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Interview on Aux Cinq Coins du Monde

My blog has been featured on Aux Cinq Coins du Monde (a platform that gathers experiences of expats everywhere in the world). Here is what I had to say to them!  

Introduce yourself 

I'm a writer-traveller-expatriate! Originally from Paris, I started my professional career in India in 2006 and I stayed... 

You and your blogs/sites 

I started to write my blog they day I landed in India. At the beginning it was mainly to share my experiences with my family and friends – who, as it turned out don’t really read it! In the end it became a kind of therapy! I write about what I experience and search about the things/customs/comments/reactions that are new to me and share the same. This has helped me to understand a lot of things about India! 

Where do you currently live? 

In Mumbai at the moment and in India since November 2006, for an indefinite period... 

My parents made me develop a taste for traveling, taking me everywhere since a very young age. Later I spent a semester in Spain, with the Erasmus programme, followed by a 4-month trip in South America. I was really determined to go and work there, at least for a year or two, and I actively started looking for a job. And I found one! But in India... 

Where did you live in France? 

I grew up very happily in Paris with my parents, my two brothers and my cats! I left France at 24, right after finishing my business school. 

For what reasons have you become an expat? 

It just happened... 

Une rue de Mumbai.jpg 

An Indian woman in a sari on a street of Navi Mumbai, on a monsoon afternoon 

What do you like in your life abroad? 

The (sunny) climate, a nice and comfy flat, a certain quality of life (financially speaking), the endless number of places to explore, the constant surprises of discovering a different culture. 

What do you like the least? 

The (humid, excessively hot) climate, a certain quality of life (pollution, noise, odors, traffic), the cultural gap including at the professional level – it is not easy to work in this country! 

What are the characteristics of your host country? 

  • Climate 

Generally hot and humid but it depends on the regions. 

  • Housing 

I found all my apartments easily through brokers but apparently this is not as easy for everyone in the expat community in India! It is a little complicated to rent a place: the societies object to many things like religion, stags, foreigners, youngsters etc., and then you have to go through a full process of registration to the police. 

  • Food 

I love butter chicken and naans. And the food of Kerala, with a lot of coconut. 

I hate coriander (my bad luck as Indians love it!). 

You can find almost everything (even if it is really not easy) so I don’t really miss anything... And what I do miss I bring it with me whenever I go back to France! 

  • Holiday 

5 weeks per year. 

  • Health 

You can find everything – from 'small' doctors in their street cabins to mega-hospitals. Health is not expensive. There are systems of private insurances and public hospitals which are really affordable and even free for the poor. 

In short, you can definitely get treated here (it is even recommended for whatever tropical disease you get here as they know more than in Europe)! Although I admit that you often here bad stories! Personally I often wait till I’m in Paris to see some specialists! 

  • Driving 

It's complete chaos! You can drive with an international license. The French license can also work. But in general when you rent a car it comes with a driver... And when you see the state of the roads and the way people drive, having a driver is not really a luxury! 

  • Censorship 

Not much (some scenes are cut in movies for instance). 

What bothers you the most about the mentalities and cultural habits of your host country? 

The time is perceived differently, and it makes things sometimes difficult to manage! 

Is there a lot of things to visit in the surrounding area? 

There are A LOT of things to visit in India. But going anywhere requires a lot of time. You will need at least six hours of transportation... Often by plane. And you need to know that in the end, after a relaxing trip on a beach or in the mountains, you will come back tired because of the journey back! 

Describe your living environment 

I have a nice apartment with two rooms, very bright and airy but not luxurious. And it is quite noisy because it gives over a slum. But I have a view on the sea and I never tire of it! 

Can you tell us about a typical day? 

I go to work at around 9 am. I work continuously almost without a break for 7-8 hours. Three times a week we have yoga classes on the terrace of the office with my colleagues. Then I go home, I run errands, play with my cat, write my blog, cook or see friends! And 2-3 days a week I'm traveling for work or tourism. 

Vue de chez moi.jpg 

View from my balcony: a slum with the Arabian Sea background 

Your integration was easy? 

Not easy, but not too difficult either. I had the chance to meet an Indian guy after a month, and we were together for 6 years and this has helped me a lot to adapt! 

Do you see / hang out with other French people there? 

Very few. 

Do you know the language of the country? 

Hindi is the most widely spoken language of India but barely spoken by half the population. I have taken courses with Teachyourself then with local teachers. I understand quite a lot but I don’t speak much. The Mumbai Hindi is particular, mixed with Marathi. My Hindi had improved a lot during my year in Delhi and I kinda stopped practicing when I came back to Mumbai... 

Do you have anything to say about the French? 

I dunno, I like the French! 

Do you go back regularly to France? 

2 - 3 times per year. 

Do you have regular contacts with your entourage back in France? 

Skype, facebook, emails, phone, I am very much in touch! 

Do you plan to go back and live in France one day? 

I don’t know, one day at a time! 

Have you changed or grown up since you left? 

Ah yes! This is the least you can say! India is so different that it makes me question myself and my culture permanently. It is extremely enriching. 

Also, I think expats spend a lot of time alone and learn a lot about themselves. 

And at the professional level, with a little motivation and an encouraging manager you can progress very quickly! 

Do you have any advice for expatriates-to-be? 

If you come in India, keep in mind this saying: “If you are patient India will make you lose your patience and that if you are not patient India will teach you patience! In short, get ready to be hustled and shaken and don’t try to resist! It's not easy but you come out of it a much better person... 

Also, don’t have too many expectations (neither good nor bad)… India has a ton of things to offer (good and bad) and the least you expect the more you will find your place here. 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 20 years? 

I don’t know, one day at a time! 

How do you prepare your retirement? 

I contribute to the French organizations and invested a little in real estate. 

In what corner of the world do you dream of living? 

For now I'm good where I am! 

Where would you like to live once you are retired? 

I have some time left to think of it!

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