Expat miner tells of life in Indonesia

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Jason Nitz is an Aussie expat miner who decided to move his family to Indonesia instead of doing the FIFO thing. Here he offers a great insight into life overseas...

Living overseas was always something I wanted to do once I joined the mining industry and realised it was a possibility. I started with Rio Tinto many years ago in a remote location in Australia, which increased our interest in living in faraway places. Spending time in the Navy after leaving school had given me an interest in other countries, but living there was another matter altogether.

Jesus statue in Manado Our first taste of working and living overseas in mining was in the Middle East. A short contract opportunity arose and we decided to take the plunge. Moving there from where we lived in remote NT was quite a challenge but it also prepared us for what lay ahead. We enjoyed our time there, as it was very different to anything we'd experienced before. The people were friendly but shy and our Arabic was very limited, but we managed to get along. Having a full medical in Muscat, Oman, where no-one spoke English was an experience! Thank goodness sign language is easily understood around the world.

After a few years back in Australia with several mining companies, we are now living in Indonesia. I work for a major Australian gold producer at their new mine which is under development. I was offered a FIFO job originally but turned it down due to the amount and length of travel. Instead, I offered to live in the country if my family could join me. The company jumped at the chance, thinking it wasn't an option – not many want to live and work in Indonesia for various reasons. Having children in high school or university is normally what restricts people from being able to move.

So far we've found our time here interesting and exciting, as everything is new and different. We're starting to work out what groceries to buy at the shops, mainly through trial and error, and where the best places are to eat. There are several large supermarkets in Manado and some even stock Australian brands such as Bega cheese. Unfortunately Vegemite is not available in Indonesia. Food is a very big part of Indonesian culture and this is no more apparent in Manado where the food is a unique mix of many cultures. The Dutch were the last westerners to have a major influence in North Sulawesi and this has isolated the type of food on offer. If you're a fan of hot spicy food, Manado is for you! (Though there's a lot to be said for the local Pizza Hut which I reckon is better than those back home.)

We are lucky that we have internet, so it's easy to keep in touch with family and friends back home. Applications like Skype work well, though only for voice calls. The local internet speeds don't allow video calls. We have a phone in our accommodation but rarely use it – we only got it installed as it's required for the internet connection. Mobile phones are very cheap to buy here and the cost of calls and SMS are a fraction of what they are in Australia. Some mobile providers give you 1000 free SMS per day once you send 10 or more in a day – you'd never find that in Australia! It also explains why Indonesians are always on their phones.

Pool and view of volcano Our son goes to a local school which caters for classes in English as well as teaching Bahasa Indonesian. Kids are quite adaptable, probably more so than their parents, so he's settled in well and enjoys going to school. School starts early in Indonesia with assembly at 7.15am, though they finish at 2pm. Local schools are open on Saturday as well which must be a real bummer but as there are so many children going to school and a limited number of schools, they do it in shifts.

The only downside to living overseas is the lack of familiar foods and drink from back home. Wine is rare in Indonesia with bottles of $15 wine back home costing about $70 here. Spirits are a little better in that they are only about double the price. But if you're a beer drinker, you're in luck. Beer here is about $1.50 per can – 50c if you buy it from the supermarket hot.

Apart from Bega cheese, there is little else that looks familiar. Fruit and veg is different to back home but you can find some interesting replacements if you look around. The bananas are divine and the apples huge! I'm sure the lack of range will make us appreciate it all the more when we return home. Plus, it gives us an excuse to ask visitors to bring us goodies from home when they come.

There's one thing for certain though – we're not looking forward to paying Australian prices for things when we return! Living overseas makes you realise just how much more we pay for things in Australia when we shouldn't have to.

For more on Jason's adventures with his wife and son in Indonesia, check out the Nitz family blog www.spiceislandsadventure.wordpress.com.