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Life in Bali for the last 10 years: Expat Interview with Sally cofounder of High & Low Headhunters in Bali

In this insightful interview with Sally, co-founder of High & Low Headhunters in Bali, we gain a deep understanding of her decade-long expat journey. Living in Bali has not only provided a picturesque backdrop but has also inspired entrepreneurial success and a balanced lifestyle. Sally shares her perspectives on the job market, the island’s evolution, and the genuine warmth of the Balinese people, making it clear that Bali has much more to offer than the idyllic images often seen on social media.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and where are you originally from?

I am British, Mum of two, both our kids are at the French school here and my husband is French. We have been living in Bali for the past ten years and love the island life and the home we have created and the special friendships we have here.

When did you first arrive in Bali, what brought you here and how long do you plan to stay?

We arrived in Bali ten years ago in August 2013! In a nutshell we celebrated my husband’s 30th birthday in a beautiful eight bedroom residence in Pererenan that had been recommended to us by a friend and we gathered our friends from all over the world to come and celebrate.

The owner of the property at the time was desperate to sell and retire and we facilitated the sale via a client of ours in Hong Kong where we were based prior to moving here who was looking to expand his boutique property brand and portfolio.
We absolutely fell in love with Pererenan, which was a sleepy little beachside village surrounded by endless rice-fields, amazing people and a strong energy.

We were asked by the investor if we would like to manage the property and run all operations and jumped at the chance to kickstart a career in hospitality and move to Indonesia.

How long do you plan to live in Bali?

How long we plan to stay is difficult one as we are here for the foreseeable future. We have lived in the same villa, on the same road, for ten years. Our kids are settled here and as long as we can still travel back regularly to see friends and family and still welcome them here we are happy. The question will become more important when the kids get a bit older and we might think about relocating back for school reasons.

Expat family in Nusa Lembogan

What motivated you to move to Bali, and how did you go about making the decision to do so?

Pererenan is what motivated us to move here and such a unique opportunity to experience a new lifestyle and a healthier work / life balance. We also knew it was a place we would like to have children. We always knew Pererenan had something very special and we have been fortunate to be able to share the magic and beauty of the place with our friends, family and clients over these past ten years and they are still coming back year on year! I packed my bag very quickly as soon as I knew we could move here!

UK mum and son at water temple in Bali

How did your recruitment business High & Low Headhunters begin?

High & Low started coming out of COVID as an amazing opportunity to launch a new venture and have a better work / life balance. I was approached by my Co-Founder who runs a successful business development group to launch a recruitment agency here in Bali and provide clients with a very personalised and reactive service finding the best talent on the island (expats and local candidates). My former role as Group Head of Sales and Director of Real Estate for a luxury hospitality group and a ten year stint in Bali meant I had a very solid platform and network to build an impressive talent pool and carve out those sectors in Hospitality and Real Estate.

We will be looking to build more strategic partnerships in 2024 assisting companies based in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore to find key talent here in Indonesia as either a company representative on the ground for their Bali based business or remote positions as well as carving out other sectors in education for example.

How do you see the Bali expat job market going? Do you have any tips when it comes to finding a job in Bali?

Regulations still require that for every foreign worker (expat) in Indonesia, 10 locals would need to be hired. This means that there are fewer expat job opportunities available. However Bali is positively booming in the sectors we are in and typically 20% of our monthly placements are for expats in roles such as Marketing Manager, General Manager, Head of Sales, Customer Service Manager, Business Development Director positions for hospitality style venues, premium real estate developers / groups. architectural or design firms.

All the clients that we work with will sponsor the working visa allowing expats to legally work here. Our clients are typically looking for proven experience in Indonesia already and some language skills and cultural understanding. It is an extremely competitive marketplace and very fast paced so typically you will need some Bali experience under your belt to find a position quickly. Otherwise expats tend to relocate here whilst working remotely or consulting for international companies to have a better lifestyle.

Pantai Lima

You are also raising children in Bali, talk us through how they enjoy Bali and what school they go to and why?

