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03/18/2015

Interview Excite

The website Excite.fr contacted me and asked me to answer some questions about being an expat in India! Here is what I prepared… Thank you Camille for your interest in my blog! 

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Who are you and how was your life before leaving France? 

I am a French girl in my thirties, living in India since December 2006, and blogger from the very first day of expatriation!

I started working abroad (in India) right after I graduated from my business school. So I spent my last years in France as a student (at Reims and Spain with Erasmus), then as an intern, then as a traveler (4 months in South America to meet women working for fair trade)... Very rich years! 

What do you currently do? 

I'm manager in a company that sells food for dogs and cats. 

Why did you leave France? 

My escapades in Spain and South America had opened my appetite! I wanted to explore further by working a few years in Chile or Argentina. I found myself in India – me, Columbus of the modern times ;) (It was the only place where I had found a job quickly.) 

Why did you choose India to live? 

As told above, I believe that this is India that chose me rather than the other way around ;)

But I chose not to leave. At the beginning because I had too many things to discover. Then because I had interesting professional opportunities. And finally because I had been here too long and didn’t know better but to stay…

 Would you go back to live in France? 

Why not? At least for a few years. But I am not the only one deciding now, my (Indian) husband needs to agree ;) 

What do you miss the most about France? 

The serenity of the French countryside: the calm, fresh air, good food...

And of course my family and friends! 

And what do you miss the least? 

Difficult to answer... These winter days when you don't see the sun? These Sundays where everything is closed, no way to run errands or get a massage? These situations where no one is there to help you (with your plumbing, your laundry, your errands etc.)? 

Tell us quickly about your experience in India 

I've landed at night in Delhi, in the November cold. At the time I didn't even know it could get cold in India, you see how aware I was of the country! At the end of the exhibition I was attending in the capital I went to join my base in Pune (a student city and automotive hub 3 hours away of Mumbai), where I spent two great years, mostly partying and traveling.

Then came the time to move to Mumbai with a new job in the pocket. I spent the three following years mostly working (and still traveling around the country).

I was then transferred to Delhi for one year. I faced incredible professional challenges out there. And also personal ones since I broke up with my Indian companion of the last five years. But it was also a great year full of learning and fun (and traveling, always)!

 

I then returned ‘home’, in Mumbai. And less than two years later I was married and with a baby. This is where I am today, at the beginning of 2015!

03/14/2015

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

I had managed without the help you usually get in India. Of the mother-in-law. Or of a night nurse. Or of a Japa, these very traditional nannies, often from Kolkata, who assist mother and newborn during the first 30-45 days after birth. Day and night, they take care of everything, bath, massage, food etc. Without any support (as I didn’t feel any was required), I thought the three of us had done pretty well these first months! But I had to start thinking about succession for when I would resume work... 

india,maid,japa,ayah,nanny,baby,mary poppinsSo came the time to hire an ayah, which is in India a maid cum nanny, if possible with some cooking skills... Although Indian women prefer to be employed by foreigners (they work less to earn more while being treated more humanely, as they themselves say), we didn't get many options. ‘Working less’ implies that they do not work on Sunday nor Saturday (they don’t necessarily get days off with local employers); and that they work from 9 to 5 – which doesn’t help when you have yourself to be in office from 9 to 6 (the few times where you leave before 8 p.m.). And in case they themselves have young children (i.e. most of them) or they live very far (i.e. almost all of them), you know you can say goodbye to extra time which is bound to happen... And if you want her to speak at least some English, you might as well ask for the moon... 

I was therefore about to say yes to a nanny who didn’t know a word of English, had a little girl and lived in the far east (of Mumbai) when we gave a last interview. A Christian (therefore English-spoken – don’t ask, Indian Christians usually speak better English than Hindi), with a 27-year-old daughter, who lives close by, who is used to work 12 hours a day and on Saturdays, who has already worked with foreigners (and “they do not stand any dirt at all” she added!) and who asks for less money than others. Too good to be true it seemed! According to her, her old age is a handicap to find job today: being in her fifties, mothers fear that she cannot run after their kids! 

