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12/22/2013

Interview for Internations

My blog been featured on Internartions.org (a good platform to meet fellow expats everywhere in the world). Here is what I had to say to them! 

india,expatriation,expat,interview,internations

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to India, etc. 

I am a Parisian girl in my thirties. I moved to India in 2006, as this is the only place (outside France) where I could find a job after finishing my business school. And I have been having an eventful life ever since! I have changed companies, jobs, cities and loved it all! I am currently based in Mumbai. 

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences? 

I started my blog the day I landed in India. Initially it was to share my experiences with my family and friends and it ended up as some kind of “therapy”: writing to understand better whatever I came across and startled me in this amazing country. 

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours? 

I have some entries that have received good feedbacks, some funny, like When Jane meets Tarzan; some surprising, as When Superman saves Indian Samourai; and, finally, some interesting, like Why Indians. 

Tell us about the ways your new life in India differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock? 

I had an easy landing as I met an Indian guy a couple of months after arriving and he answered a lot of my questions. I had some difficulties with my first Indian boss which made my life tough. I had a few shocks here and there but generally it’s been a smooth journey… 

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in India? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made? 

I had traveled in India (and other developing countries) before, and since a young age, so I had an idea of where I was going. I wasn’t really prepared though. But I also didn’t have any expectation (bad or good) which I think helped a lot. 

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?  

I have so many! Maybe you can check this list on my blog, which refers to my daily life here, namely My Stories in India. 

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in India?  

  • To be patient – it takes years to start understanding India and there is no end to it… (I like this saying “If you have patience India will make you lose it, if you don’t have patience India will teach it to you.”- I think it is true and it is also a circle!)
  • To be open-minded (easier said than done at times believe me!!).
  • Always try to understand why Indians do what they do (especially at work), otherwise it will drive you crazy and things won’t get done. 

How is the expat community in India? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats? 

I always have had 3-4 very good expat friends, mostly French, but I don’t really know the expat community. It is relatively easy to find expats (through Internations.org or writers.com) though we are not so many in India… However, I find it not so easy to find like-minded people – especially since expats usually stay a maximum of 2 years and you evolve a lot after 2 years when you stay in India. Your point of view, your understanding of the place and people keep on changing. 

How would you summarize your expat life in India in a single, catchy sentence? 

Living in India is probably the hardest and yet most rewarding challenge I will ever take up!  

11/04/2013

The color doesn't make the Indian!

 You feel very funny when your rickshaw driver gets insulted by an Indian girl in a very skin-tight jogging outfit, and that to with the purest American accent! After a few second of stupor comes the moment of solidarity with the driver: What the hell is that woman doing here? And why is she getting so worked up just because we almost ran over her? Then there is a brief moment of solitude: the white girl with Indian reactions, the not-white girl with not-Indian reactions... The world turned upside down! 

As a matter of fact, I have been discovering a new species lately: Indians who have grown up abroad. And this species seems to have been growing exponentially; I meet more and more of these ‘freshly landed’ guys. They are funny. They have amazing accents (everything but Indian) and they are sometimes completely lost here (as much if not more than the foreigners of not Indian origin except that it’s weird because it doesn’t match with their skin color).  

 

So who are they? ‘Brains’ coming back? ‘Brains’ just coming? ‘Half-brains’ just coming (see for better understanding the last anecdote below)? 

 

Everybody must have heard of the “brain drain” that India has been suffering from since the 1960s with many Indian ‘brains’ moving to the United States or to Europe (especially to the UK). Well, the American dream. So even if with 11.4 million the number of Indians who leave is high (1)), it only represents 4.3% of the Indian population with a tertiary education (3.5% for France). (2)  

 

However we now speak of ‘brain gain’ and ‘brain circulation’. In 2010, 100,000 Indians are believed to have returned to the mother-land and it made a big noise! (3) However, we are far from a complete change of trend...  

