How moving to India taught Sayo Osine to be patient.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Sayo Osine moved to India from Japan, one year ago, to be with her husband. Though not too keen about living in India, initially, living in Gurgaon—the infrastructure and the varieties of international cuisine, changed her mind. She spends her time traveling and learning to read and write in Hindi!

Have you experienced the expat life elsewhere, how different is it from here?

I worked in Hong Kong a few years ago. Hong Kong is an international city, and since it is a duty-free city, you can find a lot of foreign products at reasonable prices. Besides that, you can reach anywhere by metro, bus, and taxi within one hour. On the other hand, in India, imported products are sold at unbelievable prices because of the high duty rate, and we cannot go everywhere easily as the mode of transportation is limited, and usually, the services are delayed.

In fact, the Japanese community here face the same kind of inconvenience and stress, but we can all become closer by sharing these struggles.

Many expats we’ve spoken to said that it’s tough to meet people and make friends here, do you share this struggle too?

Since people from different countries have different cultural backgrounds, we may think it is difficult to make friends. In fact, the Japanese community here face the same kind of inconvenience and stress, but we can all become closer by sharing these struggles. So, we should always be open-minded.

How do you spend your time here?

I take Hindi classes. It’s handy, especially in negotiating prices at the local market, and in communicating with the handymen, the drivers, and the maid. Whenever I’m able to read the Hindi letters written in shops, I get really impressed with myself.

Other than that, my husband and I travel a lot. India is a huge country and has a fascinating culture that differs from region to region. Moreover, there are so many other countries close to India. It’s very easy to travel to places I’ve never been to, such as the Middle East, South Asia, and the islands in the Indian Ocean.

India is a dynamic and adventurous country. You can enjoy India, but take care of your health and safety.

If you can give one advice to expats moving to India, what would it be?

India is a dynamic and adventurous country. You can enjoy India, but take care of your health and safety. Don’t be afraid! Here, we can find a lot of beautiful things!

Every expat impacts the local community in one way or the other, but at the same time, a host country also influences the life of an expat. How was living in India made a difference in yours?

I learned to be extremely patient. Whether it’s a grocery store, post office, or even the airport, you always find long queues. Everything is delayed from transport, delivery of items to a repairman. With these experiences, I learned how to wait patiently. As a result, I know how to control my feelings, and my life became less frustrated and peaceful.

Claudia Villianueva Shares Why Living in India Shapes us as a Person

Reading Time: 3 minutes

An expat for almost 12 years, Guatemalan born Claudia Villanueva lived in the US with her husband, and about three years in India. She and her husband moved to India in 2016, and was immediately startled by how noisy the country is. She’s studying for a master’s degree and has moved to Indonesia with her family.

Besides the noise, what were the other things that took you by surprise, and has your impression of India changed at all?

I think the smell and the dirtiness were a big challenge because I have kids, who are 6 and 12 years old, but when we arrived here, they were 3 and 9 years old, so they were young! If you walk outside, you see the dirtiness and the poop of the cows and the goats, as a mother, it worries me. Another concern is the recklessness of people while driving! A couple of times we saw the monkeys near our windows, my daughter was playing in the bedroom, she saw the monkey and called us, we immediately rushed to her.

Of course, my perception changed. I started enjoying my stay here after six months. India is a very different country compared to what we have seen before, and this made us who we really are; it helped us get closer to ourselves. It helps to look for your community; as a Latina, I am part of a WhatsApp group. There are about 200 hundred people from different countries of Latin America, through the group we connect and help each other and I appreciate that.

India is a very different country compared to what we have seen before, and this made us who we really are; it helped us get closer to ourselves.

What would you say are the best and the worst things about living in India?

The best thing for me is being able to experience a different culture. It’s also great to meet new people and build relationships; this for me, is most satisfying. Unfortunately, most of them have left the country. It took me almost six months, but I made friends. They were all from different parts of South America, like Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, and Salvador.
Another great thing that happened to us is that we don’t need that much meat now. We are mostly vegetarian now; it is not something that bothers us anymore. We enjoy whatever we have.

The worst thing would be how living here can get frustrating and how women are treated here! Indian men ignore us when we say something. The other thing I dislike is not having the liberty of wearing what you want—the fact that you have to cover yourself till the knee. I think there is hypocrisy. I just don’t get it, Bollywood movies, show women in different types of clothing!

Do you also watch Bollywood movies?

I have watched a few, but not too much because of the language; we look for the one with English subtitles. My husband and I both enjoy it; sometimes, however, you can see a lot of green screens, but they are good movies. I remember we spent an entire Saturday watching Hindi movies because we just couldn’t stop!

What are struggles you’ve come across being an expat for so long?

After having spent so much time away from my home country, of course, I miss it. Sometimes, you just wish to be there, but then you get adjusted to this kind of life. You learn to balance things, and it gets better. One of the worst things for people like me who have kids is getting them attached to their country. It’s a challenge familiarizing them with their roots because we don’t live anywhere near it. Nevertheless, I try to make them listen to the National anthem, and show them videos of family, and teach them different values from home.
One of the most painful experiences I’ve had was losing my mom last year, and I couldn’t be there to take care of her during her illness.

One of the worst things for people like me who have kids, is getting them attached to their country. It’s a challenge familiarizing them with their roots because we don’t live anywhere near it.

Do you have any advice for new expats in India?

In India, you see things that you wouldn’t have imagined, and anything could happen here. I think you just have to learn to let it go; it will pass eventually. Don’t stick to your first impression about this country, rather enjoy the beauty of India. Always take precautions, especially when it comes to the food, even my husband struggled with Delhi Belly.

Reshaping the floral industry in India one bouquet at a time, Svetlana Bakshi.

Reading Time: 7 minutes

With a lot of questions in mind, Russian born Svetlana Bakshi, landed in India for the first time ten years ago, exploring the country with her friend. She has been living in India for four years now and is the artist behind the Secret Garden Flora, an artisanal floral shop based in Delhi.

Tell us something about yourself?

As a person, I’m a perfectionist, and this is both good and bad because a lot of people get irritated by me, but this is how I am, I like it perfect. I feel satisfaction when I see perfect things, and that is what my bouquets are all about. I want to be around good people as you always learn something new from them, along with getting positive vibes. I like to observe things, and I think that’s why I came to India. There are always a lot of questions in my head about life, how? What? Where? So many questions and no answers. And while thinking about all those, I wondered, why India? Why not Europe which is very close to my culture, why not Africa, why not South America? But I found my answers. I found them here, and when I did, it was like a puzzle that made sense.

…I wondered, why India? Why not Europe which is very close to my culture, why not Africa, why not South America? But I found my answers. I found them here, and when I did, it was like a puzzle that made sense.

