Bali has a certain appeal for many travelers, some of whom visit the island every chance they can get. It’s not surprising then that many then want to live here permanently. The move is a major one for most people, one fraught with emotion and not to mention, expense. Here is a list of some of the major mistakes I have seen people make since moving to Bali myself and hopefully you can avoid them too if you move to Bali.
1. Chasing the freehold property dream
Foreigners cannot own property in Indonesia. It is as simple as that. Many people will try to get around the law by placing the property in Indonesian friend’s name, but it still doesn’t make it legal.
2. Thinking you can find a job
Unemployment or underemployment is very high in Indonesia. There are also many highly skilled Indonesian workers whose salaries will be a lot less than what most expats will want to be paid. It is also expensive for a company to employ a foreigner, the visa alone is around $2000. There are a few English teaching jobs, but the pay is low and the competition is high, for the few jobs available. Most foreigners who don’t already have an outside income, try starting a business in Bali to survive.
3. Starting the wrong kind of business
I think one of the main reasons why expats fail at starting a business in Bali, is not having enough experience in the business they start. There is a huge turnover in the bars and restaurants all over Bali. Sure there are established places that seem to have been around forever, but it has taken the business owners years of hard work to get to there.
4. Getting in the wrong relationship
Going out to bars and clubs is a fun activity for many expats and making friends with other expats and locals. Having a relationship with a local whom they met in a nightclub is one thing, buying a property or business and using them as the nominee (Indonesian owner) is a recipe for disaster, which I have seen all too often.
5. Not learning the culture
When a foreigner recently got caught with drugs in Bali and received a hefty sentence, one of the newspapers in his home country said he wouldn’t even have gone to jail for the offense in his country. Indonesia has different laws, customs and language and it is up to foreigners moving or even traveling to Bali to be familiar with the laws and culture of their new home. There is nothing worse than expats who continually compare the way things are done “back home”.
6. Not learning the language
Indonesian is a relatively easy language to learn, but it still requires effort and practice. You will gain a great deal of respect by Indonesian people by communicating in their language.
7. Underestimating the cost of living in Bali
Generally speaking Bali has a lower cost of living than most western countries. Gasoline for example is subsidized by the government. Meat, fruit and vegetables is typically inexpensive and you can eat cheaply at warungs. This makes people think they can live very cheaply in Bali. The reality is that there are a number of expenses people don’t think about when calculating their budget. Visa runs to Malaysia or Singapore for example and health insurance or medical bills, if you don’t have any insurance. Imported items are generally more expensive and imported alcohol can be around 3-4 times the usual price.
8. Getting the wrong visa
Many people come to Bali thinking they can do some work on a social, business or even retirement visa. The only visa which you can legally work on is a ‘working visa’. If a potential employer offers you work, don’t even think about accepting the job unless your company will provide a working visa.
9. Not getting the proper legal advice
Bali forums and the internet are good for doing basic research and getting some ideas about how things operate, but it should not a replacement for getting proper legal advice from a qualified consultant, notary or lawyer. Just because a foreigner has started their own hotel in Bali, doesn’t mean they will know all of the legal aspects. How can you know if what they did is the right procedure to follow anyway?
10. Not making local friends
As difficult it is to imagine probably for most people, some expats who move to Bali only associate or make friends with other expats. Having many local friends will only make your stay in Bali more enjoyable and in many ways easier. Dealing with bureaucracy can be a real pain, but having a friend who can help you out makes everything so much smoother. At the same time I believe it is also healthy to make friends with fellow expats. Like many things about living in Bali, it’s all about finding a good balance.
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