In 24 hours, she had made friends with the cat. The cat that terrorizes everybody as he is kind of gigantic; even the Pest Control guys did not dare enter the guest bedroom he was sleeping in. The cat that slaps your feet to get your attention and spits when pissed off. So, this cat, from the first day, she started conversing with him as he was growling in his cupboard hideout!

In 24 hours she had reorganized the cupboards (food and clothes). Ironed pillow cases, a first for them. Dusted off the vacuum cleaner and then below the sofa, then the fans.

Within 24 hours she had taken over my food diet and timing! If mummy digests well, so will the baby. I thus learned (but let me doubt that) that the impressive farts of my son are due to my love for potatoes... Well, I don’t know if potatoes make you fart but I can tell you about the peas she cooked for us the first night... If her goal was to clean my intestines in fanfare, she definitely scored! No chilly in the food, plenty of fibers, garlic and ginger (condiments that she loves to prevent gases) and I even have to fight to eat my ‘regular’ yoghurt (“but low-fat is better, it doesn’t make you fat”)! 

And then above all, above all, in less than 24 hours Baby Samourai ended up on a mattress on the floor with an Indian cloth diaper! I almost got a disapproving comment when I put a Pampers on him to feed him: apparently Indian mothers come to know the pattern of their offspring’s pooping and put modern (absorbing) diapers only at that time. I am not sure the intestinal clock of my baby is properly set! And I don’t particularly enjoyed being peed on... I also had to fight with her for him to not spend the full day naked: where doctors say the baby needs one more layer of cloth compared to me, she said one less! 

india,maid,japa,ayah,nanny,baby,mary poppinsAnd as for her age is concerned, it shouldn't be too much of a problem since, as she repeats frequently to the baby: "no carrying business, no carrying business". In other words, he can forget spending his time in the arms – in fact he already doesn’t spend much time in the arms but he likes to fall asleep on our lap, especially if we sing 'Ooooom' bouncing on the exercise ball (surprisingly she did not look overjoyed at the idea of working her muscle on the ball!). I also got an admonition on the subject. She is not cold in the eyes that one! At the same time she is not wrong, he does need to learn to fall asleep alone... 

india,maid,japa,ayah,nanny,baby,mary poppinsIn 24 hours, Mary Poppins took charge of us, me my house and my son. As for me, while I thought I had been managing rather well, I was left with the impression of being a college girl who is doing all wrong things with her doll in her pigsty! 

Let’s hope it lasts ;)

03/10/2015

Interview Aux cinq coins du monde - One year later

In December 2013, I was interviewed by Sara for her site Aux cinq coins du monde,  which gathers experiences and interviews of French people living in the four corners of the world, on five continents. And we did it again in January 2015, the ' interview one year after '!

The interview in PDF. 

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A year ago, you shared with us your impressions about your life in India (interview 2013). Do you still live there? (tell us if you have changed of city, country, if you are returned (e) in your country of origin, etc). 

Yes I did not move! Same city, same job, same flat! I have now started my 9th year in India ;)

If in 2014 there was no major change in my professional life (despite a lot of turmoil and learning!), I can't say the same about my private life: I got married in June with my favorite Indian and our little boy was born in December. 

What are you doing today? 

Over the years, I have had various positions within the same company. Today I manage the sales team in the South of the India, to the sheer delight of the Indian dogs and cats (we are in pet food!)… 

Today, what do you like in your life abroad, and what do you least like? Did you get used to the things you didn’t like one year ago? 

Despite a routine similar to what I could have in France, each day in India is spicy: every day something incongruous is sure to happen; I love it!

What bothers me the most is noise pollution, or even just pollution, and the lack of activities in Mumbai. And this situation is unfortunately not ready to change... 

Have you found other things that you like in this country? And that you don’t like? 

I discovered a rather efficient medical system and a network of women who share the same type of experience than me (married to Indians and living in Mumbai) – a good support when you start a family 7 000 kilometers away from home!

And I didn’t ‘discover’ anything unpleasant... 

Does one more year give you the feeling of being more integrated? 

Starting a family is a big step! Having a French-Indian family, I do not know if it has anything to do with my integration, but it definitely makes me more open to ‘other’ customs and get me anchored in this country... 

What is your general assessment of this past year? 

2014, a year vintage like I won’t have many!