 

You said that you asked yourself a lot of questions and you found your answer, what were they and what were the answers?

My questions were about life in general. Like how everything works, about the relationship, partnership. When you turn a certain age, you begin asking yourself what you’ve achieved in your life and what to do in the future also. When I shifted here, I realized so much go around in life, that too, simultaneously. Sometimes I like to sit in the car when my husband is out and about buying stuff; I just observe things in general all around. Someone is sleeping, someone is standing there, and someone is riding a bicycle. So many things are happening at the same time, it’s so beautiful. So, in this way, I came here and found so many answers to my personal questions, but I still have so many questions like how to be happy? How to find balance? How to be patient? I believe India teaches us to be patient. Everything is so slow compared to Moscow, as I feel everything was fast there.

What did you think of India on your first visit, and has it changed at all after four years?

It was almost ten years back when I came to India! And of course, I was impressed. At that time, we (my friend and I) were 20 years old, and it was my first trip abroad with friends. It was a dream to come true for her; I was just tagging along. When we arrived here, it was a shock. We could already breathe in a different smell just by exiting the plane— I loved it. I still love coming out of my house to smell it. My husband doesn’t understand. He is like, “what smell?”

We reached late in the night at our hotel, we tried to sleep, but the constant noise from outside kept us awake. We came as backpackers, without tour package, and were by ourselves. There were so many things going on all at once; it was both fascinating and overwhelming. But I can’t judge; it’s a different place, people here have their own life, culture, mentality, and traditions. And of course, it impresses me because it’s so different! There are so many different nationalities together, in one small place.

What was a culture shock that got you, and how did you get over it?

I think the lack of manners and basic etiquettes really shocked me, and I’m still not used to it. The worst is men peeing and people spitting on roads. The other thing that annoys me is when people organize a free-food service to feed, but when everyone leaves, the place is full of garbage. It’s such a mess already and then all those cows, rats and dogs eating it. It’s crazy.

Svetlana Bakshi

How did Secret Garden Flora come to life?

Everything was done by Vidur, my husband, and me. I was always passionate about flowers. My parents grow them in their garden, so my love of flowers has always been there since childhood. In Moscow, I worked for a corporate company, and right next to our office was a massive market of flowers. Whenever my colleagues and I went to a party or a birthday occasion, we would go to this market, pick up flowers, and made our bouquets. I never bought readymade bouquets from the shops because they were never perfect. I always prefer getting custom bouquets. The 8th of March is the International woman’s day, and a holiday in Russia. On this day, you will find tulips everywhere. I went to the market to pick up flowers for my mother and sisters and made bouquets for them. Everyone wanted to know where I bought them from and how much it was. I told them the price, but they started complaining that it was too expensive. I make artful bouquets, and they might be quite expensive, but they are worth it.

I was always passionate about flowers. My parents grow them in their garden, so my love of flowers has always been there since childhood.

For two years, after getting married and moving here, I thought about what to do. I was still adapting, so I didn’t really think about flowers, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. And you know, ever since I was a teenager, I’ve always dreamt of having a supportive husband. Vidur understands when I don’t like how something looks; he gets it; I don’t even know how, but he just does. We are talented in different ways; however, when we put our talents together, we become a strong team.

Svetlana Bakshi

We noticed you use a lot of flowers that aren’t available in the local floral shops, and flowers we didn’t know we could find in India! How do you find them?

When we were building our business, we also developed a relationship with suppliers who work in flower export and import industry from around the world. The situation of the flower industry in India right now is like how it used to be in the ’90s, in Russia. The choice here is mostly lilac, roses, carnations, and chrysanthemums. However, since I like flowers, and I saw so many beautiful flowers, unique and colorful shades in just one flower, I wanted more than what was offered. This was when we started researching on how to import flowers. I also went to floristry school, where I learned what flowers exist in different parts of the world and which one you can use for making bouquets. When we built a strong relationship with suppliers, we were able to purchase everything in quantity because you can buy these kinds of flowers only as a business or if you have a shop. Sometimes if you want a unique flower, a particular color, the suppliers will let you. However, they will also demand that you 50 pieces of them, so we have to the minimum they ask for. When we started, there were maybe five companies that sold flower bouquets online. Now, it’s growing. This is why I say it’s like the ’90s in Moscow when this business had just started.

I respect everyone who is in this business because I know the massive work behind creating a bouquet. Suppliers throw tons of flowers. For me, it’s very personal, and I try to reduce any wastage if any.

Can you walk us through the thought process before designing a bouquet, to putting them together?

It’s an interesting question because I think it comes naturally; you don’t have to observe much. For example, in the market, when I choose flowers, I do not follow a recipe, because it’s a little different. You just have to see the color combination and what shades would be in harmony with each other. However, there are techniques to make bouquets, so you have to decide which one to follow.

In terms of putting them together, I get inspiration from nature itself. I take pictures for me to remember the shades of a tree, or a specific location and note it down. I think people like the bouquets when they look more natural; they don’t appreciate artificial bouquets. Of course, everyone is different, but I’m talking mostly about our audience. They understand the beauty of these things that how everything is put together.

Now it’s all online, so every morning, I take my inspiration from Instagram, Pinterest, and other websites. I follow different pages. In the beginning, it was hard because I didn’t get visual inspiration, but day by day, when you search for more and more visual art, you start getting ideas, and then when you start doing, you already know what to do. Nevertheless, while making a bouquet, it’s better to see and feel things in person. Sometimes when you see a flower, it’ll look beautiful, but when added to a bunch of flowers, it doesn’t look great. And there is a reason behind. You have to know the technics of floristry. If you take it lightly and bind a bunch of flowers, you get anything but a bouquet.

If you could describe India through a bouquet, what would it look like?

I think it will be something in bright orange or bright pink and red. It will definitely be very colorful, with many textures, like India is for me. It’s an excellent question because, in some way, you are guiding me, and I will now research about this!

Svetlana Bakshi

Being a florist in India, what do you think about your industry, the work culture in India, and then in general?

Floristry is growing, but it’s still like in the ’90s. So, there is a lot of room for growth. Competitors are also increasing day by day. Nonetheless, I think it will be interesting to make a community of florists. Currently, the florists here are not a community but are competitors, but abroad the florists are also a community. Sometimes, all the competitors come together, and it’s wonderful. I would like to do this here, so let’s see, we have big plans for the future. Let’s see how it goes.

Do you ever get homesick, and if yes, what do you miss the most?

Honestly, I think no. Sometimes, it’s just those emotional moments with my family that I miss. I don’t miss the food, clothes, or even winters. I am very comfortable with what I have today, and I love India. I love butter chicken—it took my heart away.

