5 Everyday Things in USA That are Big Deals in Indonesia

Living in Houston for over a year, I was exposed to a next-level living convenience that is uncommon in the home country, Indonesia. These things are, for the most part, not a big surprise to be found in an American household. However, it is considered luxurious, or at least unusual, for everyday, middle-class Indonesian households.

However, a vice-versa situation is also true – some very normal Indonesian things (live-in housemaid, for instance) are almost non-existent and considered luxurious here (comparable to family butler). But that’s the matter of the next post. For now, here are 5 staple things that American could have a second look as something to be grateful for:


dishwasher vs handwash
dishwasher vs handwash

A dishwasher is the US as common as a washing machine in Indonesia – while not every family has it, a lot do put one. In fact, almost all apartment listings will have a built-in dishwasher, and it’s also a given in a house. However, living more than 20 years in Indonesia, I have yet to find ONE dishwasher in anyone’s house. Legend says that in some luxe expat apartments or neighborhood, some specimens exist.

I think it’s less about Indonesians can’t afford a dishwasher, but more about the fact that housemaids are very easily accessible and their main job also includes washing dishes. Also, we have this concept called “watt limit”, in which for a house especially, your appliances cannot exceed a certain limit. Otherwise, the electricity will instantly cut off. I’d suspect a GE dishwasher that we have in our apartment will not only take a lot of electricity quota at a given time but also took the portion of the full 30-minute cycle.

I have to confess that the first 6-months living here, I was very skeptical of the cleanliness of dishwasher. Really? Showering oily, dirty plates with a little soap and hot water will scrape off every gunk, better than a pair of hands? (Spoiler: yep, moreover the machine actually sterilizes the plates). Now that we cook most of the time, can’t live without one!

Built-in Oven and Microwave

Built-in Oven vs Countertop Oven

I don’t know about modern Jakarta houses, but at least for the most common houses  I know, the oven is certainly not built into the kitchen and neither does microwave. Well, the latter might be built-in in Indonesian apartments, but oven certainly is uncommon. I remember buying a small electric oven using my early salary for around 90$ online, to heat up food and grill food. This, again, relates to the watt limit problem.

The appliance itself is not that expensive individually, but the electricity used up is certainly a problem most people have. Also, baking cakes are not really a traditional family cuisine – we opt for banana fritters or steamed pandan rolls instead, and both just require a gas stove. My family bakes cookies once a year for Ied Fitri and we use a non-electric, gas-stove oven. For the rest of the year, the oven collects dust in our storage room.

Having oven and microwave here is a BLAST – cooking packaged udon for just 2 minutes, heating up food for 30 seconds, making brownies without having to set up the oven. Both appliances save a ton of time during cooking and definitely enabling us to eat-in almost every day. I just hope when we go back home, we won’t have a “kitchen jetlag” …


Sedan vs 7-seater

A sedan is an ultimate model that Americans love. Although some regards SUVs is taking over, in reality everywhere I go sedan takes up the most part of the road. Well, here’s a surprise for you: in Indonesia, the sedan is considered luxurious. Not only by the common folks – the government actually put a special tax on sedan models as it’s categorized as luxury items (although they say they are revising it).

The everyday car is 7-seater Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV) for families (Toyota Avanza, Honda Mobilio) or a 5-seater hatchback for the young adult or new families (Honda Jazz, Toyota Yaris). A typical middle-class Indonesian family usually have a family MPV car and one or two motorcycles for the kids. Middle-upper class families have more than one car. Most high-school kids use motorcycles or public transportations with a few driving cars, except in private schools or top-tier public schools.  However, the kids are not uncommon to have a driving license for cars to drive their mom and dad around for shopping or visiting extended families.

Bath Tub

Bath tub vs Water Tub

Any house or apartments in America would have a bathtub of various sizes; a necessity in daily hygiene. Well, not the case in Indonesia. We are good with hand-held showers, sometimes water tub to contain water or even buckets in the more rural areas. It’s understandable as we’re literally in the tropics, with summer all year round. Cool, refreshing showers are the traditional nourishments, and not so much for hot, long soak in tubs – although nowadays most houses do have hot water outlet for early morning showers. And of course, you’ll find bathtubs in hotels, upscale apartments, and spas, but it’s just not the normal household thing.

Why Americans love bathtub, actually? Unlike Japan in which bathing in hot water has a deep traditional root and geologically supported by abundant volcanic hot springs, America doesn’t have a lot of natural hot springs, to begin with. In fact, this questions has been asked by academics – a 1985 article offered the explanation of Americans transitioning from relatively clean farm life to arguably dirtier factory life. Combine that with bathtub commoditization, and we got a new set of lifestyle.

Central Air Conditioner at Home

Central AC vs Modular AC

AC is usually a separate device in Indonesian homes or Asian homes in general. Whereas here in the US, or at least in the apartments, the climate control is delivered by a central unit. Also, a heater in Indonesia is virtually non-existent – AC serves for cooling purposes only. The fact that almost none of Indonesian home has heater unit is easily explained by the 80 degrees Fahrenheit median temperature in the country.

I actually like the modular AC back home more, because you can control what room to climate control. So say that you’re working in a living room, you just need to adjust the temperature in that room only and turn it off when you’re done and move to the bedroom.

Do you have more things that are normal in the US but not so normal in Indonesia? Share it in the comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *