore as the head of the house, he should take on leadership responsibility in all aspects of the household. This not only includes bringing home the daily bread so to speak, but also includes religious leadership as well as being responsible for the children and all other matters pertaining to your household… this is very contrary to western laws and beliefs where effectively the woman is the one who gets everything after a divorce for example, especially with regards to the children, and the rules in Indonesia are totally different to what we are used to in this respect. OK, so I guess many of you may think this is a boon, especially if you have children and your ex wife is being an awkward cow and refusing you access to your kids etc… and it may also represent no problem for all you stuck in the 1950’s men out there who think the man should be the head of the house. However, be aware that it is also because of this ‘head of the house’ notion that forces you to do a religious conversion in the first place because as the head of the house you effectively have all the power within your household, and therefore can effectively force your wife to give up her religion and adopt your ways… and it is because of this thinking that has all the religious leaders and her family insisting on you converting as well as expecting to see your children brought up with the same religious beliefs whether you agree to it or not! Duh! What century are we living in again?

Anyway, let’s go on and talk about the practicality of this Indonesian law regarding the kids shall we… When you have kids to an Indonesian, and therefore the kids become the nationality of you the father, it therefore stands to reason that this also means that your children MUST also be subject to immigration rules and therefore have to accompany you on VISA runs. If you think that this doesn’t apply to such young children then think again, it does! And here are the words of one such happy visitor to Indonesia, which summed it up succinctly “No. You have no more rights than a visiting tourist and will have to leave unless you have a Kitas/business/social budaya or Tourist Visa. Your children will also be considered foreign citizens. Basically you are entitled to nothing and are subjected to excess immigration fees.” – Actually, now I come to think of it, it sounds a bit like Thailand too.

So now you know this, how do you feel about dragging your six-month-old baby across a border into Singapore for the sake of a stamp in their passport, especially if you all decide to stay in Indonesia because your Indonesian wife insists on it! On top of that, consider the prospect of having to continually face this ordeal for the rest of your child’s life until they become an adult and that certainly puts the whole thing into perspective.

As with everything, there are ways around such anal rulings, but the only way that I am aware of that will allow your children to be classified as Indonesian citizens is, if your name as the father (as the foreigner) does not appear on the Indonesian birth certificate. Effectively forcing you to have illegitimate kids. If a father is listed on the birth certificate, the chances are it will be a fictitious Indonesian name and therefore would have no legal standing anyway. In both these cases, then and only then can your children be considered Indonesian citizens, but as their father you would have no legal rights and you would also have to recognise that they will also have no rights as a foreign citizen either which on the ground means that they will also not be allowed to attend an International school should you want to provide them with superior education later on. Great choice you have eh?

So let’s assume you decide to keep the kids as yours and therefore allow yourself to be faced with the immigration hassles. Well for the first 5 years, you can only obtain an annual KITAS sponsored by your wife. This is like a Non-Immigration O visa equivalent that you can get in Thailand and must be applied for every year and it is not cheap. It also includes facilitation costs (bribes to you and me) as well which all adds to the expense. After 5 years, you then ‘may’ be able to obtain something called a KITAP (or a 5 year resident visa) for the children bearing in mind that one of the rules for this is that your child has to show 5 successive years as a KITAS holder first.

In addition to this, only the Indonesian mother can sponsor a KITAS for the foreign nationality children and that you as the father have really have no rights on the matter whatsoever. The visa will say something like "Turut Ibu Kandung" (following birth mother) and the only thing that you can do, indeed must do is to submit a letter of financial support with the KITAS application, stating how much you as the foreign father is willing to give the mother and child each month for support while they are staying in Indonesia and what constitutes an acceptable level of monthly support for this application is anyone’s guess.