Julie Parvery on how there is a solution for everything in India.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

French travel consultant and trained sailor, Julie Parvery was living in Beijing for three years before moving to Delhi with her husband and their two teenage kids. They’ve been living and exploring Delhi for the last two years, with hopes of staying longer to experience more of the country.

What brought you to India from Beijing?

We came to India because my husband works for the company Airbus and he had the opportunity to come to Delhi. We were given the option not to move, but as soon as we arrived in Delhi, only after two days, we decided to stay and live here because we had the impression that we would be fine. Moreover, it was an excellent opportunity to discover a new culture and a different way of life; I can say that we never regretted it.

Can you tell us something about what you do in India?

I work for a Paris-based company called Cmycities; it has many travel agencies around the world. My job is to help people who want to visit India and to help those who will be coming to India to live as an expat. I help them find an apartment, discover Delhi, and guide them in things like where to buy food, what hospital to go to, and the best place to visit, etc. I help expats to live hassle-free in this city and also help students who want to come to Delhi for studies. This is a new concept for travelers; we support them by giving them genuine advice. They pay a package, but we don’t organize everything, we give them relevant tools to help them organize their own trips. It is an excellent way to travel for people who want to organize everything by themselves.

…as soon as we arrived in Delhi, only after two days, we decided to stay and live here because we had the impression that we would be fine. Moreover, it was an excellent opportunity to discover a new culture and a different way of life; I can say that we never regretted it.

I am also involved with the association Main Tendue. It comprises of eight NGOs based in Delhi that takes care of vulnerable people like abandoned children, children who were taken from the custody of their parents, abused and battered women etc. The association also redeploys people by teaching them how to cook or sew. For example, Mother Theresa is also part of this NGO; it helps handicapped children. Main Tendue raises funds for all of these NGOs. We organize a few events during the year like a Mela, a fair with many exhibitions. All the profit from this mela goes to the association. Then there is a charity gala at the embassy where people can buy their seat, dinner and the profit, of course, goes to the association.

Did you experience any culture shock coming to India?

I think the culture shock was mostly positive. However, India brings daily surprises, and sometimes, it can get stressful. It can be nothing or many small things that can easily disturb your everyday life. A leak in the kitchen, or an AC that stopped working when its 40 degrees inside your apartment are two good examples; these kinds of daily issues can be very tiring. Even if it’s not very important, it can affect your mood.

…India brings daily surprises, and sometimes, it can get stressful. It can be nothing or many small things that can easily disturb your everyday life.

Another thing, I felt freer in Beijing compared to Delhi. In Beijing, I could take my bicycle out and run my errands with it. I could go out any time, day or night, and not be worried about the risks. In Delhi, you can’t really do that. As a result, you are more dependent on your driver or friends.
When it comes to food, Beijing and Delhi are almost the same. I had to bring my food, cheese, and even wine from France! I also bring my butter from France as I’m not too fond of the Amul butter available in the market here.

What would you say is the best and the worst thing about working in India?

Working with Indian people is not easy! You can’t always rely on them to do the job right. You have to keep checking what they’ve done from the beginning until the end because sometimes they’ll tell you they’ve done it, but it won’t be done correctly, or as you thought it would have been. You have to check every setting, and that takes a lot of time. It’s not because they’re terrible people, it’s just that they have the impression that the work is done, but it’s not done as you would like. So, you have to make certain they did what you were expecting them to do, and this is why it can be tough working with them. In addition to that, they (the men) seem to find it difficult to work under a woman; even if she has a higher authority. They’re not used to it, and that’s a little confusing to me.

I would say the best thing about India is that everything is possible here. No matter how big the problem is, there is always a solution.

I would say the best thing about India is that everything is possible here. No matter how big the problem is, there is always a solution. I see it when I organize travel plans with people, even if you have a problem with a car or anything, there will always be a solution, and fast. In France, it can take two days to find a vehicle if the car renter doesn’t have any car. Here if you don’t find a car, the driver’s friend will come to pick you— as soon as you need a car, you can find one.

What advice would you give to someone planning to move to Delhi?

Though there are many things to discover in Delhi— it’s a beautiful city. I would suggest going outside of the city as soon as you can. For example, we recently went to Âlwâr, which is only 2 hours’ drive from Delhi, it was great! If you do that you can meet people in the countryside, walk, involve in other activities, and discover lovely places like big forts, or nice temples. If you leave the city and explore new areas in the countryside, you will see a new part of India and have a different view of this country. For me, Gurgaon is not India! This country is so beautiful that I would recommend you to try to discover every part of this country like Rajasthan, Gujarat, and even Ladakh!

Steven Guest, on how surprisingly organized the unorganized streets of India are.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

A trained electrical engineer, a pastor, and a Bible teacher, Dr. Steven Guest was born in the US, but has lived in the United Arab Emirates for ten years, and has traveled extensively abroad before moving to India, where he lived for nine years. He is married and is a father of two adult children and a grandfather of five children. Steven and his wife now live in the Philippines.

What were your first impressions of the country? And has it changed at all?

First impressions, that’s difficult. I have had so many ‘first impressions’ of the country. On the first visit in 1999, I landed in Hyderabad, took a train, taxi, ferry, rickshaw, and jeep to reach my final destination of the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. The vastness and crowdedness of the city was a stark contrast to the rural beauty of the villages I visited near the coast. Then I had first impressions of Bengaluru, Pune, Delhi, and Allahabad on a two-week visit in 2009. Even after living in the cities of Abu Dhabi and Chicago, the cities of India “took our breath away” in terms of the noise, crowds, and pollution. After living in Bengaluru for more than six years, we are less “intimidated” by the cities and have found the country to be filled with dissonance and fascinating opportunities.

Coming from a completely different culture, there must have been some things that came as a shock, what were they? And how did you get over it?

Yes, there were many things that “shocked” us. Traffic was a whole new experience—even after living in the United Arab Emirates for ten years and traveling for months at a time in the Philippines. There is nothing like the traffic in India. The other distressing thing was the dirtiness of the cities and the total disregard for the general welfare/upkeep of the city. Traffic was shocking with its “unorganized” and chaotic “patterns.” We marveled at how, for the local population, it actually worked. I remember thinking one time that watching traffic in the streets of Bengaluru was like watching the activity around an anthill. So many people coming from each and every direction, yet no one seemed to get hurt, and all eventually made it to their destinations. We were able to “get over” our shock by living on a walled campus that was well-tended and cared for. The perpetual beauty and relative quiet helped us forget that we were living in India. As for the traffic, we never tried to navigate it by ourselves but walked, hired rickshaws and taxis, or took rides with friends so that we would not be a hazard to ourselves or others.