 

To start with, 100,000 out of the 10 million Indian citizens living outside India (1), it's not much. To continue, the same year, more than 150,000 Indian students left to study abroad (4)! Here, it must be highlighted that even if India has made a real effort in the field of education (5), there still not enough places and the quality is debatable. And since almost half of the seats are reserved for the lower castes (representing the same proportion of the population) (6), scoring very high does not guarantee access to the university.  

 

I can quote the girl I met in the line at the Consulate and who would go study medicine in the United States because with the quotas in India, she was almost sure not to get admitted. Abroad seemed the only option, even if it is not the same budget... And that’s also why many students stay there after their studies, to be able to repay their loans (with an American salary). 

 

There is not really any study or government data on the return of Indians to the country. However some believe that the majority (80%) of Indians returnees are less than 35 years. (7) Which corroborates what the ‘new Indians’ I meet say: Abhishek, 30, born in Dubai, came to try his luck in the cinema and his parents are almost ‘horrified’ at the idea of him living in India: “We worked our ass off to get us all out of that rat hole and you want to go back! It’s dirty, it stinks, it is the chaos, blablabla”. They don’t understand... And when it gets too difficult, my friends also wonder what the hell they are doing here! 

 

It is worth mentioning that the ‘brains’ who left several decades ago have been quite successful: the 1 million of Indians in the United States who represents 0.1% of the Indian population earn the equivalent of 10% of the Indian national income. (8) We then understand that they don’t really want to leave... 

 

On the other hand the next generation, their children born outside India and the Indians who have emigrated less than a decade ago, shows a real curiosity towards India. And are scared by the economic uncertainty in the host countries / attracted by the growth opportunities in India. 

In the generation of foreigners of Indian origin, there are some ‘brains’ and some ‘normal’ people.  

 

I have been meeting a lot of them, most of all in their thirties and all in India for less than 2 years… There is Jesh, a British insurance guy who came back because his mum had no one left in the UK and she was old and returned to India and got sick, and he hates it here. I met Tosh, a high-end British banker who was sent by his company and would never take a rickshaw  and is disgusted by India. I met Naveed who went to work in Dubai for a few years before deciding to try his luck in Bollywood. I met Bob who spent 10 years in the US and was sent by his medical appliance company to take charge of the Asian market and had very Indian reactions sometimes and sometimes very American ones. I met Shuchi who came on holidays, met a work partner and came back to start together a home-designer company. And there is the whole bunch of guys who come and get ‘normal’ Indian jobs waiting for a better opportunity or to start their company…  

 

That’s how I found myself in less than a month with two pursuers (of the latter kind), a Sikh from Buenos Aires and a Keralaite from Manchester, who not only have been flooding me with stupid cheesy whatsaps, they have also sent me photos of their torsos. I still don’t get it...    

india,immigration,emigration,migration,brain drain,brain gain,brain circulation,brain,abroad,skin color,skin complexion,study,statistics,returnees,pio,person of indian origin,oci,nri,overseas indians

india,immigration,emigration,migration,brain drain,brain gain,brain circulation,brain,abroad,skin color,skin complexion,study,statistics,returnees,pio,person of indian origin,oci,nri,overseas indians

(1) Since India doesn’t recognise double nationality, many Indians who settle abroad give up on their Indian nationalities. The ones who don’t are called NRI (Non-Resident Indians) and there would be around 10 million of them (against a total of 40 to 100 million ethnic Indians spread across the world). But India has put in place systems to ‘recognise’ people: with the PIO (Person of Indian Origin) card for anyone with parents (up to four generations) or spouse of Indian origin and the OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card. The 12 million people holding these cards can stay and work in India without visas (for 15 years for PIO and lifelong for OCI), buy property (except for agricultural land which they can only inherit) but they can’t hold an Indian passport nor vote. And you have people of Indian origin with a foreign passport who just apply for visas like anybody else ! (cf the 35,000 employment visas granted to Americans by India in 2010). 

