Indonesian new immigrant in Taiwan shares fruits of her labor amid COVID-19 pandemic

The island's largest foreign workforce, Indonesians in Taiwan are facing the coronavirus with little fuss

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Linda shares her story at Ministry of Interior. 

Linda shares her story at Ministry of Interior.  (Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As a successful figure who defines how new immigrants can thrive in their second home, Indonesia-born Linda Tjindiawati has witnessed firsthand the growth of Indonesian communities in Taiwan as well as how they are coping with the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).

Born to a Chinese-Indonesian family in the Javan city of Surabaya, Linda spent most of her early years in her hometown before leaving for the U.K. to get a master's in economics. Her life turned a new page after she married her husband and moved with him to his native Taiwan 18 years ago. At that time, she could barely speak any Chinese.

"I used to only shop in supermarkets because, unlike at traditional markets, I did not have to interact with lots of people," she said. Things were challenging for her because everyone assumed she could speak Chinese based on her appearance.

Linda was able to explore new facets of her life after picking up Chinese through television dramas and language courses. Now a translator at the National Immigration Agency and Taipei New Immigrants' Hall, she is helping other Indonesians acclimate to their new environment.

Indonesian workers sustain Taiwan's labor market, especially in the personal care and manufacturing industries. In addition, thanks to the New Southbound Policy, the country has welcomed more Indonesians pursuing master's and doctoral degrees in recent years.

Indonesian nationals are also inseparable from Taiwan's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lobby of Taipei Main Station is normally a popular weekend location for foreign workers to sit and hang out with their friends, but this scene disappeared after social distancing went into effect. Linda pointed out that Indonesians prefer the station to cafes because of the lively atmosphere and because they could chat and share food with ease.

Despite the loss of their favorite gathering place, most Linda's Indonesian compatriots agree with the government's measures. In fact, they feel safer and securer even though they are hundreds of kilometers from home.


Indonesian reads announcement banning prohibiting people to gather in Taipei Main Station lobby. (CNA photo)

The coronavirus has infected more than 9,000 people in Indonesia and claimed nearly 750 lives; some have pointed fingers at the government's slow reaction and lack of transparency. Although Jakarta finally imposed a partial lockdown on April 10, confirmed cases in the Indonesian capital have climbed to more than 4,000, and the virus testing rate remains low nationwide.

However, Linda believes the Indonesian government is catching up in terms of available resources and committing to informing its citizens how to protect themselves from the deadly virus. "Indonesia is a country 50 times larger than Taiwan. It takes more effort to implement any nationwide measures, but the state is trying its best during this difficult time," she said.

Even though restrictions on sending medical goods back home remain, Linda and her expat friends have begun donating money to help Indonesian medical staff buy the necessary equipment.

Since Taiwanese schools adopted "The 108 Curriculum Guideline" last year, making Indonesian and other Southeast Asian language classes an option at schools, Linda has met aspiring Indonesian speakers of all ages. "In addition to teaching the language, my main goal is to share stories and knowledge about Indonesia that cannot be found in textbooks," she explained.

She told Taiwan News that she feels lucky to live in Taiwan during the global crisis and that she has confidence the relationship between her native and adopted countries will flourish.


Linda promotes Taipei tourist attractions using drone footage.