South East Asia rice field

Interning in South East Asia, Where to go? Part 1

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South East Asia Map

Congratulations for choosing to intern in South East Asia. An internship in one of the many countries guarantees an amazing experience. A downside with so many awesome places is that choosing the right destination might be quite tough. Also, what might be a good destination for some people won’t necessarily be a good fit for someone else. Below a small guide on some of the available options in South East Asia and pros and cons for each location so you can decide yourself where you would like to go.

Thailand

From brilliant temples and gorgeous beaches to modern skyscrapers, Thailand has it all. You can choose to intern in Bangkok which is extremely popular for backpackers and students due to its vibrant nightlife, but also increasingly entices to people looking to develop themselves professionally. However, if you don’t see yourself living in such a hectic and chaotic city you can also choose other places such as Chang Mai or Phuket.

Pro’s                                                                                                                                                                                            Thailand Beach Krabi

- Amazing nature: If you like to be outdoors, then Thailand is like heaven for you. The country has beautiful forests, waterfalls and stunning beaches. There are many beautiful islands for a great weekend getaway or a short holiday. If you have the time and the money you can even get your diving certification in a few days. 

- Vibrant Nightlife: Especially in Bangkok but also in other parts of Thailand, nightlife is very colorful and exciting. Bangkok, filled with its backpackers and travelers creates a very lively night scene, just like in other places with amazing bar scenes and don’t forget the famous (or notorious) beach parties.

- Friendly and welcoming people: There is a reason Thailand is called the country of smiles. When you walk out of the airport you will immediately see big smiles of the local people welcoming you to their country. In general, they will be very helpful to you but of course sometimes with the language and culture barrier miscommunication or scams can still happen.

Con’s                             

- Weather: You might not expect to see this in the disadvantages section, but the weather in Thailand is not as amazing as many presume it to be. With the rainy season lasting from May to October, Thailand on average has up to 163 days of rain per year. Add extreme humidity throughout the year, which makes the weather extreme and uncomfortable at times.

- Bureaucracy: For foreigners, immigration processes can be a little on the difficult side. The rules seem to make no sense at all in a lot of situations. The immigration process and getting things done is cumbersome and will take a lot of your time and your money. Be prepared for it and try to laugh at all the frustrating and troublesome moments.

- Health: Diseases such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid are still prevalent in Thailand, so make sure you have taken all necessary vaccinations before your trip. Also, it is recommended to take precautions for Rabies if you plan to travel to certain areas.

Indonesia

Being the world largest archipelago formed of over 17.000 islands, Indonesia is a great place to go for a holiday or to live an amazing life. Many foreigners prefer to go to Bali but there are way more incredible places to visit, from the bustling capital of Jakarta to the quieter city of Surabaya. The commercial trade center remains Jakarta, but more and more opportunities arise now in Surabaya as well.

Pro’s

- Extremely nice people: Wherever you are the people in general will always be very courteous, polite and willing to help you. Also, you can expect a very relaxed and welcoming attitude from the local people who will treat you with respect regardless of your race or skin. By the way, as a foreigner you can expect to pose for a lot of photos with locals.

- Cheap food: If you manage to avoid the temptation of buying imported products, eating out in Indonesia will be very cheap and delicious. One small drawback might be that the food in general is quite spicy but once you are used to that you are ready to enjoy the delicious local cuisine. In the major cities there will also be a plethora of international and fast-food restaurants such as KFC and Pizza-hut.

- Language:  Especially compared to some of the other Asian languages, Indonesian is relatively easy to learn, and it will help you a lot in day to day communication with the locals as still not everyone is able to speak English. The language is considered relatively easy to learn due to its straightforward Subject-Verb-Object structure, relatively easy phonology and the lack of grammatical gender, plural forms and verb conjugations. You will still need to invest considerable time to become fluent of course, but basic conversations with the ojek driver or the shopkeeper should be within reach.

Con’s

Indonesia Mosque- Conservative Culture: As a predominantly Muslim country, there are certain expressions and behaviors that will not be accepted or frowned upon when you are in Indonesia. Short skirts above the knee are generally not accepted by the local people so take this into consideration. Pay specific attention to what you wear when going to the immigration office, where showing up in the wrong clothes might lead to refusal to deal with your application. Also drinking alcohol is somewhat taboo in the country, consequently alcohol in Indonesia is really expensive.