Sources: http://www.nri-worldwide.com/; http://www.immihelp.com/nri/pio-vs-oci.html; Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs: http://moia.gov.in/writereaddata/pdf/NRISPIOS-Data%2815-06-12%29new.pdf;  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40320-012-0002-3/fulltext.html 

(2) In 2000; Source: http://wdi.worldbank.org/table/6.13 

(3) Of which 60% are professionals; Source: http://www.rotaryclubofbombay.org/Article.aspx?articleid=0906d154-6b98-4d44-b856-037684af38eb 

(4) Still 3 times less than China but three times more than in 2000; source http://www.studyabroad.careers360.com/brain-drain-boon-developed-countries-bane-india 

(5) 500 universities and 26,000 "colleges with a total of 13.6 million students in 2012; Source: http://www.unom.ac.in/asc/Pdf/Higher%20Education-1.pdf 

(6) Only 16% of Indians have access to tertiary education (55% in developed countries, 11% in developing countries; source: http://www.india-eu-migration.eu/media/CARIM-India-2012%20-%2004.pdf ;) http://www.UGC.AC.in/oldpdf/pub/report/12.PDF 

Scheduled Castes (SC) and Tribes (STREAM) constitute approximately 22.5 per cent of the country's population. Accordingly, a pro-rata reservation of 22.5% (SC 15% and ST 7.5%) has been made for them in educational institutions which come under the administrative control of the Ministry of Human Resource Development and other Central Ministries. Seats are also reserved for other categories of the backward community (OBC). The Government of India implemented the following recommendations in 1990 leading to violent protests: the reservation of 27% of the seats in all scientific, technical and professional institutions run by the Central as well as State Governments for other backward communities (CBOs). Source:http://examcrazy.com/education-system/India/Indian-education-reservation-quota-system.asp 

(7) http://www.kauffman.org/uploadedfiles/americas_loss.pdf 

(8) http://www.india-eu-migration.eu/media/CARIM-India-2012%20-%2004.pdf

11/02/2013

When the fan becomes of an instrument of torture of the fan; Pedro to the rescue!

 You were asking for it, IndianSamourai did it! Pedro, the return… 

My mission today was to purchase some kind of LED lamp. I waited a few minutes at the hardware store while the guy made a few phone calls asking around who would have stock. Meanwhile Pedro – who works there – was smiling at me and showing pictures of my cat on his phone to everyone around! Once I had enough, I asked for the material to be sent at home. Yep, in India you can get anything delivered at your door step! 

 

When Pedro arrived he offered to test the LED. I was first tempted to cut the scene short and get back to my movie. After all I trusted him! I supposed he had tried it before coming didn’t he?? But just to be sure I agreed and BAM. The adapter was missing... Note to myself: always test the goods before purchasing them! 

 

I took the opportunity of Pedro’s presence to ask a question regarding the living room fan. Since my brother left and I returned to the living room, for a month it is, I have spent most of my evenings with my eyes riveted to the fan, wondering if it will ever speed up. Though the speed was on maximum, it had not been making much wind. And I had a good reason for not having called Pedro yet: the fan worked. Not very well but it worked. And if I gave it to an Indian, there was a chance it would work better but there was a greater chance it would not work at all. It seems like we have a trust issue here! And yet I speak from experience… 

 

In Mumbai, you can’t live without the fan; you can’t breathe without the fan. It helps for the heat and the mosquitoes. A drug. The fan is your best friend until the day he decides to make itself heard and starts to make some TAC-TAC noise. If he continues after you give him a few BANG, your only option is to turn it off and sweat in silence! It is impossible. This TAC-TAC is some kind of sheer Japanese torture I tell you. 

 

And then sometimes the fan goes TIC-TIC. TIC-TIC is manageable with ear-plugs.  

That’s how I have been managing for weeks, waking up early every morning to the sound of TIC-TIC (which comes when the fan is warm), putting my earplugs on, going back to sleep, and finding it impossible to wake up later on on time for work...  

But well, Pedro was there... So while we were at it, I entrusted his (expert?) hands with two of my fans! My bedroom fan thus ended up in pieces and as one again.

 

Results of the game: my living room fan is now going full speed and the bedroom fan continues with its TIC-TIC. Not so bad!

india,mumbai,flat,hardware,electrician,fan,pedro

india,mumbai,flat,hardware,electrician,fan,pedro