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Interview for ExpatBlog

My (French) blog was elected blog of the month on ExpatBlog. Thank you!!india,interview,expatriation,expatblog

Below is the translation of the interview I did for them...


"I am 30 years old and originally from Paris. 


How did you get the idea of settling in India? 

At the end of my studies (business school), I went travelling in South America and decided to go work there. I looked for a job but couldn’t find any. And then I got an opportunity in India and since I had nothing else, I thought why not... 


Since how long have you been there? Is this the first time that you live far away from home? 

I have been in India for more than 6 years. 

I left home when I was 20 to go study in Reims then went for Erasmus in Spain. 


How did you settle down? 

All went well. I didn't have any expectation regarding India since I had not planned to go there. I was a bit lost at the beginning: I had no clue about what was happening (because of the language, and the fact that in India everything always happens at the last minute so the plans keep on changing). 


Are Indians friendly? 

It is the least we can say! 


What surprised you the most in Mumbai / in India? 

The mess (or to be more politically correct the anarchy ;) ). A lot of stuff is happening everywhere all the time, passing vehicles going in all directions, people who squizzent queues, stalls everywhere. It gives an impression of organized brothel (or not). 


What are the most striking differences with France, your country of origin? 

The concept of efficiency – Indians work somehow more slowly, don’t mind spending extra time in the AC in the office, are less organized. 

The logic: the French logic is Cartesian. I cannot describe the Indian logic –they do have one! – but it is different. 


Is there anything that you have been missing since you have moved to Mumbai? 

I overcame the craving for beef and cheese and some other products (which can be found but it is not easy easy). So in terms of food I’m good. 

I go back to France 3-4 times a year so I also manage being far with my family and friends. 

What I really miss is silence (or the absence of noise)… 


The life of an expat in Mumbai, what does it look like? 

It looks like a lot of work! 

My typical day looks like a 20 minutes rickshaw ride through a slum and then I go from one meeting to another. One butter chicken and a naan ordered for lunch at the office. I drink a Coke on the office terrace when I need a break (with sea view). I work up to 8 PM then I go for happy hour on the terrace of the Novotel with a colleague (sea view again). 

And Sundays at the pool or at the spa. 

That is when I'm not on a business trip or roaming around the India for fun! 


What made you feel like writing this blog? 

I often say that I started to write for my family and friends (the day I landed) and I soon realized that many people but my family and friends were reading it! So I continued. 

Actually I think that I write it for myself. 


Have you ever met anybody thanks to your blog? 

Many actually! Physically and by mail. 

I get a lot of emails for travel tips, installation, job offers and even translations of French proverb to Hindi... 


What advice would you give to those who would like to go live in Mumbai / in India? 

Be patient... There is a saying that says that in India if you have patience you will lose it and if you are not patient you will become. In fact it’s like a vicious circle... India is a place that you discover, uncover, bit by bit every day. You have to let it come to you, to stop trying to understand, analyse, everything. And the most frustrating is that when you start feeling you comfortable, you can't explain why!



Hunting for Nutella in Kolkata...

The first thing we did when arriving in Kolkata was to jump into a taxi and go eat rolls (the paratha roll with chicken and eggs is a local speciality) at Zeeshan at Park Circus. 

This is how we got to think of a Nutella paratha roll... An idea that wouldn’t just pass!! 

We therefore started our way back to the hotel walking and hunting for Nutella. 


The guy from the first stall had some! But when he asked me if I wanted india,kolkata,nutella,roll,zeeshanit in seeds or powder, I got confused... Indeed, he wanted to sell me some Nutrela (some kind of soya derivative)! 


The guy from the second shop had some Ferrero rochers and Kinder buenos. I could bet everything on him!  

Since he didn’t understand Nutella, I tried "chocolate paste" and his face lit up! And he handed over a tube of Colgate... (from paste he had come up with tooth paste!).


The guys from the third, fourth and fifth stalls did not have Nutella nor knew what it was, even in the touristic neighborhood. We therefore concluded that Nutella had not yet reached Kolkata – whether it is a good or a bad thing is not the question...  


So we thought of buying some chocolate and wondered how it would melt. And then we looked at each other, soaked with sweat and it hit us!! Two minutes in the ambient heat of the night and we had a chocolate spread!


A trip in Sundarban

 But let me tell you a little more about my trip in the heart of the Bengali furnace... 


Sundarbans, West Bengal - May 2013


Apart from the overwhelming heat and the near-absence of wild animals (we just saw some deers, lizards, monkeys, snakes and birds), we could appreciate the Indian countryside, one of my old dreams!


The advantage of coming in May in Sundarban is that there are no Indian tourists – and apparently they come in herds when the weather conditions are more favourable. And observing wild animals with Indians, that silence bothers viscerally, it's not fun! 


The disadvantage of coming in May is that the local people hurry to celebrate the last weddings and therefore there are gigantic speakers (plugged to generators) in each village which blast Bollywood music (when it is not an old scratched and sizzling DVD). Being greeted like that after a very long trip to cross India for a “nature” stay, I swear if the heat had not left me KO, I think that I'd go and yell... At the same time in my daily life I can't do without music so if these speakers brighten up their life, how could I say anything? 


With all that, I enjoyed the simple menu of rice, chapatis, dal and vegetables – even if at the end of the 6th meal I started to feel some deficiencies... It also kinda annoyed me responding every day to the same questions of the new backpackers “and do you like working in India?”, “and how long you plan on staying?”, “when have you realised that you wanted to stay?” etc. And I've hated the local rice alcohol which has a horrible taste and almost no alcohol! 


But above all I loved the tours in the boat operated by a fisherman in the heart of the mangrove, with roots and branches everywhere. I had to fight to get the second session, which was not in the programme, but I can be quite persuasive ;) 


I loved the two hour walk in the village. I got transported somewhere else: perfect sand and cobblestones paths, naked children running after goats, women going to the well, old ladies walking topless, youngsters cycling, girls swimming in the ponds, courtyard of the cob houses full of animals, thatched roofs almost all equipped with solar panels. Almost no garbage lying around. Amazing colours with the sunset. Almost too picturesque to be true... 


I loved watching the stars at the night, lying on the ground, with a small breeze, and folk musicians playing... 


And I loved basking in the sun all day!

And listen the stories of tigers who eat up humans (40 every year), and fishermen or honey collectors (the villagers who are allowed one month per year to sink into the forest to collect honey) who survived. 


I imagine that the Sundarban (meaning the beautiful forest, or the beautiful jungle) looks very different after the rain, when the paddy field are green and the temperatures bearable. Nevertheless, I needed badly a change of air and scene, and I got it!!


A great trip!



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india,west bengal,sundarban,jungle,tiger,safari,ecovillage