Living in Jakarta: 10 Reasons I Hate My Apartment

5 Ways

I’ve never been an apartment person.  I lived in a studio apartment once, during my college days at UC Santa Cruz.  The walls were so wafer thin and I remember being able to hear the girl next door binge watching episodes of Sex and the City.  I can distinctly remember the theme song penetrating the walls.

Ever since then I vowed I would never live in an apartment…ever again.

But when Aaron and I moved to Jakarta, living in an apartment was our only option.  Given that our housing was worked into his contract, we had little say about where we moved.  When we first saw our new place I was excited.  Yes, it was small but it was a workable size for the two of us.  It had two small bedrooms, nice furniture and a flat screen (a plus since we didn’t want to pay to outfit the place), a small balcony and two enormous pools.  Most of all it was sheltered from the busy streets and the nearby mosques, meaning it would be nice and quiet…or so I thought.

Now that I’ve been here for eight months (whoa!) apartment living is starting to get me down.  Not only do I have the upstairs neighbors from hell but there are just so many things that irk me to no end on a daily basis.  I try to be super zen about it.  But on days like this, when I’m sitting here trying to work and my upstairs neighbors are hammering away and the kids across the way are running and screaming down the hallway…well, my zen state of mind quickly transforms into pure rage and inspires rants like this.

10 Reasons I Hate My Apartment:

1. The kids upstairs

I’ve noticed that kids are really loud in Jakarta.  I don’t want to give some broad generalization of Indonesian parenting or their kids, but oh my god kids here scream and yell all the time.  Apparently it’s completely acceptable because parents and passersby don’t seem to mind at all.  The only people that ever seem perturbed are all of us foreigners.

The kids upstairs are so loud that I can often hear them yelling through the ceiling.  They also have the fun habit of throwing stuff on the floor.  Aaron and I have a theory that they have a spinning top (a popular toy ’round these parts).  It also sounds like they’re casting lots, slapping down dominoes…or maybe they’re just throwing blocks.  I don’t know what exactly they do up there but it is unbelievably loud from where I’m sitting.  One would think it would annoy the parents too, but I guess not.

2. The constant sound of running water

The first night Aaron and I slept in our new apartment we were woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of running water.  It was like a small stream of water trickling down the wall.  This sound wakes us up most nights.  Apparently there are pipes in our bedroom wall.  Another fun fact is that we can hear the upstairs neighbors flushing the toilet.  It’s like the sudden release of gallons of water in the ceiling and it skeeves me out to no end.

3. My neighbor’s cooking

The people across the hall are incredibly friendly people.  They don’t speak any English but they always smile and seem very curious about Aaron and I.  I like them.  I often see the woman coming home, carrying bags of herbs and fresh veggies and the sound sizzling oil can often be heard coming out of their apartment.

Sometimes, whatever it is that she’s making smells divine…but every so often it’s putrid!  There have been times when I’ve opened the front door to leave in the morning and been smacked with the smell of deep fried fish or what smells like rancid tempeh, which is this horrible fishy odor.  It’s not pretty my friends.  On two occasions the smell as been so bad we had to stuff towels under our door, burn incense and retreat to our bedroom!

4. Our TV is on the fritz

Aaron and I were stoked to find out that our apartment was fully furnished because who wants to pay to outfit an entire apartment for only one year?  Certainly not cheapskates like us!  We were actually really surprised that a flat screen was included too.

Everyone assumes that everything is dirt cheap in Jakarta, but that’s not the case.  A lot of household appliances are actually way more expensive than in the US and the quality is very poor.  Most everything we’ve bought has either never worked (think potato peeler, scissors, pans, knives) or stopped working quickly after purchase (think everything).