Traffic was shocking with its “unorganized” and chaotic “patterns.” We marveled at how, for the local population, it actually worked. I remember thinking one time that watching traffic in the streets of Bengaluru was like watching the activity around an anthill. So many people coming from each and every direction, yet no one seemed to get hurt, and all eventually made it to their destinations.

A lot of expats we’ve interviewed mentioned that it’s difficult to build genuine bonds in India. Was that true to your experience as well?

Not at all. We were able to develop friendships and other personal relationships readily in India. We were very saddened when we came to the realization that the Indian government was going to make it difficult for us to stay through the unwillingness of the Bureau of Immigration to provide the necessary visa and residence permit.

What would you say were the best and worst things about living in India?

The Best: definitely the people, even if there were LOTS of them. We were able to build meaningful and lasting friendships with many. We enjoyed Indian hospitality immensely (even if we did eat too much or even if the foods had too many spices and/or chilis). The Worst: had to be the traffic. Traffic chaos was compounded by the ineffectiveness of the government to maintain the roads to any standard of reasonable quality. Moreover, even when roads were relatively clear and smooth, the constant lane strictures and speedbumps that impede the traffic were an obnoxious source of harassment.

Do you think the expat community can bring an influence to the local community? If so, how?

Obviously, any person can influence his/her community for good or ill, whether expat or local. I would like to think that we made a positive contribution through our work and lives for the time we lived in India. Taking the time to enter into the culture of India is necessary to make a positive impact. Learning that “different” does not necessarily mean “bad” is a good way to begin to evaluate if our contributions will be accepted or rejected.

Tell us about the process of moving to India.

I had made four short term trips (approx. two weeks each in 1999, 2001, 2003, and 2009) to India prior to my transition to live there in Jan 2013. I visited India for a month in 2010 to interview for my future position on the faculty of the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (Bengaluru). Then I returned as an adjunct faculty in February 2011 and October and November 2011. So, I had a pretty good idea of what I should anticipate when I moved in Jan 2013 to assume my full-time residential faculty role in Bengaluru.

Taking the time to enter into the culture of India is necessary to make a positive impact. Learning that “different” does not necessarily mean “bad” is a good way to begin to evaluate if our contributions will be accepted or rejected.

Let’s talk about working in India. What were the two most memorable experiences you’ve had while working here?

Over the course of the last nine years of living and working in India, I have had too many memorable experiences to accurately identify my two most memorable ones. Having traveled to the north (as far as Himachal Pradesh) and to the south (to Kanyakumari) and to the east (in Andhra Pradesh), there were sites that were breath-taking (mountain vistas, ocean seascapes, lush green jungles), we were able to appreciate the tremendous variety that is in India. But what left a lasting impression was the people of India—the friendships that we made would remain forever in our hearts.

What are your views on the work culture in India, especially in your industry?

Given that I worked for a Christian seminary, I fear for the Christians in India. The recent turn of events and the radicalization of many Hindu elements in society is a matter of grave concern. The abuse of power by the authorities and the majority rule that is uncharacteristic of a democratic, secular, constitutional government is quite worrying.

Did you ever get homesick? If yes, what did you miss the most?

I don’t think we ever became “homesick,” according to the common understanding. Obviously, when you live ten time zones away from family and the familiar, there are times when the differences are heightened, and the distance feels great. Being a world away from home when family is facing health crises, weddings, births, deaths, etc., can be difficult.

Any advice to newbies?

Take time to learn the culture. Read about the history of India. Engage in meaningful relationships with Indians and look for new experiences that can broaden your own horizons.

Alexandra Bret on Why Adapting is Better Than Struggling With Culture Shock

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Fifteen years after her first visit to the south of India, Alexandra Bret, came back as an exchange student, learning Hindi, at the age of 45. She decided to spend a little more time in India, after finishing her Bachelor’s degree in Delhi, to better understand how the country and the Indian society works. She teaches French and also works as a consultant for a cultural project based in Paris.

 

What were your first impressions of the country, 15 years ago and last year, when you arrived for the second time?

 

The first time I was here was 15 years ago, there were very few expectations. This time, however, the first thoughts I had was this is a very noisy country with a lot of mess, and people everywhere, all the time, but it is also a country filled with colour! There are lots of curious people, and usually, this curiosity is quite benevolent.

India is a country that can make you experience extreme emotions. There are days when you will love India, and days when you will completely hate it.

 

Would you say that it’s changed over the course of living here?

Of course! It has changed— what I said previously pretty much remains the same. But yes it has changed because now I have the experience of living here for almost a year. So, I got used to a few things. Now, I would say that I don’t even hear the noise anymore, except when they keep horning when they drive, and this is something I am not sure I can get used to.

 

Culture shock is a struggle every expat goes through, what was your biggest one?

Maybe to live, as a woman, in Delhi was my biggest cultural shock. Sometimes when I go out and when it’s time to go to the metro station, out of habit, I would light a cigarette. I did that here once and immediately knew that it wasn’t a very good idea. I could see how people were looking at me, especially men, because I think they thought that I was disrespectful towards them.

For me, the biggest shock sometimes, even in big cities like Delhi, is how women act. The place of a woman is different here, in comparison to Europe, and it’s quite difficult for people like me when you come from a country where girls have the freedom to go out alone and dance, etc., and feel safe. And that was the most difficult thing to adapt to. When I go out in Delhi in order to meet some friends and have dinner in a restaurant at 11 o’clock in the night, I call an Uber, but won’t wait for the Uber outside as first it’s not safe, and secondly, people would think that it’s normal to accompany me as I am a woman and I need to be protected. Therefore, the most important cultural shock is the relation between men and women, how women should act, and how their behaviour should be. For me, this is the biggest difference I had experienced here.

 

How did you get over it?

 

You don’t get over it, but you get used to it. I could not imagine acting like a Parisian as I do in Paris now that I live in India. So, I try to act as Indians do, because I think it’s a question of respect to adapt to the culture. However, it doesn’t mean I accept those things that happen to women in India, just as you don’t have to accept the wrong things happening in the world.

What is the best and worst thing about living in India?

Actually, I think the best and the worst thing are two faces of the same coin, and this is their conception of time. Yesterday, an Indian was explaining to me that if we have an appointment, coming 10 minutes late for it is not considered a big deal. The people here will take their time to do things and of course when you’re not used to it; it is a cultural shock. You might think that if they are late, they’re just being rude but if you get used to it, it could also work as a margin time for you. People just take it easy here, and I think if I do the same, maybe my day will be less stressful.

