What Is It Like To Live In Bali?
Some expatriates consider it paradise and, as they might say, thank the gods every day for their good fortune of being able to live in Bali. Others arrive with high hopes, ambitious plans, dreams of palm trees, blue surf, and friendly Balinese, and then become frustrated with the cultural differences and end up leaving bitter and poorer.
For people who can adapt to the significant personal and cultural differences, occasional confusing dealings with the Indonesian bureaucracy, lunatic drivers, the lack of a reliable infrastructure, and increasing pollution (depending on where in Bali you decide to live), Bali offers a truly unique culture with delightful surprises daily.
There are lovely beaches (but certainly not the best in Indonesia or Southeast Asia), unique cultural experiences, a warm and pleasant climate, a resident expatriate community, a language that can be learned relatively easily, and, of course, the Balinese people.
Bali is changing as Western culture increasingly intrudes on the traditional culture, but outside of the tourist ghettos of Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak, traditional culture continues to hold its own. You might find that all of your neighbors are glued to the popular dramas on television each night, but if someone is holding a ceremony with dances and a shadow puppet play, they’ll turn off the TV and get out and enjoy the festivities.
For expatriate families, there are several international schools in Bali although they can be rather costly:
Bali International School (http://baliinternationalschool.com) is the oldest international school on the island and has an excellent reputation
Australian International School (http://www.ais.or.id/) has a curriculum designed especially for Australian students
Canggu Community School (http://www.ccsbali.com/), is a non-profit private school serving both the international and local communities in the South Bali area and uses the British National Curriculum and employs certified foreign teachers
Sunrise School (http://www.sunriseschoolbali.com/), is another school in Bali that it is located in Kerobokan in the south of Bali – its website says that it has an international staff and curriculum, an IT room, a library, and art and science room, a small student-teacher ratio, and covers the years Kindergarten to Grade 8. The website has a map. For families who cannot afford the cost of an international school, it is possible to send children to the local schools, but teaching is in Indonesian, and the facilities are generally of low quality.
While potential expatriates don’t like to think of such unpleasant things as ill health or accidents, living in the tropics entails a certain amount of health hazards. During my fifteen years in Indonesia, I have contracted typhoid, amoebic dysentery, and malaria. Additionally, I’ve been in one semi-serious motorcycle accident, been stung by a scorpion, my son fell out of a tree and suffered a triple fracture of his arm requiring surgery and the implant of three metal pins, and my mother and father in-laws had severe heart attacks.
Then, too, my wife has had four children here. So what about medical facilities? I have an old tourist guidebook from the mid-1980s which states that there are no x-ray machines on Bali. Fortunately, today medical facilities in Bali are much more developed than they were 15 years ago. There are local hospitals equipped to deal with most basic emergencies and illnesses. Some hospitals like Kasih Ibu in Denpasar are equipped for procedures that are more complicated. My son’s operation for his triple fracture was done at Kasih Ibu and, while expensive, the work was excellent as was the post-operative treatment. The south of Bali has international clinics like International SOS and the Bali International Medical Center (BIMC). For life-threatening illnesses, most expatriates fly to Singapore that is only a two-hour flight away. Medical insurance can be purchased which covers evacuation if necessary.
Dental facilities in the south of Bali are quite acceptable, and a number of my students have had braces done in Bali. Some expatriates (like me), however, prefer to fly to Singapore or Bangkok for dental treatment. Bangkok, in fact, has an outstanding hospital that expatriates from all over the world use for yearly check-ups.
Excerpted from “The Practicalities Of Moving To Bali” in Escape From America Magazine, Issue 69.