So I guess we shouldn’t be shocked that when we came back from our recent trip to Cambodia our TV suddenly started flashing.  It’s literally like looking into a strobe light.  (On the plus side it’s safe to say I don’t have epilepsy).  It does this all the time and we can no longer hook up our HDMI cable to the TV to watch movies without having it flash.  The HDMI cable seems to really anger it.  For the most part we have to watch movies and TV on our laptop…it’s like we’re traveling again!

5. Getting woken every morning at 5:30

I mentioned in a previous post, but the man upstairs wakes up every morning at 5:30 on the dot.  And he immediately lets out this loud, 30-second long groan.  Don’t ask me what’s going on, but eww!

6. The sound of the elevator

Why in Southeast Asia building owners feel the need to use the world’s loudest and most obnoxious sounds to signal the arrival of the elevator is beyond me.  This is something I’ve noticed in countries around the region and my apartment building is no exception.  I just so happen to live in the apartment right next to the elevator so I hear its quadruple beep all day long.

One day as I was waiting for the elevator in the lobby, I could hear the sound even though the elevator was on the 16th floor!  That might give you some idea of how unnecessarily loud it is.  I’m just glad that I don’t live directly across from the elevator…that would be unbearable.

7. Getting my water & electricity turned off

In the US we’re used to paying bills online.  It’s such a simple process.  That’s not the case in Jakarta.  Every month we have go down to the management office, get a print out of the bill and give it to someone in Aaron’s office to pay it for us.  The only way to pay bills is through a bank transfer (no credit cards or cash) and since we don’t have a proper Indonesian bank account we can’t pay the bills ourselves.

Nearly every month the electricity gets turned off.  I’ll admit sometimes our bill is paid late, but regardless it gets shut off anyway with zero warning.  Every time I have to go back to management and go through the lengthy process to prove that we did in fact pay the bill.  The worst part is that they always shut everything off on Fridays right before their office closes for the weekend.  Thankfully I’ve always been able to resolve it but if I don’t someday it would leave us without electricity for three days.  That would suck!

8. Construction upstairs

About three months ago the people upstairs (my neighbors from hell) started doing some pretty serious construction.  Like really loud drilling, hammering and sawing.  And if you knew just how small these apartments are you would wonder, like I did, what could they possibly be doing.  I figured this would go on for a few days because, again, what could they be doing that would take much time?  A few days later and they were still going full force.

Then Aaron learned from one of his students that people often open businesses in the apartment buildings around here.  This isn’t allowed but it’s a common practice.  For example, they set up day cares, schools, etc.  I’m pretty sure they have some sort of operation going on up there.  Because every once in a while (like today) the hammering, drilling and sawing starts up again.  Just when I think these people can’t get any more annoying…

9. The mystery tube in the bathroom

This one is kind of hilarious.  When we moved in I noticed there was this 4-foot-long plastic tube coming out of the wall in the bathroom.  It was just laying there.  There was another hole in the opposite wall that was about the same size as the tube so I shoved the tube in there.  Logistically this made perfect sense to me.

For six months I left the tube like that, watching in disgust as it oozed slime and incessantly leaked water leaving our bathroom floor in a constant state of wetness.  What the hell is dripping out of this tube?!

A couple of months ago our air conditioner stopped working and so I had to have someone service it.  He spoke no English but was nice enough to convey that the tube should not in fact be shoved into the hole in the wall.  Instead it’s supposed to lay on the ground so it can drip into the mystery drain by the toilet.  And he motioned that the hole in the wall allows the AC unit in the living room to drain, while the tube allows the bedroom AC to drain. Ooooh!  Ever since then there has been minimal slime and no more wet floor.  But why this weird system is in place in this building still boggles my mind.

10. The kids in hallway

As I mentioned in point #1 kids here are loud as f*ck.  It’s not just my upstairs neighbors, it’s most kids in my apartment building.  I wish I had more knowledge of parenting techniques here, but it seems like this is a result of zero discipline and a desire for attention.  Whatever is going on kids just walk, actually they constantly run, and stomp around yelling.