If I say I’m going to do finish this, at this particular moment, it will be finished at that moment. It was very difficult for me at the beginning, in India, because people said yes, yes it will be done, but when? You have to get used to this kind of flexibility. Moreover, this flexibility can also be a benefit for you, this doesn’t mean that you can’t be firm. In some situations, if you really need something, you have to ask firmly, and if you don’t, you can get exhausted by waiting for things you want.


Do you ever get homesick?

Of course, I get homesick, and especially for food. I love Indian food, but I miss French food. I crave cheese and real chocolate which obviously you can find in the market but which is very expensive as it is imported. There is some good Indian chocolate as well, but they are as expensive as imported chocolate. I miss my friends as I am not able to converse in my language. Now, of course, you have WhatsApp, but sometimes I feel like sharing things with the people I am close to face to face. 

I would say I also miss the silence.

 

Do you have any advice for newbies?

I would advise not to struggle with the conception of time, rather, try to accept whatever comes your way. Sometimes things won’t go as fast as we want or at the required pace, we are used to. Also, yes, we can be homesick, but I manage because I try to think though I don’t have what I want, there are other things to enjoy. And last but not least, take the time to maintain good health. There are many good doctors in Delhi who are as competent and good as there are in Europe. Even if you have a little problem and you don’t recover, don’t hesitate to go and see a doctor because they know what happens here. Take time to rest to get used to the weather, to the noise because Delhi can be easily an exhaustive city, but if you take time and protect yourself, you can really enjoy it.

Tatsiana Chykhayeva, the woman behind Life Talk Delhi.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Born in Belarus, Tatsiana Chykhayeva was only 15 when she first experienced a life of an expat in England, as a student. Since then, she’s lived in Switzerland, China, Dubai, and the Bahamas, for six years, before moving to India. Though having a background in hospitality, she decided to switch careers and got a certificate as a life coach. This was about the same time she decided to visit a friend in India, now husband. Unafraid of the challenges of living in India, in spite of her husband’s concern, she moved to Delhi and loved it here.

What were your first impressions about India?

I just loved everything. The first time I came here was in 2013; we just went on a trip. Every day started at 7 a.m.; we were doing many things – buying sarees, attending weddings. Everything was so exciting! I think people may get a little lost and confused during their first time, so I was happy that my husband was showing my friend and me around.

Now, three years later, do you still feel the same?

Three years later, I still like India. Certain things were a bit challenging to get used to, but overall it is a good place to be. It is amazing how India can be so different for different people. Some love it, while others find it difficult to manage even after ten years of residing here!

In my opinion, there is something special about the country. It can teach us a lot, as well as “brings out the worse” in us. Let me explain. Many foreigners shared their personality shifts after living in Delhi for some time. When before, they found it difficult to say ‘no’ to people or point out the wrongdoing when someone is cutting into a line in front of them; after some time, they developed certain aggression that they didn’t know existed. Of course, it is not a bad thing. I think many of us can use to be more assertive in certain situations, and Delhi gives us a chance to improve it. Simply, because there are so many people everywhere, so the chances of someone to cut the queue or ask you for things that you don’t need are much higher. You get to practice communication skills more often.

How did you start your blog Life Talk Delhi?

I’ve always liked to meet new people, and the idea came to organize events so people can come and socialize. My husband has a restaurant by the name Roadhouse Café, so the venue was decided right away. The location is perfect; a lot of expats live nearby (GK1).
Of course, to start something new is challenging. So it took some time to spread the word. The blog had started at the same time. I just had a lot to say about the place I am currently living in. Plus, I kept on hearing so many interesting views from other expats, so I decided to start sharing it. The response was great, so I continued doing it.

Now, the platform also allows many foreigners and locals to join us in the projects for social good. We organize charitable events in the slums, orphanages, and elderly people’s homes. For those who might not be able to join, we write about various social challenges in India. We touch subjects of homosexuality, elderly abandonment, slum life. It is very interesting and not always match the stereotypes we hear when outside the country.

India is well known to be, on the more negative side, not very friendly to women, and this is an issue that has come up several times in our interviews with expat women. What is your view and experience with this?

Yes, I agree. The reputation, especially of big cities like Delhi, is not great. However, I do not feel unsafe. I know people who are terrified to travel alone in the cab or walk on the street as soon as it gets dark outside. Well, I don’t allow the fear to stop me from doing what I have to do. I believe it is essential to be aware of where you are, who you are with, and take precautions.

Do you have any advice for women who are planning to move to India because a question we always get is, “Is India safe for women?”

My advice is to take the time to adjust. Don’t trust the first person that you meet.
Of course, read as much as you can about the place, but be selective. There is a lot of information online, and not all are true. You can always check out Facebook Groups for expats, blogs, websites, and, of course, Life Talk Delhi page! If there is something you want to buy, but don’t seem to find it in the nearby store, don’t worry. You will find it somewhere else. Delhi is a huge city, and it has pretty much anything, you just need to look for it.

Another advice is to get out and explore! But do it in the right careful manner. Metro, for instance, is very clean and easy to figure out. My husband was a bit concerned the first time I traveled alone. But hey, now he doesn’t worry as he knows I can manage.

India is incredible, there is so much to see,
but you cannot get to know it by only looking outside your window.

However, sadly, some people were warned so much that they are afraid to step out. That doesn’t make anyone’s life exciting and fun. Safe, yes, but not worth it, in my opinion. India is incredible, there is so much to see, but you cannot get to know it by only looking outside your window.

One more advice, don’t expect to get to know and see everything right away! Despite my desire to explore, I also did not visit the slum area on my first days of staying in India. It took me some time to get to know people, places, and what was safe and what wasn’t.

What are the best and the worst things about living in India?

I love the variety and contrasts that India offers. Some days I visit the slum in the mornings and later in the evening going out to dine in a 5-star hotel. One day I shop at a crowded local market; the next day, I am in the fancy mall looking at world-famous brands. The city has it all, and it makes it exciting.

India is a very spiritual place. Even though I am not much into yoga and meditation, I think there is a certain energy here. This place teaches us a lot and gives experiences that one can get either pissed off about or learn from it and add to his or her personal growth.

There are always good and bad sides to everything. Overpopulation also has its bright side. In Delhi, it is so easy to get lost. Not direction wise, more in terms of personal liberation. I’ll give you an example. People in my country are very self-conscious about what they wear and what they look like. I know it is good in many ways, but it also adds a lot of pressure. Here, in Delhi, it is so easy to get lost in the crowd. If someone notices that your shoes don’t match your bag, they have approximately 2 minutes to formulate their judgment before they lose sight of you. Sometimes they don’t even look at you as it is best to look at the road and where you are going. The cars, scooters, and people are everywhere!