They are lucky to spend pretty much all of their time outdoors and they are confident and happy to chat with anyone. They are bilingual and also learn Bahasa in school. They are very nurtured in the French school, surrounded by such a cool mix of pals from all nationalities and amazing teachers and lots of cultural activities throughout the year. They are 5 and 7 and starting to get into sport now and do tennis and football classes and we take them bodyboarding at the beach on the weekend. We chose the french school so that they both started to speak French fluently and it is a top international school here that they can stay in up to the age of 18.

Expat kids dressed in Batik outfit

How has living in Bali influenced your personal and professional life, and what opportunities have you found here?

It can be a struggle when you make strong friendships and then those families head back home again as it can be a very transient place. People come and go but we have always stayed. You also miss home and family a lot but it helps you to focus and spend time with the people here that count and will be there for you when things are tough. All our friends back home will never change even though we only get to see them once a year or every two years.

I have been very fortunate to find the best career opportunities here via a strong network. I greatly enjoy what I do but I work to live, not live to work. My kids and my family time will always be the most important. Good client relationships, strong account management, mentoring and developing your team and a mutual professional respect have always been important to me in my professional life and have helped to drive success.

Bali ricefields

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about Bali, and how would you correct them?

Don’t be fooled by what you see on social media, that’s for sure. The expats who live and work here really it is a daily grind. There is a slower pace of life, a slower way to work and it won’t be like the kind of rhythm you are used to back home. So you have to embrace that and respect it. How you drive your scooter as you have to follow the rhythm of the Bali traffic, never over book your diary with multiple meetings as the traffic will affect your whole day, getting your visa sorted, queues at immigration, a dentist appointment can take a whole day, finding a tap for your kitchen can take a whole day. We are blessed to have local friends who look out for us and can help us with challenging situations or know where to go from our landlord and his family to our pool-man/ gardener. How to fix a puncture, how to get certain documents sorted, how to navigate life here in general. They become part of your Bali family.

How do you see Bali evolving and changing in the future, and what impact do you think this will have on expats living here?

The demographic of Bali has changed a lot since COVID, certain tourism groups have declined drastically such as China whereas others have soared from the Ukraine and Russia. There are a lot of families moving here or digital nomads relocating here as well as people with money looking to invest. This is a positive for tourism numbers and for Bali’s economy but Bali’s infrastructure is still far behind in terms of traffic issues, we should be promoting more green areas and land that cannot and should not be built on, additional sidewalks for safety, additional speed bumps for safety in the built up areas, promote and educate on recycling in all the villages and so forth, build more sustainably and respectfully.

Bali is considered one of the wealthier provinces in Indonesia due to its strong tourism industry, but poverty still exists in some areas of the island with inadequate housing, poor or no access to utilities (i.e., electricity and water), and a lack of proper health care.
Expats that have been here for a long time I believe will start relocating to quieter parts of the island to escape the noise, traffic, pollution and over-crowding in certain areas. For expats moving here you really need to do your research before so you are ready for the reality of day to day life.
There are some astounding companies working behind the scenes here to improve the rubbish and recycling situation, developers building sustainably, wholefood stores working hand in hand with the local farmers and so forth.

What would you say is the best thing about living in Bali?

The rhythm of the island, the birds when you wake, the amazing sunsets, the people, the warmth, the hospitality, the slower pace of life and the strong energy and healing power.

Expat family outside villa in Canggu

What advice would you give to other people who are considering a move to Bali and looking for a job?

Do your research and key finances with Simone from OYIB first for housing, utilities, school fees, health insurance, visa and get a good idea of the salary bands here for the type of position you are looking at. It is a lot lower here in Indonesia. Bali is unfortunately not as affordable as one might think!

Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience living in Bali that we haven’t covered yet?

Be respectful, remember where you are and that you are not in your home country. Respect that and the pace of life and embrace it with calm and a gracious manner. Never forget the genuine hospitality and warm welcome of the Balinese people. If Bali wants you here it will keep you here, if it does not it will tell you it is time to go.

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