So the kids on my floor literally just run up and down the halls screaming and stomping around.  How such little children can make such big noises is beyond me.  It is also common to hear kids belt out long, blood curdling screams out of nowhere.  And sounds of slamming and pounding on doors is also a daily occurrence on my floor.  I think the kids are just trying to get attention but it’s crazy.

OK, rant over.  It probably sounds like I’m exaggerating some of these things.  I assure you I am not.  Just like when I’m traveling, expat life is full of these weird experiences that I know I will look back and laugh at one day   Hell, Aaron and I already laugh at most of these things on a daily basis because, honestly, what else can we do?  I think I’m capable of dealing with it because I know I won’t live here forever.  But, for now, I just try to take a deep breath and deal.  And writing it down helps get rid of some of my angst too!

Have you ever had a bad experience living in an apartment or staying in a hotel?  Do tell so I can stop feeling bad for myself!

About Justine

Justine Lopez is a California native who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust. In 2013, she set out on a yearlong round-the-world journey and never looked back. Since then she's lived the expat life in both Jakarta and Phnom Penh. She's now living and working as a freelance writer in Beijing. As she meanders her way through Asia she's always seeking out great vegetarian food, budget travel deals and amazing new travel destinations.

22 thoughts on “Living in Jakarta: 10 Reasons I Hate My Apartment

    1. Oh no, you deal with the flushing thing too? It’s so weird how loud the flushing of the toilet is here. It sounds like 100 gallons of water is being released all at once. Honestly, the kids are the most obnoxious part about this place. Next time I live in an apartment I’m going to try my best to live on the top floor!

    1. Ha, glad I could make you laugh 🙂 If there were enormous spiders in this place I would freak out. You should see me whenever a cockroach comes in here…it’s comedy all the way. I don’t do well with insects! Yup, all you can do is keep a good attitude. If I were to think too hard about this situation I would probably lose my mind!

    1. Haha, lucky me…I’ve indeed hit the jackpot with this place. I agree completely, I can’t let myself get angry because I would most definitely lose my mind!

  1. To each of your rant points:

    1. Those children are hostages who have been sold into slave labor for the people setting up a business in their apartment above you. They are simply trying to escape.

    2. Now you are just like Jamie – you have something special in common besides a mother and your oh-so-wonderful sisters. Or, they have diverted a small river through the building. I suggest an airhorn pointed at the ceiling and pushed when you hear the midnight flush.

    3. They are really cooking those black eggs that sit in the dirt for a year before you eat them. Possibly cats, rats or various lizards.

    4. The TV is fine. You and Aaron are both going completely batshit crazy.

    5. That’s not a groan… it’s the sounds of hall of fame flatulence.

    6. Universal problem.

    7. Jakarta utilities sound a lot like our utilities except they have learned how to make it even more obnoxious and painful for the consumer.

    8. That is not construction. They are boxing the reticent child slaves into the walls as torture until they comply.

    9. So they tell you that’s the AC drainage… Silly Americans, they believe everything!

    10. Those are not children, they are small demons. I suggest throwing spike strips (like the cops use to blow out tires) into the hall at random as you hear them running. Sure to stop the activity.

    1. Oh, I assure you the kids are in no way being mistreated. They squeal with joy all day long. I can literally hear them laughing through the ceiling as they’re throwing stuff on the floor. At least someone’s having fun, right? They love it!

      Haha, point #4 might very well be true…there have been times when I’ve questioned my sanity!

  2. Haha the “mystery tube” situation made me laugh out loud. There is a tube, there is a hole, so yeah, shove it in there – I would totally do the same thing! Glad you figured that out. Also, living by the elevator is such bad luck. I did it for a year once, though I’m certain it was nowhere near as loud as the one in your building. Thirty second groans from the neighbor though? Sounds like melodrama… or something I don’t want to know about.
    Rachel recently posted…Bar Crawling and Italian Food in Boston’s North End

    1. The mystery tube situation is incredibly comical. I’m so glad the guy explained the situation to me though…it’s really nice to not have a constantly wet floor! Living by the elevator is good and bad. On the one had it’s nice that we don’t have any neighbors sharing our bedroom wall and somehow we can’t hear the elevator through the wall. So it’s actually really quiet. But on the other hand that beeping sound is pretty loud. But I’ve developed the ability to ignore it.