Delhi has also changed significantly since I moved here three years ago. It became much cleaner. My friend from home visited me recently. It took us four days to see a cow on the street. She was very surprised as all the travel guides, and documentaries about India are pushing that image of the city where holy animals live side by side with people. Well, the reality did not match the stereotypes. Some parts of Delhi now are very different from what one might think.

What about the top three worst things?

Pollution. It is bad here. It is very unhealthy to be in the city for at least one month of the year. Unfortunately, it hasn’t improved much despite the issue being raised by everyone.

I think the attitude toward cleanliness also has to change. Yes, Delhi had become much cleaner recently, but not everywhere. It seems some people don’t want to contribute towards their society, making progress slower. It is not always about education or social status. Sometimes you see fancy cars driving down the road when suddenly the window opens, and garbage is being thrown outside right in the middle of the street.

India is developing, but there are a lot of challenges the society is facing. The country is opening up as much as people’s minds. However, there is yet a long way to go.

Whenever you need an escape from Delhi, where do you go to?

We like to go to Rishikesh. No, we don’t go for yoga or meditation, just to chill at a resort. We found our favorite spot up on the hills. They have wooden houses, beautiful grounds, waterfalls, and best of all, they allow us to bring our dog. However, I came back with dengue from the last trip, so we might take a break from Rishikesh for now.

What are the other places close to Delhi you would recommend to go away for a weekend?

There are many options. You can go to Gurgaon and stay at a farmhouse. It’s a great way to escape from the busy city with only an hour’s drive away. Horse riding is also available there.

If you are up for some cooler experience, you can go to Greater Noida and play in the snow (one of the malls there offer such experience). You can try out the Sky Dining in Noida. That’s definitely on my list.

Otherwise, there is so much to explore in Delhi itself! The challenge is to find out about the things to do. The best way to do it is by talking to others. Online sources are not very reliable. First, you never know what quality you will get, and there is no one centralized platform to learn about it!

Ginalyn Makanawa explains the impact of expats on each other, and India.

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Having lived in India for almost eight years, Ginalyn Makanawa, from the Philippines, now calls India home. She moved to Chennai seven and a half years ago with her husband and daughter, Sophia. She and her family moved from Cario, Egypt in 2011, when her husband was offered to be the executive chef of The Leela Palace, Chennai.

What was your impression of the country when you came for the first time in India? Has it changed at all?

My first impression of Chennai was not good. It took me eight months to adjust and accept that we were in India. The surrounding was dirty, animals (cows, goats, and pigs) were roaming on the street, the people were wearing their traditional clothing – saree for the women and the men wore lungi which looks like a wrap skirt. Plus, the weather was hot. There are three seasons— hot, hotter, and hottest. The one thing that is difficult to see is poverty. You see it everywhere. It’s an eye-opener for those coming here for the first time, and that made me appreciate the little things in life.

As time went by, I began to love the city. I made a lot of friends, and the availability of products got easier to find. I find the people so friendly and nice. I started to appreciate the beauty of my surroundings, especially during the festive season. And I began to love biryani!

As a family, we try to do our share of giving back by helping orphanages and starting livelihood programs for women in the village with the help of our local pastor. It took us seven and a half years to finally decide to move to Delhi. It’s nice to have a change of environment.
We find Delhi better than Chennai— the infrastructures, the greenery, and the weather, but not the pollution. And the South has better biryani than the north!

Did your expectations of India match with what was really out here?

When we found out that we were moving to Chennai, India, we got excited. We did our research and saw that the sea surrounds Chennai. Beaches and good seafood came to our minds. We even chose to live near the beach; it was just across our home. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what we expected. Coming from the Philippines, when we say ‘beach,’ we think of blue waters, swimming, and playing in the sand, but it’s not the same in Chennai. The beach was dirty, there was rubbish everywhere, and it smelled of pee!

We didn’t last long in our house. We decided to move out after a few months. But there’s something on the beach that we enjoyed, and we let our daughter experience it. They have those manual Ferris wheels that a man pushes for it to go around and also a manual carousel. Our daughter loved them and would go on those rides every weekend.

Do you think expats have an impact on the local culture? If yes, what do you think is yours?

For me, I believe that expats have a significant impact on Indian culture. People start to look more western, especially in Delhi. The restaurants now have different kinds of international dishes, and supermarkets now carry more imported items compared to before. Women are becoming more independent and vocal about their rights.

I guess the impact I made is when we started the women’s project in the village in Kancheepuram district in Tamil Nadu. We started a tailoring course with our pastor friend. The government certifies it, so when they finish the course, they get certificates and can get a job or start their own little business. We chose battered women, single mothers, and women with disabilities. We encourage them and tell them of their value and worth in society. Empowering women is my contribution, especially in a community where some don’t have voices and have no say at all.

What shocked you the most about India, and how did you get over it?

The biggest shock I had was the dowry system and arranged marriages. Because of these things, girls are not wanted, and they get rid of them even before they are born. People say that dowry is illegal, but people still do it. The girl’s family is always harassed for more money. I even see families educate their daughters, so it will look good on their CV or records for marriage. I can’t get over it. I volunteered to help an orphanage in Chennai that rescues unwanted babies, and most of them are girls. I see foreigners adopt the babies, and all I can do is pray and hope that these girls have a better life overseas.

After seven years of living in India, was this culture shock as challenging to manage as your first months here?

After almost eight years in India, you will get used to it and accept their culture. As much as we want to change it, we can only educate them, and some of them won’t even listen because that’s what they are used to. I guess with access to social media, it might affect their culture as the girls and women are exposed to the outside world and not just their own.

Have you ever been an expat in another country? If yes, how different is the experience between living in India and living in the other country?

We were in Cairo, Egypt, before coming to India. It’s a totally different world as the religion is mostly Islam, while here it is primarily Hindu. Muslim beliefs are so different from Hinduism. These religions affect each country’s culture and tradition. In Egypt, we can easily go out and grab a beef burger. They’re very common in fast-food chain restaurants. In India, you can’t get beef burgers. The dowry system is also there, but in Egypt, the men are the ones who give the dowry, unlike here. But in spite of these differences, they also have a lot in common. One of them is the close family ties. Egyptians are like Indians because they love having the whole family together, and they have a tight bond with each other. Both cultures are hospitable. They prepare a feast for their guests.

Many expats we interviewed said that building relationships is difficult in India, what do you think about this?

I guess that depends on where you are. When we were in Chennai, we had a small expat community compared to here in Delhi. There’s only one international school in the city, and all the expat kids go there. After dropping the kids to school, we all sit in the parents’ cafeteria and get to know each other. There aren’t a lot of activities in the city, so most of us do stuff in our homes and invite people over. We have barbecues, play dates for the kids, and even host parties just to catch up. It’s the close friendship we had that made Chennai a great place to be in.
If one mom is not well, a friend will offer to pick her kids up or make their dinner so the mom can rest. That is one thing I missed when we moved to Delhi. I’ve met a lot of expats but haven’t found one that I am close to. The good thing is, Chennai isn’t that far, some of our friends have already been to Delhi to visit and stay with us. That’s how close the relationship is. We even go on holidays overseas together.
Every expat I know who came to Chennai was not happy at first, but when they started to meet people, no one wanted to leave.