- Traffic: This is especially obvious in the capital of Jakarta; Indonesian traffic is a nightmare. Over the past 10 years the number of vehicles has increased by 300 percent whereas the development of roads and infrastructure has failed to keep up, so the chances of getting stuck in a traffic jam in urban areas are extremely high. Next to the overcrowded roads, traffic law and regulation is very minimal and often ignored. There is for example no adequate regulation on safety belts, maximum speed and alcohol in Indonesia which makes moving from A to B in Indonesia a risky affair. Add in the narrow roads where pedestrian/bicycles/motorcycles/cars and buses all have to use the same part of the road and you have a dangerous cocktail with high amounts of casualties and injuries.

- Safety: Despite the friendly locals, Indonesia is considered relatively unsafe compared to neighboring countries. Ranking 62nd out of 162 countries on the safety index, it is not extremely unsafe but there is still room for improvement. The crime rates are high, ranging from pickpocketing to scams or even terrorist attacks such as bombings. Also, you may have seen Indonesia featuring in the news often because of heavy natural disasters such as big floods and earthquakes. Even the two biggest volcanic eruptions took place in Indonesia when the Krakatoa erupted on the 27th of August in 1883 and when the Tambura erupted on the 10th of April in 1815.

Singapore

A true melting pot of Malay, Arabic, Chinese, Indian and English culture exists in the city of the Lion. Singapore might be small in size, but it is considered to be an economic powerhouse and thus living in Singapore enables you to enjoy all the advantages of living in a highly developed and organized city while still being able to taste exotic Asian cultures. 

Pros                                                                                                                                                                                          Singapore skyline  

- Organized: Compared to some of its neighboring countries, Singapore is very organized and clean. Partly because of the stringent regulations and active enforcement of those rules, Singapore is among the cleanest cities in the world. Additionally, because of the strict rules the traffic is very organised and Singapore is in no way representative of the chaotic other Asian megacities.

- Cultural Diversity: Being a melting pot of cultures and religions, Singapore is an amazing place to explore different Asian cultures and meet people from all kinds of backgrounds. Together with the Malay/Tamil and Chinese people there are expats and students from all over the world living or visiting the city which brings a unique global vibe to the city rarely seen to such an extent in other parts of the world.

- Transportation: Having a car in Singapore is ridiculously expensive due to local regulations and taxes but don’t be afraid because all you need is public transport. The public transport system in Singapore is very convenient, cheap and fast. The buses are very cheap and a great way to enjoy the sights the city has to behold. However, in general the best way to get around the city is by MRT (mass rapid transit) system with its comprehensive network of lines and stations.

Con’s

- Expensive: Singapore is not only one of the safest countries/cities to live in, it unfortunately is also one of the most expensive places in the world. Alcohol prices and rent in particular are extremely high and can be a major turnoff especially for students or interns on a low budget. However, with some creativity and the right info, you can live comfortably on a budget and still have an amazing experience.

-Fines: The safety and cleanliness of the city are great, but they come at a cost. Fines are high in Singapore and even for simple things as brining in chewing gum you can be severely punished. The stringent law enforcement and high fines can sometimes seem a little bit harsh and constraining in your everyday life. In general, you should avoid anything that even has a remote risk of getting you fined, and you will be fine. Try to see it from the sunny side; the heavy fines bring you an extremely clean and well-structured city.

Quieter party scene: With high prices and a different attitude towards drinking, the party life in Singapore is not what you would expect it to be when comparing to similar sized cities in the region. Especially as an intern, going to a club won’t be a very appealing way to spend your night. However, there are some bars with reasonable prices where you would naturally find other students or people on limited budgets spending the night. There is still a very lively street entertainment scene going on in Singapore so there is no need to sit bored at home on your free nights.

     There are a wide variety of options when going to Asia for your internship, and where you should go depends on what type of person you are and what you are interested in. Would you like to experience the chaotic Asian culture with all the drawbacks and inconveniences? Then Indonesia or Thailand are good options. Or if you would prefer your living environment to be a bit cleaner and more organised then Singapore is the way to go. In the next edition, we will discuss the pros and cons of Vietnam, India and Malaysia.

 

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