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02/22/2014

The golden cow!

One evening I needed something to cheer me up, a treat so I went to Santé (a tiny shop specialized in imported products) to... buy myself a steak! And the steaks they handed over to me ! I had not seen any steak so big in more than 8 years!! When I realised they came from the USA, I thought no wonder...

When came the time to pay, I cheerfully gave my card without even asking about the price: tonight my pleasure is priceless! But I withdrew it promptly from the hands of the cashier when I heard the amount: 3,500 rupees (€40)! For 700 grams of meat? At that price I’d rather go to Dubai and get a barbecue! I therefore left the steaks behind...

And I went to the Cold Storage (which is the closest thing to a butcher’s shop here). I asked for the tenderloin undercut – which is what I usually take, it is melting in the mouth, it is delicious. The only thing is that they only sell it by the piece and they had only one piece left and it was of 2 kgs. I already have a hard time finishing the 1 kg undercut (even if I freeze the steaks) so I decided it had to be a sign: no (holy) cow for dinner tonight! But the guy was a good salesman; seeing my disappointment he managed to sell me some cubes of local beef, 60 rupees to 300 grams. Haha!!  

I was still recovering from the shock caused by the difference of price when the cubes of beef landed on my plate. Not only did I almost hurt my jaw with the chewing but also it wasn’t really tasty (I'm still wondering if it was not buffalo instead of beaf)... The next time I’ll stick to my undercut at 250 rupees per kilo!

More about cows, beef, worshipping, and everything here: http://www.indiandacoit.com/apps/search?s=beef

02/08/2014

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.

Inde,expat,expatré,expatriation,BlogExpat.com,EasyExpat.com

 

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!

01/14/2014

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 

www.indiandacoit.com 

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!