If one mom is not well, a friend will offer to pick her kids up or make their dinner so the mom can rest.

What are the best things and the worst things about living in India?

We have been in India long enough to love it. I love the food, the arts, and the people, especially in the South. We have traveled to some places like Agra, Udaipur, Kerala, Goa, Chennai, Pondicherry, Mumbai, and Delhi. Everywhere we go, you get to see and appreciate India more. It’s full of history, the old buildings, and palaces, the arts. Each place has it’s own style like the inlay marbles of Agra and the colorful fabric of the South. I also love the miniature paintings in Udaipur. I even took a short class on that. The food is different everywhere, and they all have their own special dishes that we all love.

I have more good things to say now about the country compared to when we first arrived. The worst thing is when we go to all these historical places like temples, forts, and palaces, we get disappointed when people don’t take care of it. We have seen palaces that are vandalized, and people leave their trash around! The worst is that they made it into a public urinal. I wish that people will be more disciplined when it comes to throwing their garbage.

Aside from the trash, it’s the way people drive. I don’t go out that much as I get nervous about how they drive. There’s no discipline, and they don’t follow the rules most of the time.

How have you been keeping yourself busy?

I like being productive with my time. I used to attend classes like painting, quilting, and going to the F45 gym every morning. I even studied and volunteered as a photographer at the American International School, Chennai, for five months! I also helped at orphanages. We have been in Delhi for three months now, and I’m slowly trying to figure out where I can spend my time, trying to connect with people who have the same interests as me.

Do you ever get homesick? If yes, what do you miss the most?

For me, its the other way around, India has been our home for so many years. If we go back to the Philippines or Australia, because my husband is from there, I can’t wait to come back home to India. I usually like to go overseas just to get my groceries, because buying the imported stuff here is so expensive. Once I get the things I need, I can’t wait to get back.

India has been our home for so many years. If we go back to the Philippines or Australia, because my husband is from there, I can’t wait to come back home to India.

We are grateful that we get to go and visit our families back home and are thankful for Whatsapp and Facebook. With these apps, it’s easy to be connected and be aware of what’s happening with friends and families.

Any advice to newbies?

Be patient, take time to appreciate the little things. The most important is to make friends. Join some expat groups, and from there, life will be easier as they have been here longer, and they will tell you where, what, when, and how.

A lot of people say that India impacted them in ways they never imagined. How would you describe India’s impact on you?
India has changed me a lot. Coming here has been an eye-opener. We see all kinds of people, especially the poor. I’m more appreciative compared to before. I remember when we arrived in Singapore, as we drove from the airport to the hotel, I told my husband, “Can you feel how smooth the road is?” When we go overseas, we enjoy spending time at the supermarket, seeing all kinds of food that are way cheaper compared to the shops in India. I have become more giving.

 

Cherry Chiesa-Barbon on The Struggles of Being an Expat Family

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Originally from the Philippines, 59-year-old Cherry Chiesa has lived in seven countries, namely Canada, Spain, France, Luxembourg, Philippines, Netherlands, and the USA, before moving to India with her husband and her two kids. They have been living in Delhi for three years now and will be moving to another country next year. 

What were your first impressions of India?

Since I have lived in many different countries before India, back in my mind, I was very keen to come and live here; it’s completely different. We have read and seen so much about India through movies and music. Still, everything that we knew about India before coming here was quite negative, it was a long list of the Do’s and Don’ts, but I always looked forward to discovering this country.

When it comes to the weather, it’s no different from the Philippines, but it’s hotter and drier. We have traveled across Asia a lot, but India is different, from the people, the food, the clothes to the traffic, everything about this country came as a surprise when we arrived here. 

Having lived here for three years now, how different would you say your expat experience here is in comparison to the countries you’ve lived in?

I like living here as it’s very comfortable— you can have a driver and a house-help. However, the one thing that makes it different is not being able to enjoy the outdoors. I enjoy going on picnics or having a walk or chat with friends outdoors. I also enjoy cooking, but it’s tough to find the ingredients right away, you have to go all the way to INA to find the ingredients, which are usually hard to find. Otherwise, every other kind of cuisine is available here like Chinese or anything else. Especially for Filipinos, sometimes you have to bring the ingredients for our dishes from the Philippines.

If you want to make Adobo, our national dish, and the favorite of everyone, the result is always different if you don’t cook with it vinegar and soy sauce available in the Philippines. Every country uses various spices, and you can interchange them, but the basic ingredients should be the same. 

What shocked you the most coming to India?

I came from the Philippines, which is also filled with people and traffic; hence, it was not shocking to me. The shock was despite being a beautiful city, Delhi is not that modern. The Philippines is very modern, with high-rise buildings and everything. Moreover, the traffic here is worse than in the Philippines! And sometimes the tuk-tuk, in front of the car, is just a few centimeters away, but they don’t even hit each other! The other surprising thing is the presence of animals in a city, which is something you will not find anywhere. I would say that India is less modern than the Philippines though it is also a developing country.

What is the best and the worst thing about living in India?

I can deal with the people here; however, sometimes, you misunderstand each other because of the language barrier. Though language is a problem, it’s not a big deal for me as I am patient. Unfortunately, sometimes they think we don’t know or understand them, and they try to make a way, but of course, you know, I am not new to traveling. It’s not only the communication, but it’s also a willingness to understand.

You have to be patient and should have the will to have an adventure because it’s so different here, this is why it’s called Incredible India!

You have to be patient and should have the will to have an adventure because it’s so different here, this is why it’s called Incredible India! I have so many beautiful Indian friends who are well educated and kind. The problem is when you take the tuk-tuk, Uber, and even with your driver, as only some understand Hindi, you have to be really patient with the other half. You have to be patient with people because they are from a different culture. Some of them have never been out of Delhi and their hometown. They never traveled, and some are working with expats for the first time! Hence, I am always kind to them, and if they don’t like it, then they are free to go.

The other thing is the temperature and the weather. The pollution is one thing, I miss having a park in front of my home. 

We’ve often heard that it is quite challenging to build relationships here, especially as an expat. What was your experience regarding this?