Now before the issue of kids is put to bed, let me just go on to explain what happens should one of you die or if you get a divorce. In the event of a divorce or death the status of the children still remains that of a foreign citizen, and therefore subject to immigration rules. Even if they stay in Indonesia with the Indonesian mother (assuming that it is you who has either left or died) then nothing on this foreign status changes. In fact should you divorce or die, the chances are the kids will also be forced to leave with either with you or back to your country of origin as well without their mother! This is especially so if the Indonesian mother cannot afford to sponsor them each year through immigration. A very tough choice if you ask me for any mother! So unless you keep in touch and promise to support them or leave a healthy sum of money behind after you die, it could be a very tough road ahead for your kids.

Now let’s assume your wife dies, and you have a house together in her name because like Thailand you have no rights to owning a property in Indonesia. Within 1 year, the government will not only confiscate your home, they will also auction it off too. The crap thing about this is, is that most Indonesians know this ruling and will force you as close to the 1 year point before they will buy your property knowing full well you have no other choice but to offload it at the cheapest price you can to redeem at least something back of your investment. Very nice thing to happen to a grieving family don’t you think? Also, unless you find another wife quickly who is prepared to sponsor your kids in Indonesia, you WILL ALL be forced to effectively leave Indonesia because how else will your kids be able to stay there without a KITAS support from their mother.

There have been numerous articles covering these problems, but to date the government's response has been very rigid and looks unlikely to change for some time, and I reckon that this is even more so now after reading an article yesterday called “Want to marry RI woman? Pay Rp 500m in deposit” which prompted me to write this submission in the first place… but more on that later.

So what about you, what rights do you have to be in Indonesia? Well the answer is none, nana, absolutely ziltch! In fact you have the same rights as you would have in Thailand in this respect but made a lot more difficult and obtaining the same kind of KITAS visa that your kids would enjoy is only possible if:

a) They accept your wife’s support letter, which in reality may only work for the first 6 months to a year because after that serious questions of funding will start getting asked or;
b) You get a work permit and the rule is, no work permit, no visa!

To get a work permit therefore is not so straight forward, and effectively you need to have a job offer from a company who has to prove to the Indonesian office of labour that;

a) Your skills are unique and that no Indonesian citizen can do the same job and;
b) That they agree to pay the Indonesian labour $1,200 ‘EVERY’ year you are employed, which is effectively cited as a training fund that allegedly goes to train some Indonesian to do the job that you are currently doing!

The only exception I believe to this training fund is if you go to work in Indonesia as an Educator (Teacher to you and me) and so this is one possibility to consider. Currently English First are recruiting heavily in Indonesia and having had discussions with them, the salary is 6 million Rupiah (about 24,000 THB) which, in my humble opinion is far too low a salary while a DOS would earn about 12 million Rupiah (48,000 THB). There are other schools offering 9 million Rupiah, which is probably more akin to what you could realistically get here in Thailand and because of the lower cost of living in Indonesia compared to Thailand it wouldn’t be too bad either.

Unfortunately, the only way to secure a work permit is to get the job offer and work permit in advance and only then will you get the correct visa. Bear in mind also, that each time you enter Indonesia the visa on ‘every’ visit in takes up a complete page in your passport so make sure you have a lot of empty pages!

On the property front, well we have already established that you cannot own land or property in Indonesia, “ok so what” you say, “it is the same in Thailand” but no in Indonesia you cannot even own a condo or an apartment whereas in Thailand you can!

There have however been newspaper articles detailing announcements made by the government that foreigners may now purchase apartments. However, the reality to this day is that there are no such regulations, which clearly allow foreign ownership of apartments, although rumours are abound that these regulations are forthcoming. However, the only way a purchase of an apartment can currently be arranged is if you have a contract with the developer saying that title for the apartment stays in the developer's name until such time as the laws are changed so that the ownership of the apartment can be in the foreigner's name. Needless to say, you seriously should consider whether or not you could trust the developer to honour this type of contract.

Also since foreigners aren't allowed to own homes in Indonesia, if you and your wife plan to buy a property, it will have to be solely in the name of the wife, and/or her family members. It is also currently impossible to borrow money from a bank to purchase a home, as the bank will recognize that ownership of the husband's half of the home will revert to the Indonesian government in the case of a default on the loan… bizarre huh!

