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Interview for Worldcraze

The website Worldcraze (an interesting initiative: in short, travelers bring you, in your expat country, things that you can't find locally!) contacted me for an interview! Thanks to Worldcraze team for their interest in my experience in India!

Here is what I've prepared... 


Introduce yourself quickly.

IndianSamourai, 31, expatriated in India since 2006.

What pushed you to settle down in another country?

I have traveled with my parents since I was a child but what especially convinced me was a semester in Spain with the Erasmus program.

After that experience, I started looking for a job in South America where most of my Erasmus friends lived!

 Was it a choice, an obligation? Did you ever imagine yourself in your situation today?

 It was a choice to leave; but the country (India) was kind of a default choice (since I had not found one in South America).

After landing in Delhi and crossing the city, in the middle of the night, I told myself that 8 months was going to be very long but I could do it! I would be home in no time… And here I am, 7 years later!

 Has the language been a barrier for you?

 A little bit but the English helps a lot.

 Why this country, this city? What surprised you the most?

 The chaos! I remember, at the beginning, I understood absolutely nothing to what was going on around me... I still get that feeling from time to time ;)

 Do you have a special anecdote to tell us about your trip?

 Right now I can’t think of any! But I have written lots of stories on my blog ;)

 Have you ever had the opportunity to use a service of collaborative economy?

 Yes! But it was just to help somebody (a reader of my blog). I bought a bike part for a KTM for a guy who lived in Corsica:

I'm also on Airbnb, but I have only hosted one person till now.

 If yes, what did you especially like? If not, would you like to try and why?

 The hand I gave for the bike thing turned out to be a real burden actually!

With Airbnb it went well. It is nice to meet new people traveling and it gives a descent earning, but it is also quite an investment in terms of time, to welcome someone...

 What products or specialties of your country of origin you missing?

 At the beginning, I missed beef, cheese, and bread a lot. Now I can find it a bit but mostly I grew used to not have it – yet I still love it when my best friend arrives with 2 kilos of cheese and a huge loaf of bread!

More and more products are imported but they are expensive, because taxes (alcohol is taxed at more than 150% for example).

Sometimes I had to break my head to bring into India stuff like: a Greek breed cat, a laptop and a Fatboy from Paris, a Victoria's secret dress and pillows I had tested in a Best Western from the United States, racquetball balls purchased from a site in Singapore etc etc!

The difficulty with India is that most of the foreign online sites do not deliver here (because it is too much of a headache with customs and taxes)...

The other problem is that air companies limit the check-in luggage to 23 kg and it doesn’t leave a lot of space to bring extra stuff!

 If you were leaving, what local products and specialties would you miss?

 Since I am still in the process of getting used to spices and I'm not a fan of ultra-sweet pastries, I can remove a lot of Indian culinary specialties from the list!

In terms of products (shampoos etc.) I still tend to buy international brands so apart from a few Ayurvedic (traditional medicine) products I don’t see what I would miss...

I believe that I would rather miss things like individual services (maids, doctors etc.) that are easy to avail in India.

One (or two) last advice for future travelers?

 Stay calm!

Come with an open mind... Don't think you're going to change Indians – not only it is very pretentious but more importantly you’ll break your teeth and you’ll be the only one having a hard time!

 Joke aside, be patient. Do not hesitate to ask for help to local people. Try to learn the language, even if you can very well manage with English. Take a cleaning lady, it makes life easier and she needs money to live. Travel as much as you can, it is a beautiful country (and incredibly diverse). Don’t have too many expectations, come as “virgin” as you can, let yourself be surprised and do not trust too much what other travelers may say.

 And above all, be ready for a breathtaking experience!


Interview "Must do things in Mumbai"

The Indian (great) magazine Culturama, "Your cultural gateway to India", featured me in their “Who is in Town” and asked me to answer some questions about “Unique/Must do things in Mumbai”! So here is what I prepared... Here in PDF.

1)     A brief background of how long have you stayed in Mumbai, first impressions of the city and what the city means to you today?