I approach people. I am very open. I go up to them and introduce myself, or I say, “hey. what’s up!” You have to be direct because, like everybody else, it’s up to you to show that you are interested in them. It started with the owner of the house, and then the home association, here in Vasant Vihar, organized a party for the residents of the area and announced a lunch for all residents and owners. So, we went to a park where I met a lot of people and started inviting them over. Generally, when you go to a new country, I’m the first to approach the neighbors. I don’t wait for them to come to me. So that’s how I started. One day I went to the mall and complemented an Indian for his looks and discovered later that he was a retired person from Air India, and now we go out for dinner with his wife every now and then! I usually start, then we talk, and then we become good friends.

What are other things you love about living in India?

The other best thing is the culture of India. My husband likes to travel and read, we both like the music though we don’t understand it much, I like the beats. I love the way Indian women dress; in the Philippines, we have our traditional dress, but you only see people wearing only during the national day. Here you see women wearing their traditional dresses now and then, and what I really like is that the women here are hard working. When you travel across India, take Rajasthan, for example, you can see women working with the animals while wearing beautiful colorful saris. They are not only proud to wear their dress but also feel very comfortable in it. If you want to buy some Indian wear you should go to the Sarojini market, my expat friends and me, we call it our happy place because everything is cheap there. You can even bargain and find everything from bags, dresses, saris, and kurtas.

I buy some Indian wear for all of my guests who visit Agra; the pictures in front of the Taj Mahal turn out good if you are wearing Indian wear.

One of the known struggles of being an expat family is not being able to expose your children to your home country and culture. Is this something you and your family struggle with too?

Our kids are older now and haven’t lived with us for a year now. However, when the kids were growing, my husband and I decided that the kids will go to a French school. My husband can speak French; hence, we talk to them in French and English, but from time to time, I talk to them in my dialect from the Philippines. I tell them about life in the Philippines, and during vacations, I take them home to show them my home country. Also, the Swiss government makes sure that every year you bring your kids back to Switzerland, you have to spend at least 15 days there.

To teach them, you have to make them eat your food so that they will be familiar with your culture. You can be abroad, but the basics of what you have learned, and where you come from, you have to teach them too. So, my kids know the Philippines; they know my dialect, they probably can’t speak, but I have made sure that a part of them is Filipino. Fortunately, one time we got posted to the Philippines for four years, so that was a good thing for them. 

When my son, Paulo, was young, he played soccer. One day, he told me that a boy called him “chinois chinois” (Chinese), he looked at the kid and said, “I am not Chinese. I am Swiss!” But he looks Filipino! My kids look Asian but think European. They think they are white, and that’s why we call them coconut— brown on the outside, white inside! So, when it comes to children, they are what you teach them. You have to take them home and show them where you were born as I did.

So, when it comes to children, they are what you teach them. You have to take them home and show them where you were born as I did.

Do you have any advice for newbies?

Before coming here, you have to do some preparation. You have to get your vaccinations, you have to check if you are healthy, and that you don’t have asthma, especially because of the pollution. You have to be careful, the first time you arrive and have to avoid the regular tap water. One has to be cautious with food and water because some people have a sensitive stomach, but I would say India is a really nice place.

Though it’s not very clean on the streets, people usually have clean houses. Have a housekeeper and a driver because we can’t drive here. Meet people here as Delhi gives a great networking opportunity. You should travel outside of Delhi to see the real India; it’s a good idea to read about India before coming here too. It has a rich culture, and you can find everything, whether its cheese or something else, it’s just triple the price!

Marla Diaz shares four important tips for new expats in India.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Marla Diaz, a literature and art lover from Colombia, found herself in India for an internship for university. While she wasn’t specifically looking at coming to India, the opportunity arose, and she thought “Why not?” 

What was your first impression of the country? Has it changed at all?

Honestly, I was prepared for more chaos than what I first encountered, and also much more heat! So, my first impression was pretty favourable. I think as time passed, it became more nuanced, but in general, I loved finding the order among the chaos (because somehow it does work out). 

Culture shock was inevitable. What was your biggest shock, and how did you get over it?

Gosh, so I arrived at around 5 am in Delhi, and I remember the first thing I noticed was that my driver honked a lot. Consider this was 5 am, so there were barely any cars around, right? I thought maybe it was just him and I even made a light joke about it. Well, as the day went by, I realized it’s just how Indian drivers let others know they’re passing by. Why use mirrors when you have a horn, right?

Did you ever get homesick? If yes, what did you miss the most?

Yes! A little bit right away, which I think is pretty normal, and then about six months in. At first, I missed supermarkets, because I wasn’t used to going grocery shopping in small neighbourhood stores and markets. I guess I also missed shopping malls, because in my city we have so many (you ought to find at least two nearby) while Delhi has like 6, all far away from metro stations. I got used to that, though, but what I never got used to was the lack of sidewalks, and how hard it was to walk about the streets! I still did it, despite the heat and the crazy drivers, but I missed my city, where I walk and bike pretty much everywhere. 

Have you been an expat anywhere else? If yes, how different is the experience between there and here?

I haven’t been an expat anywhere else, but I did study for a year in France while I was in university, so maybe that counts a bit? To me, the biggest difference was the people. Not to say French people aren’t welcoming, but I felt more at home in India. 

What were the best things and worst things about living and working in India?

I think one of the best things was the food. I still miss it SO much! Also, many things are very cheap. I’d say the cost of living, in general, is quite low, so that was a perk. 
The worst I think was the staring, especially from men. No matter how you dress or what you do, people tend to stare a lot. 

What are your views on the work culture in India, in your industry and overall?

I think the hierarchy is quite marked, although in my case, the organization was pretty horizontal. However, you could still tell the influence, and the internalized class differentiation has in the workplace. 

What would you say is the best way to spend your free time in India?

I’d say it depends on the season! Because if it’s summer or monsoon, then I wouldn’t advise going anywhere unless there’s an AC or shade. But during the colder months, I’d say explore the forts, the little markets, the different communities inside the cities. For instance, I really loved going to Little Tibet in Delhi, it was like a different world inside, and the momos were amazing!

Do you miss India? Is so, what do you miss about it?

I really do from time to time, and I must say what I miss the most is the food! It’s tough to get over samosas and jalebis cravings when they come; nothing can replace them here. 

Finally, any advice to newbies?

1. Don’t eat Indian food every day, maybe go for it like twice a week and the rest of the days go for international food or for food you prepare yourself, at least while you get your stomach used to the spices. This is what I did, and it worked well, never had a sore tummy! 

2. Definitely use Uber or Ola, if you don’t already. It’s cheap, and you’ll have AC! 

3. Be careful of addresses, because in some neighbourhoods they make no sense, even for the locals. 

4. And something very important: if you’re buying on the streets, always bargain. Indians actually like it, and even if they’re giving you the right price, you could still get a “discount” and that never hurts.