Monday, May 26, 2008

I'm ashamed of my rent

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...


Jean-Luc Picard said...

It's tricky when that's the way some things are and one can't do anything about it.

Mike said...

269 USD a month would be cheap in the US in most places and dirt cheap in others. But like you say, it all relative.

John said...

To avoid the question/answer in the future why not respond with, "My husband's company pays for it and it's not really something that I think about."

GJ said...

Agh!! Fav Girl calls this the "blond" tax. It is tried on in every situation!! Just so you don't feel too bad our rent in the "Big Village" Jakarta is US$2000 per month plus tax. Total was US$80,000 for the 3 year lease.
BTW this is the cheaper end of the market for Expat housing in Jakarta.

rimafauzi said...

30 million per year sounds about right. 3 million a year might still be applicable for a small room, not a house. not even in cities other than jakarta.
the costs for a small room in jakarta without air conditioning and a shared bathroom is already 1 million a month.
so, you are not cheated, maybe the person you were talking too was a bit confused.

Bilbo said...

Having lived overseas for many years, I'm familiar with "foreigner rates" for rents and many other things. It's frustrating, but what are you going to do? I think John's proposed answer to the rent question is a good one

Silverlines said...

Depending on how big is your house, compare to the other 2 friend of yours, the facilities, the location, the distance to public facilities, all that define the price of house rental in Indonesia (and I believe, elsewhere).
IDR 1 million/year is outrageously cheap for a houserental everywhere in Indonesia, so it's either partially donation, or only consist of a room and (not necessarily) bathroom, which in many cases are public ones.

Don't feel bad just yet about it, my friend does pay IDR 36 million per year for a 4-bedrooms apartment in Jakarta, while the other friend pays IDR 30 million for a 2 bedroom house, also in Jakarta.
It all really is depending on many factors, so it isn't a straight forward kind of business.