      I don’t know what that guy is up to upstairs. I live in a primarily Chinese neighborhood, so I’m thinking it’s some sort of Chinese cleansing ritual? Ha, I don’t know…

    1. Why on earth are fireworks going on every day at 5:30?! Haha, that’s kind of hilarious. Well, I guess we can take comfort in the fact that we are not alone in dealing with weird stuff 😉

    2. Oh my god Jennifer that was my life last year! I lived by a factory and they’d set fireworks off every morning at 6am to “welcome the day” and “bring good luck”. Also there were these trucks that would dump… I don’t know what it was, something like steel rods and concrete in the middle of the night. I’d wake up to BEEEP BEEEP BEEEEEP SMASH SMASH CRASH CRASH CRASH. My favorite was when the factory trucks blocked the alleyway and cars would sit there honking for literally a solid 10 minutes at all hours of the day and night until the truck was moved… maybe I should write a post on this… hahaha
      Richelle recently posted…Kampot and Kep: Cambodia’s Hidden Gems

      1. You should totally write a post on that Richelle! Man, I thought my situation was bad in Jakarta, but your experience sounds WAY more intense. I can’t believe they set off fireworks every single day. That’s nuts to me! Ugh, and the dumping of steel rods just makes me want to cry for you. I really hope I experience nothing like that while living in Cambodia!! Hopefully you have a better living situation this year 😉 But seriously, write up a post on this story!!

  3. Haha Justine you wouldn’t believe it but this post has seriously made me feel better! I can completely empathise with this. I am seriously looking forward to leaving my current apartment. I do love the location and it’s been great living in a real hutong house, but apartments/houses in Beijing are just really not that great in general.I think I’m just looking forward to not living in any kind of home in Beijing- I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had problems! I’m constantly woken up super early on weekends (in the week I get up at 6am anyway but on weekends I would really like to sleep past that!) by loud loud loud construction! if it’s not one neighbour, it’s another. They aren’t even supposed to do it on weekends but they do anyway- sounds like Jakarta and Beijing are probably quite similar.
    Plus I am constantly worrying abut pollution seeping in through all the random holes that homes in Beijing seem to have. Like they actually just hammer holes in the walls to put the intenet cable, AC and stuff through but don’t seal them up in anyway! I can’t wait to live in a “normal” house!! The tube thing in your bathroom made me laugh. it seems like this weird sense just shouldn’t happen..but yet it always does..!
    Joella in Beijing recently posted…Exciting Personal Announcement!

  4. Oh god. I HATED my apartment in China too and I never wanted to complain about it since it was free and big but there was lots of construction and weird noises. The random pipe is pretty hilarious. I’m super curious about what you’ll do after Jakarta
    Rebekah recently posted…Trekking in Nepal: Some Thoughts

    1. Haha, glad I’m not the only one! I’m super curious about what I’m going to do after Jakarta too. It’s so annoying not knowing what’s going to come next!! I’m curious about what you’re going to be doing now that you’re out of China!

    1. I’ve had some weird experiences in hotels too, but living with them is a whole other experience. Like, this morning I woke up to the sound of swishing water. Given that there’s no bathtub upstairs I don’t know how it’s even possible they made that sound! Ha, yes the pools are spectacular and a definite perk!

    1. Haha, in all of my travels I’ve never seen an AC system rigged like this. And what gets me is that instead of making the tube long enough to go into the drain so as to not to get the floor wet, it’s about two feet short. I love SE Asian apartments too?

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