When I lived in Pune, I used to take visitors to Mumbai and I hated the city: too big, too hot, too humid, too congested! Being in Mumbai was all about being glued to the plastic-covered seat of a tumbledown taxi, gasping for air and dozing off helplessly.

So I was quite apprehensive when my new job took me there in January 2009… Luckily the “winter” weather was merciful and I quickly grew to appreciate the liveliness of my neighborhood.

2)     Could you tell us a little bit about the unique things you get to do in your home country? And how has that changed in India?

 Whenever I plan a visit back to Paris, my parents offer to book a play, an exhibition, a museum, a concert etc. These activities are still pretty rare in India so you need to be creative to keep yourself busy on week-ends!

In France sport facilities are also easily available whereas in India, unless you are a member of a club, this British legacy, or willing to sweat your butt out running on the busy roads, being sportive is a challenge.

 3)     What are the three must-do unique things for an expat in Mumbai?

 1.     After visiting the 10 spots every guidebook recommends, just forget your map (which is not of much use anyways in Mumbai), hop in a local train and get lost!! Walking is not easy – the pavement is uneven (when there is pavement), the traffic insane – but you may just stumble upon a heritage ‘village’: quiet lanes with exquisite old bungalows*.

2.     Once your face is red, your shirt wet, your feet killing, your ears buzzing, take a deep breath and remember you are an expat! Rise above by visiting a rooftop bar (FourSeasons). Sipping a Mojito watching the sun set over the slums below is not as easy as it seems; it takes time to overcome the guilt feeling of spending in one drink what most people earn in one week… But spending time (and money) in relaxing experiences like brunches at a Five-Star pool by the beach, afternoons at the spa, diners at the Peshawri may actually prove very useful to make the working days easier!

3.     Mumbai is famous in India for her street food so don’t be shy! Try bhel-puri, pani-puri, vadapao, dosa, goat brain (Bademiya). You may experience some digestive turbulences but the risk is less than in the capital where getting a ‘Delhi-belly’ from street food is almost unavoidable! As you turn into a Mumbaikar, eating is likely to become your favorite past-time and will make you a restaurant-hunter**.

 4)     What are the three tips an expat needs to keep in mind while exploring these must do options in Mumbai?

 1.     Mumbai is quite safe, so don’t be paranoid over your bag…

2.     Drink a lot of water as the city can drain your energy very fast!

3.     Ask locals for help rather than your phone. If possible learn some Hindi, people will really appreciate…

 5)     Is there a funny, memorable or endearing anecdote that you encountered while exploring Mumbai?

 I once took my parents to see Victoria Gardens. I didn’t know what to expect so after seeing the elephant statue from Elephanta caves, I thought we were done. But then I spotted a very big queue and assumed there was something to see so we just joined in… Twenty minutes later we found out we were at the zoo and us, three white nitwits, immediately felt like zoo animals! We were out in fifteen minutes, suffocated by the heat and the attention of the crowds (to top it all, it was a Sunday and a day-off for Eid and it seemed that all the Muslims of Mumbai (and there are quite a few) had decided to celebrate it at the zoo!).

 6)     What are the three things an Indian needs to keep in mind while exploring your home country? And the three best unique things to do you would recommend to an Indian?

 1.     The French are shy and may react rudely when accosted in the street. If you learn a few words to break the ice, they may actually be helpful!

2.     French food is amazing. If there are not many veg dishes on the menu, ask the waiter and he will know what you should order! Do carry Tabasco if you really fear the blandness!

3.     Discovering France requires a lot of walking so bring good shoes and energy!

 * Try Chor Bazaar, Banganga tank (Malabar hill), Ranwar village (Bandra), Khotachiwadi (Girgaon).

** You will then hunt the best Italian pizza (Metro Pizza), French crêpe (Suzette), Belgian bread (LePainQuotidien), Japanese sushis (Aoi), Mexican fajitas (Sancho’s), American hamburgers (HardRockCafé) to forget, the time of a diner, that you live in India! (and sometimes (only sometimes)) you need that!)


india,mumbai,expat,culturama,must do things



Interview for

I have been interviewed by Erin for the site Here is what I had to tell them! Thanx to / 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? (  

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!

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