I've mentioned before that our rent is paid by Richard's company so, up until now, I never gave it much thought. The rent is IDR 30 Million (USD 3221) per year (thats how rent is quoted here) and the total amount for the standard two year contract had to be paid up front. So that was IDR 60 Million to the landlord. When I did my conversions to Malaysian Ringgit, the monthly rental was not out of the ordinary by Malaysian standards and I just never thought about it again, until today.
Well, the talk on rent actually started yesterday when the Korean family asked us how much ours was. It turns out that they pay the same as us but have a smaller house. And that was pretty much it for yesterday's teaser on rent.
Today, I chatted with the cleaner at the gym and somehow, the topic of rent came up and she asked me how much ours was. I told her. She asked me again. I said the same thing. Then, she tried to correct me to say IDR 3 Million. But I corrected her back. She must have verified my answer about 4 times and then after that just stood there speechless.
I asked her how much she paid per year. Guess what? IDR 1 Million. She also told me that probably the most expensive rent that any Indonesian pays is IDR 3 Million.
Well, I felt pretty ashamed then. Not because we've been cheated because, in a way, we haven't. We're just being charged foreigner rates and making some sneaky, rich Indonesian richer. I felt ashamed because it has taken me 15 months of living here to find out that my rent is 30 times more than the most expensive Indonesian rent. I'm also ashamed because its an absurdly mind boggling sum of money in a country where a monthly salary of IDR 1 million is considered good. I also felt so bad for mentioning that ridiculous sum of money to a person that probably has to work for two and a half years to amass that amount (thats provided she didn't eat or pay her own rent).
The IDR 30 Million per year rent may work out to be insanely cheap in other parts of the world after a direct exchange rate conversion. However, just like everything else that we spend on here, the sum needs to be compared to how the everyday Indonesian earns and spends to really make sense.
OK. So I know I feel ashamed. But what will I do about it? What can I do about it? I don't know yet...