I will go to say that renting in Indonesia is not so bad and you usually get a lot more property for your buck in terms of size. In fact, most of the language schools provide shared property where you are given a maid and a cook and basically someone to care for your every day living needs leaving you free to relax and just enjoy life. Even if you decide to rent your own home away from the shared properties it is not so bad and most people have a maid who tends to also live ensuite somewhere in your house or condo! Great if you want to pretend you are lord muck for a while! The only down side to having your own property is that most if not all expect 2 years ‘key’ money in advance and there are very few exceptions to this as everyone does it as norm. OK not bad if you have a 2-year contract but most visas and contracts last only 1 year so go figure this one out!

So what else is happening in Indonesia that would make you grey at the temples and effectively put the bullet into the idea of going that way? Well I was still panging towards Indonesia for a while, because I sometimes get frustrated here in Bangkok and right up until I read the following article, I was still seriously pondering things that way… However have a read at the following, which came from the Jakarta Post dated the 11th October 2005.

Want to marry RI woman? Pay Rp 500m in deposit
If you happen to be a not-so-rich foreign gentleman who plans to marry an Indonesian lady here, you'd better tie the knot quickly as the authorities may put an expensive price tag on Indonesian women in the future.

Unknown to many, the Supreme Court is mulling over the idea of requiring foreign men to deposit some Rp 500 million (about US$50,000) into a bank bond before being allowed to marry Indonesian female citizens.

The idea was recommended during a recent Supreme Court national working meeting, which was attended by the Supreme Court leadership and top judges from across the country. It was not immediately clear how the proposed scheme would be implemented.

According to a document studied at the meeting, such a regulation is applied in Egypt, where foreign men are required to pay a sum of money into a state bank before marrying Egyptian citizens.

"In a bid to protect women, the state of Egypt requires every (male) foreigner who plans to marry an Egyptian citizen to pay 25,000 Egyptian pounds into the Nasser Bank as a bond," said the document, a copy of which was made available to The Jakarta Post over the weekend.

The Supreme Court may likely follow up on the idea by submitting it to the government or the House of Representatives, which would draft the ruling.

The recommendation by the male-dominated Supreme Court will add to thealready long list of complications faced by trans-national couples wishing to register their marriages here.
Many consider the current Indonesian law on citizenship as failing to protect trans-national couples, particularly marriages between Indonesian women and foreign men.

Such couples must go through lengthy and complicated immigration and other processes to legalize their marriage under Indonesian law.

More problems usually occur later since the Citizenship Law (No. 62/1958), which applies the outdated bloodline principle, does not allow foreign men married to Indonesian women to change nationality, while any children of the marriage will automatically take the same citizenship as the father.

The non-Indonesian husband and children are then treated in much the same way as foreign tourists or visitors. It means they must fly to neighbouring countries to renew their visas should the family decide to live in Indonesia.

According to the law as it now stands, when an Indonesian woman who is married to a foreign man dies, her husband and children cannot inherit her name.

The Indonesian government instead auctions off the property within one year, leaving the mourning family homeless. The unfavourable situation has forced many Indonesian women to marry their foreign fiancés abroad, although this does not actually solve the problem should they decide to live in Indonesia.

The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights has submitted a bill to amend the 1958 Citizenship Law to the House of Representatives. However, the House has yet to list it for further deliberation.

So in summary, the next time you consider that being in Thailand with your little Thai darling is troublesome, and that being here with the Thai immigration laws and such like is being unfavourable or a pain in the arse to us, before you go off on a rant, just have a thought for your western brothers in Indonesia and consider that it could be worse. Imagine if the Thai authorities decided to do the same… what a nightmare it would be in Thailand then. Pleasant dreams oh little ones.

Stickman's thoughts:

Maybe the idea is to get an Indonesian woman and bring her to Thailand?