I have to say that it is impossible to say where it is better to work. I mean, I can’t give you the answer to this question. When I was working in Indonesia, I missed China, now when I am in China, I miss Indonesia sometimes.
So let’s compare what I like in Beijing and what I liked in Indonesia.I have to note from the beginning, here in China I am in Beijing, in Indonesia, I was on a very small island (village type).
Indonesia and China are both Asian countries, however, you will not find many similarities. Each of these countries has a huge number or sub-cultures, but there is obviously one dominating.
In Indonesia, you can see that the dominating culture is Muslim. In China it is predominated by Han Chinese, whose values arise from Confucianism and Taoism.
Therefore, working atmosphere is completely different. Strong masculine culture is very sensible. In the place where I worked we only had one female director – Director of SPA. As for the rest, it was predominantly male managed hotel.
In China, there is no such thing. Therefore, working as a female, I had some difficulties during my time in Indonesia. A lot of male colleagues did not take seriously my recommendations or advice, they could not accept that their superior could be a 10-15 years younger female.
After continuous attempts to prove my worthiness, I finally managed to get some respect. But it takes a really long time, especially in hospitality.
In China, there are no such prejudice. Everyone is in the same position, where they have to prove themselves and by that show that you deserve to be where you are.
Hospitality and Service.
Hotel industry in China is one of not that many industries that still hire expats for lower positions. In hotels we have to deal a lot with foreigners, therefore, it is easily explainable why we need someone from other countries here. Firstly, the understanding of a good service in China and other places varies. In China, you should be as discreet as possible, you should not be interrupting guests even in an attempt of offering something or just checking the quality.
In many other countries, people would actually appreciate if you ask a couple of personal questions and try to know them. For foreigners working in China it is natural to provide the service that we are used to, however, for Chinese people it might be challenging. Now you can see the development and improvement, however, it takes time therefore we are still here.
However, if you take Indonesia, their service is different. It is the warmest service in the world (ok, maybe Thailand is the best, but Indonesia is as close)… They are very willing to help and assist. There is no way someone would purposely avoid you as guest.
However, this is something that facilitates local hire instead of having expats. Once I tried looking for a job in Indonesia in a lower rank and guess what? I had no chance at all. You could only expect to be hired in an EXCOM (executive committee) or HOD (head of department position).
As a guest myself, I actually like a combination of two, sometimes, I feel like it is good to have discrete service as it is in China, however sometimes it is also interesting to communicate with person treating you. You get to know more details, interesting places and life stories. It is fun!
Working conditions in Indonesia and China also vary. However, there are few similarities too.
China and Indonesia both have 5 day working week with 2 days off. Also, both countries offer quite short annual leave of 10-14 days. But they have a few public holidays. That is it for the similarities. Now it is time for differences, and the list is not this short…
In Indonesia you don’t work overtime. You just don’t. They makes sure you go home in time (or maybe one hour later than normal shift), but never long hours. It is just because they have a different understanding of life, where is not all about your career or money.
In China there are still times when you do it, and surely you do it without recording it (as it is normally against the law, but no one wants to be the first to leave the office).
In China you are most of the times forced to take those days just for a reason that by law it is considered overtime. Overtime has to be paid as triple pay for these hours. No places want to do it. Therefore, most of the times you actually get your leisure days on public holidays.
In Indonesia, it is different. Extra days or overtime is not paid but it is compensated. You work one hour longer one day – next day take a shorter shift.
You have to work on Public Holiday? Please, work but take a double day off some time after. Yes! For one day of work during Public Holidays you get two days, which you need to take within 3 months. It is amazing, how long you might get as vacation later.
Salaries in Indonesia are extremely low. People live there earning 150-250$. However, the cost of living is much lower too.
On my first month of staying in Indonesia, I have decided to get out of the “fancy side” of the island, where the hotels were to see where local people live. That shocked me.
There was a wall, which separated two sides of the island. If you want to get inside the part, where the hotels are, you need a special document.
Out there, I saw bungalows made of rocks and palm branches. No electricity, no water supply, no gas – nothing a city kid is used to. I thought that was crazy!
A bowl of noodles or rice is around Rp. 11000, which at the time when I worked there was around ($1). It is not too much, but it still builds up to your expenses. I am not sure how people survived, but they did.
So now I am in China. I work in Beijing. It seems like salaries here are higher. At least in hotels, they are higher than in Indonesia. Here I see people being able to afford a Starbucks cup of coffee and a sandwich on daily basis, I see people going out to more expensive places more often. Yes, there are still local hutongs, where it seems like people have no funds to afford anything at all, but it is not as much as I saw it in Indonesia (when I traveled I saw a similar situation in Jakarta and Jogja too).
Working with locals – Attitude to expats
In China, I believe, local people are already so used to foreigners that, yes, they are interested in working with us, but sometimes I feel like I am not really part of it, but a foreigner who deals with my foreigner job 😛
In Indonesia people were so interested. I have an easily approachable personality so it made them like me, talk to me, ask me questions and befriend me.
I liked working with both, but I think now I actually preferred my communication in Indonesia as it seemed friendlier than China.
Away from work
Leisure in Indonesia and China is different too. Obviously, it also depends on place but I feel like in general there is one common thing – food and eating is a huge part of both leisure culture. IF you are off you must go out eating – this is so appealing in both countries for me!
If you are on Indonesian coast of Bali, Bintan, Sumatra (or any other island in general) obviously it is amazing to have days off on the beach. Not for many locals through… The women due to restrictions of Islam cannot swim in public.
Another way to spend your free time is in malls. Wandering around, eating, chatting, going to cinema (in Indonesia it is extremely cheap) – these are the usual activities for a day off.
In China exploring and doing sightseeing is common for all. Staying at home with the family is also a way to spend your days. Also, what is common is to go for a walk or just spend day outside. Malls are popular, but still not as much as in Indonesia.
Now new way to entertain yourself is to Mobike around Beijing. Beijing activities are closer to me, this is more like my lifestyle. I don’t really like malls as every time I go somewhere I can’t stop myself from buying unnecessary things.
Traveling in Indonesia is cheap and easy in comparison to China. The plane/train tickets in China are extremely expensive. In Indonesia as they have budget airlines, traveling is not expensive at all. As for the hotels, most of the hotels in Indonesia are very affordable. Taxi is also so cheap as it is the main mean of travel (no metro available) but not too safe, you need to make sure you only use BlueBird, which is a legal taxi company.
China at the same time has so much to offer and to show. Traveling from Beijing is not any cheap. The basic ticket anywhere starts from RMB1000, which is way more expensive than Indonesian flights. If you have unlimited budget, you are good to go. Both of countries are not too foreigner friendly ( China due to lack of English, Indonesia due to lack of safety), but surely worth a touristic visit.
If you want to have fun in Beijing, you go to a nightclub or a bar. If you want to have fun on a remote island you go outside your shelter and watch monkeys.
As you can see there are advantages and disadvantages of working in both countries. As I said I missed China when I was in Indonesia and now I miss my time in Bintan. Both of the places were good times of my career and I enjoyed working there. I learnt a lot and matured. Now I am back to China and I enjoy working and being in Beijing, maybe one day I will return to Indonesia again.
If you ever have a chance to visit any of two or work, I believe you should take it. It is always nice to a deepen into different culture and work in a different environment. Don’t miss on it!