Interview for ExpatBlog.com
I have been interviewed by Erin for the site BlogExpat.com. Here is what I had to tell them! Thanx to BlogExpat.com / EasyExpat.com for their interest in my blog...
The interview in PDF.
Introduce yourself (name or nickname, where you are from & where you live now):
IndianSamourai, I am French and I live in Mumbai, India
1. Why did you move abroad?
When I finished my business school in France, I was quite clueless about what to do with my life and what profession to choose. So I considered the entire vast world and any kind of job (almost) as an option… It just made the search more complicated as on every search engine you have to choose criteria.
So on one hand I looked for a job in consulting – and I must say I went to the first interviews without a clue of what we were talking about. It took a recruiter (God bless him) to tell me I wouldn’t be happy in SAP consulting to actually find out what it was and run away! But back then it seemed to me like a field with a lot of options and most business school students were applying for it. And on the other hand I registered for a programme organized by the French government to encourage companies to send young active people abroad. So I just had to select countries (mostly in South America as I had traveled there and had a lot of friends), see the jobs offered and apply. Problem was, there were not so many offers…
All this proved tedious and unfruitful. So when a friend of my parents, hearing about my quest, offered to send me (with the French programme) to India, I said why not?? At least it would be a start… And one year in India… I thought I could manage! And it has been 7 years…
2. How do you make a living (working? Tell us about your experience)?
I work for a pet food company and I have a job with responsibilities.
People often ask me to compare working in India and in France but my first professional experience (except for internships and summer jobs) was in India so it is not an easy task. There are some obvious things, like the fact that time conception is drastically different (the so-called “French efficiency” and the Indian despise for deadlines). Indians are known for their “jugaad” and if we extrapolate a bit we can say that they have a gift to think out of the box and come up with innovative thinking – which sometime seems completely crazy (like “how the fuck did he come up with something like that??”); the rules mostly seem to have been made to be circumvented (see the high level of corruptions) and it is not always easy to adapt to it for Westerners.
I personally live it well. I enjoy my job and its daily challenges. I have a lot of freedom and I have been taking new positions quite often in the past 5 years. Sometimes yes it is exhausting, always trying to understand what they mean (either because of a language gap, or because they don’t go straight to the point (leaving an exit way in case they have done something wrong and fear a bashing from higher management).
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I am in touch almost daily with my parents, through Whatsap, BBM, Skype, emails and phone! I think I am much more in touch despite being 6,000 kms away than if I lived in a different town in France, even 200 kms from Paris!
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in India?
I like the sun and the sea (in Mumbai) which almost make me feel like on holiday every day. And the endless places of adventure to see in this continent-country.
I appreciate the openness of people (it is very easy to just talk to anybody, anywhere).
I like that every day brings new challenges and you get better by overcoming them (personally, professionally: India is a country that makes you question yourself and your culture a lot as it is so different).
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in India?
There are days when the climate (heat, humidity) can get to you. Especially if you have to travel and spend hours in the traffic. And when you arrive at home the Internet has stopped working, or it’s the fridge, or the door lock or something else. And you have an upset stomach because you have eaten too spicy or just because it is the season (monsoon is very generous…). And you have been cheated on by a rickshaw driver. There are days it just becomes too much and you feel exhausted. And the next day you get back in the dance!
6. What do you miss most?
I’d say I miss peace and quiet. Which is definitely hard to get in an Indian metro…
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
When I arrived in Pune (India), I had some contacts of contacts of an Indian friend I had met during trekking in Ladakh (Himalaya) a few years before (he was our guide). So I contacted them and met quite a few friends through this contact!
At the same time I contacted the other French people participating to the French programme and they already had their circle of friends.
And last but not least, some French students found my blog and contacted me.
When I moved to Mumbai two years later, online platforms for expats had started coming up and I registered to them and started going to their events. Though I have mixed feelings about these platforms I met some great friends through them, and from all over the world.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
When you are in India you have to get used to people staring at you – and it is quite difficult to make out what they are thinking (plain curiosity? Lust? Animosity?). But God they can stare! To live normally you need to become oblivious of this…
Indian culture can not be defined in a few words and I find most of it strange! How they don’t question their parents, how they marry strangers, why they fast once a week for their God etc. I have come to understand quite a bit of it and at least to not judge it – but I still find many things weird!
You can see this section on my blog: Why in India? (http://www.indiandacoit.com/why-indians/)
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
One of the most spread cliché about India is that it is a non-violent country (an heritage of Gandhi). The Indian government is involved in a lot of armed conflicts with their neighbors, terrorism is very present (religious fights, communist riots etc.) and you can see fights almost every day – the most common being a cop beating up somebody with a bamboo stick or guys slapping each other. So, in my opinion (which is worth what it is worth), Indian people are just normal people!
Other than that you have many myths about India: everybody speaks English, you can see dead people on the streets, people are only vegetarian etc.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
The cost of life is much cheaper than in Europe though the cost of imported goods is higher. The rental costs are very high compared to the average revenue.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Take it easy!
Come with an open mind… Don’t think you will change people – not only it is very pretentious but also you will hit the wall and only hurt yourself!
Joke apart, be patient. Get as much help as you can from other Indian people you can meet. Try and learn the language though you can get through with English. Take a maid, it makes your life easier and they need the money to live. Travel as much as you can, it’s a beautiful (and very diverse) country. Don’t have too many expectations before coming, don’t listen too much to other people’s stories.
And, well, be ready for one hell of a ride!
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog the day I arrived. For my family and friends. Who turned out not to be so interested! But other people seemed to be so I went on. And took a lot of pleasure in it! And continued… Sometimes I think it has become almost a therapy for me!
And I have met quite a few people who found my blog, dropped a comment or sent a mail. Which led to great friendships!