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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 

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!


Clichés about India

Questions People From India Are Sick Of Answering: 

1.     “What caste are you?” 

I have chosen to CASTE aside antiquated means of social stratification. 

NB from IndianSamourai: About the castes: post


2.      “How come your English is so good?” 

I’m from the country with the second-largest English-speaking population in the world. You? 

NB from IndianSamourai:Ok but English is a fluently spoken by less than 10% of the population! 


3.      “So, do you speak Hindu?” 

Yup, fluently. And I can say a couple of things in Muslim and Christian too. 

NB from IndianSamourai:Hindu is a religion, Hindi is a language (spoken by about half of the population, though it is the official language).   


4.      “Do people in India really sing and dance all the time like in Bollywood movies?” 

Totally. Just like people in America constantly get attacked by extraterrestrial forces of evil and then saved by leagues of superheroes. 


5.      “Will you get to ride an elephant at your wedding?” 

Can’t make any promises, but an elephant is pretty likely to be involved, yes. 

NB from IndianSamourai:Elephants actually still happen… Though horses are more common and now luxury cars. 


6.     “Cricket is just like…a lame version of baseball…right?” 

APOLOGIZE, TAKE IT BACK, AND NOBODY GETS HURT. This is a really wicket thing to say. 


7.     “Will you pleeeease cook me Indian food?” 

Nope, I will be doing absolutely naan of that. 

NB from IndianSamourai: Naan is a bread commonly used to pick up the food and it sounds like “none” with the Indian accent. 


8.     “Why would anyone get an arranged marriage?” 

Because it’s basically just the original OkCupid. Anything’s easier than dating, amirite? 

NB from IndianSamourai: A post coming on this topic soon! 


9.     “Do you ever get sick of curry?” 

Literally no. Primarily because a couple of other foods are also available to me. I do appreciate your curryosity, though. 


10.   “Can you teach me yoga?” 

I mean…I can try…but you’re probably better off, like…asking someone who knows yoga… 

NB from IndianSamourai: Yoga is not actually so commonly practiced in India; it has picked up lately in the metros after it became trendy in the West.  


11.   “And what’s that other holiday where you throw the colors? I love that one.” 

HOLI shit, you dumb. 

NB from IndianSamourai: Holi is a festival in March when people throw colours at each other. 


12.   “How come India is in Asia but you aren’t Asian?” 

Stfu, man. South Asians are Asians too. 


13.   “Are you Arab?” 

When’s your birthday? I know what I’m getting you. 


14.   “I’ve heard it smells awful. Does it smell awful?” 

You smell awful. And racist. You smell racist. 

NB from IndianSamourai: I have to say, you encounter many “funny” smells… 


15.   “Everyone basically does tech support, yeah?” 

Yup, 1 billion people, all day every day, answering phone calls from America. 


16.   “Do you only eat spicy food?” 

Ya, all my taste buds were singed off at birth so now I can’t taste food unless it’s doused in hot sauce. So glad someone understands.


17.   “Are you ALL vegetarian?”

 NB from IndianSamourai: See: post 


18.   “But you actually do pray to cows, right?” 

I’m praying to a cow right now, asking that you leave me alone. Moooove, bitch. 

NB from IndianSamourai: Ok but they DO worship cows!! See: post 


19.   “Why do you need sooo many gods?” 

They give me the patience and spiritual fortitude to keep from punching ignorant people. 


20.   “Hey, can you help me with this math?” 

I don’t even know enough math to count all the racist assumptions you’ve made today. 


21.   “Omg I love saris! Can you teach me how to tie a sari?” 

Yeeees! After that, let’s paint our nails and give each other bindis and do each other’s hair and stay up all night talking about cultural appropriation! 

NB from IndianSamourai: I was asked by my French dentist whether I was going to work in a sari so I guess it is a justified question. Let’s say that in “corporate” India women don’t really wear saris anymore though they still wear often salwar-kameez (a tunique with some kind of leggings or loose pants). 


22.   “No offense, but like…what’s the third world like?” IMG_0387.JPG

I rode an elephant to school every day and Mowgli was my classmate. 


23.   “Have you ever ridden on top of a train?” 

Only when my elephant was broken and my camel was at the garage. 


24.   “It’s basically just like Slumdog Millionaire, right?” 





Imli-ji in Madhya Pradesh - Part 3

To conclude, what made our trip in quite untraveled Madhya Pradesh – who has heard of it? – very pleasant is that we discovered I could actually speak Hindi! 

I started by throwing in a few words to the herd of rickshaw wallahs jumping on us at Gwalior train station. Till there nothing too unusual… But then in the car, while the driver was chatting restlessly to impress us with his tourist guide skills, both my parents, in turn, told me one: “I don’t know what is happening I understand less and less English?” and the other: “They really have a strong accent in Madhya Pradesh don’t they? I don’t understand a word he says.” The driver had been going on and on in Hindi and I had been ‘ha-ha-ing” all along to encourage him! So here I was, able to kind of understand Hindi!! (With the valuable help of the English words sliding in here and there ;) ) 


And guess what? We had a very chatty driver the day we spent 10 hours in the car… Ah, dear Ravi, who hated Muslims and truck drivers, and who almost threw us in a river. He kept calling “Imli-ji” (“ji” being a mark of respect) to make sure he had my attention.

The ultimate was the lesson I got on how I should hurry up with my marriage and kid plans because if I waited more the age gap would be too big and all. My Hindi was not good enough to explain that in my case I can’t first fix a date and then look for a husband to fit in the plan… 


On a more serious note, throwing in some Hindi with everybody opened a lot of doors and got me a lot of nice smile!!  


Great trip!

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