Tag Archives: Indonesia

My mind on my money

14 Jan

Banking is tough in Indonesia, if you’re a foreigner. Or an ATM. Witness this recent news item, courtesy of the IPJ Daily News service:

ATM Explodes in Malang, East Java
On Thursday (January 9) at around 0230hrs an ATM belonging to Mandiri Bank exploded on Jalan Kartanegara, Karangploso, Malang, East Java. The explosion caused the machine flew for 20 meters, yet the machine was still in one piece. Suspects failed to recover money from the machine. The police Gegana Team (bomb squad) deployed to the site to secure the area and a forensic team from Surabaya, Indonesia responded to investigate. Four witnesses are under interrogation.

Doesn’t sound like I’d want to be one of those witnesses. That said, trying to get normal banking done is about as pleasant as police interrogation!

1. First of all, getting a bank account is hard. It took me over 3 months. You need a residency permit, a work permit, a letter from your employer confirming your address, and then the ever-illusive tax ID number. And that’s just to fill the forms out. Someone then has to call you and confirm all the information you just provided, and eventually you get a bank account.

2. Having a bank account opened isn’t the same thing as getting a bank card. Nope, really. I found out I had accounts successfully opened because I got a text message from the customer service agent, asking me to deposit money into the account to meet a minimum balance. No correspondence, no bank card, just a text. Sure (I texted) but I don’t know the account numbers. OK, I can text them to you. But how can I deposit money without a bank card? Oh, just log in online. OK, but don’t I need a bank card? No, you can just transfer the funds in. OK, but how will the website know I’m me and connect to my accounts? Just create a user ID. This of course I tried and failed to do because … step 1 of creating a user ID is entering your bank card number. Sigh.

3. Effortless online banking is a fiction made up by marketing types. They probably keep their own money in a sack under the bed. Having eventually obtained a bank card by going in person to the headquarters branch, I now (foolishly) attempted to set up online bill payments. Setting up a payee requires a bank routing code, which makes sense so your bank knows where to send the money. So innocently, I call customer service to ask how I find said code. The response – we don’t keep codes for other banks, just for us. You need to call the other bank where the account is. Other bank – we don’t keep records for bank codes. OK, but this is a (trademarked) “virtual account” – doesn’t that mean I can pay online? Oh no, only in a branch miss. Have a nice day. Sigh again.

What’s most interesting is that everyone else seems to have figured this out. People routinely send you their account details to transfer money. My utility company has set up a virtual account just for me, so I can easily pay my bills. My landlady also sent me her account details, and so did my housekeeper. It’s clearly just me.

Maybe I need to go shopping for a sack. At least this I can do with cash.

A lesson in polite chaos

21 Sep
IMG_0204

Jakarta city view

Jakarta traffic is insane. I’d been warned before I got here about the traffic, but it’s something else to see it up close. Everyone is always trying to get somewhere. In a hurry. In a city of more than 12 million, and in one of the most densely populated parts of the city, that’s a lot of people in a relatively small space. Thankfully, there are rules … kind of.

Rule #1 – Every space is a usable space. It’s common to see a swarm of scooters, sometimes with 2 or 3 passengers, crowded at the front of a line of traffic, waiting on the light to change so they can squeeze ahead of cars. And when traffic is moving, they are everywhere, inching between cars, snaking around buses, all the while blowing their horns just in case.

Rule #2 – Lane markings count, except when they don’t. Try to drive in a straight line and you will find most people are in their lanes (well except scooters, see rule #1). But try going around a corner, merging on or off a main road, or my personal favourite – going around a roundabout – and all bets are off. It’s more of a case of who goes first wins. It’s the strangest thing because as soon as you are back on a straight road, the order returns.

bus lane

Bus lane

 Rule #3 – Bus lanes are for buses. So far this is the one I’ve seen respected without fail. Not sure if this is because there are major fines for violating this rule, or because of the big curb that divides regular traffic lanes from the bus lanes.  I’m sure that the fact that TransJakarta bus drivers swing the buses around like they are training for F1 competition has nothing to do with it.

Rule #4 – HOV lanes are serious business. Certain streets are designated “3 in 1” especially during rush hour, which means that there must be a minimum of 3 people in any 1 vehicle to travel in these areas. Here’s how I discovered how this played out. One evening leaving the office, the car I was in was stopped by police. The office driver hadn’t done anything wrong that I could see, but 2 other cars were also pulled over so I assumed a routine traffic check. After a brief conversation where the office driver seemed to be trying to persuade the policeman of something and what looked like a “financial exchange”, we were allowed to pass. The next night, I noticed a number of young men standing along the driveway exit, all holding up 1 finger like they were asking for a ride, or counting to 1. Soon after we pulled out of the gate, the driver stopped and picked up one of these men, seemingly at random. He turned to me apologetically and explained this was the “jockey for 3-in-1”. Then it hit me. The rules are so strict that drivers will pay to have a 3rd passenger or “jockey” in the car in order to access the restricted areas! After a few blocks when we had cleared the 3-in-1 zone, our “jockey” hopped out and went his way, presumably to rescue another driver. Serious business indeed.

policeIncredibly, I’m yet to see so much as a fender-bender, although sometimes I’m pretty sure scooters are routinely touching cars or each other in the crush. As I said, it’s chaos, but polite chaos. Don’t forget to look both ways.