Saturday, 31 January 2015

Is India An Ideal Country For Expats?


India is perhaps one of the rare countries that amazes and annoys in the same breath. It’s not a perfect country. It has many flaws. But what makes it so charming and endearing that foreigners want to live here long term? Of late, I have got to know quite a few expats from different parts of the world who are living in India, and they are pretty happy here. I met a woman by the name of Meera (who was Michelle) in Anegundi Village (near Hampi), who migrated to India from Belgium 30 years ago and she never went back! Isn’t it amazing? I feel great about the fact that my country gives people reason to stay back forever.

Being an Indian, I am used to India’s eccentricities and certain meaningless norms. I don’t get surprised or shocked at things. To be honest, no matter how much I may hate my country for the prevailing injustice, inequality and double standards, I still love it. My love is not the patriotic one, though. There are two countries in the world that fascinate me the most – Italy and India, and I am glad that one of them is mine!

I’d love to have you read my fascination for Indian summer here.   

So, despite the dust, the garbage, the poverty, the noise, the pollution and the many silly things, India is home to many expats. They have their own reasons to stay here. Today, I am bringing you the real expat stories right from the horses’ mouth –


We all know Rachel Jones of Hippie In Heels, who is from the US and is living as an expat in Goa. Let’s know a bit about her experiences as an expat in India:   

What made you live in India? How long have you been here?

I moved to India two years ago permanently after backpacking around for a while. At the end of my backpacking trip, I had met my now-boyfriend in Goa which is why I've moved here. Although we have had chances since to live in other places, we feel Goa is the right place for us now.

What were your FIRST impressions about India?

I never in a million years thought I'd be living here. My first impressions were typical jaw-dropping "in awe" moments. I thought it was filthy, people were pushy, and I had some difficulty with men. I also saw the beauty and my first week in Rajasthan I cried happy tears watching some kids dance. It was all pretty confusing. I came down with Dengue fever and thought , "I want to go home". Now, I still feel missed emotions just like when I arrived.

What’s the best and the worst part about being an expat in India?

India is not an easy country as an expat after being raised in "small town" America. America is known for convenience and good customer service. My town was safe, doors didn't need to be locked, a scam would never happen, and the streets were clean. While in India at the bank, I get pushed in line and covered in dirt and dust on the way, just to deal with a rude cashier, in America I stood in a neatly filed line and got the nicest cashiers and even a lollipop at the end. 

The best part about being an expat here is the feeling I'm already living that peaceful retirement since I can afford a great lifestyle here on a small budget. India has beaches, islands, mountains, jungle, desert, and more - you're not going to get bored here.

What’s the best thing about Goa that makes you stay there?

Goa is a laid-back place. Everyone here seems to be doing a job they love rather than an office job: designers, artists, yoga teachers, writers... Because there are so many tourists, it doesn't have that "India" shock to the system. There is great food here of all nationalities and with budget airlines we can fly anywhere at a decent rate. It's a great base. 


Meet Antonina of India Palette, who is from Ukraine and is now living in Mumbai. Let’s hear her story how she came to India and what made her stay here:

What made you live in India? How long have you been here?

I used to have lots of pen pals from all over the world. My correspondence with one of them was especially interesting – we discussed all sorts of things from literature and movies to art and problems of modern society. After exchanging emails, postcards and parcels for 2,5 years we finally decided to meet in person. I came to Navi Mumbai where he lived and never came back home – in a few weeks we got married.  It’s been 7 years since I started my new life in India; we bring up three wonderful kids. 

What were your FIRST impressions about India?

The very first? :) Well, apart from everything else, it struck me as a very noisy place! It was absolutely impossible to find a quiet spot, even in our own house. I used to live in the suburbs of a small Ukrainian town, and it was a quiet and peaceful place with a slow pace of life. As you can imagine, an Indian megapolis is something different altogether. Then heat, of course, and spicy food, and lots of unwanted attention. These are all small things, but it took me time to get used to everything and to adapt to my new lifestyle, and I’m grateful to my husband and all the in-laws for their understanding and efforts to make my life more comfortable. Slowly I started noticing lots of hidden gems India has to offer and I still keep discovering its positive sides. 

What’s the best and the worst part about being an expat in India?

The best part of being an expat in India is summer all year round :) I don’t miss the Ukrainian frosts at all! Also I appreciate friendly attitude of the local people – it’s great to see so many smiling faces wherever you go. Everyone is very considerate and ready to help. I remember I traveled in a ladies’ compartment of a local Mumbai train with my little son. He was thirsty, but our water got over. Then all the women started offering me their bottles. I know, it’s not a big deal, but when you’re in the center of attention of the whole compartment and everyone is willing to help, it’s very touching.

The worst part is shopping. I like authentic Indian markets, but apparently people think that because of my golden blond hair I’m supposed to have the same sort of gold in my pockets. Sadly, it’s not the case:) Even more sadly, I hate bargaining. That’s why I prefer buying food, clothes, cosmetics and what not in the mall – with the fix prices you’re not feeling cheated at the very least. 

What’s the best thing about Mumbai that makes you stay there?

Oh, if Mumbai had nothing but Chhatrapati Shivaju Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus), I would definitely stay:) I like the colonial architecture of Colaba. When I feel it’s time to break the routine and recharge my emotional batteries, I just walk along the streets and look at these beautiful stone carvings and elegant arches. Usually after this promenade I come back home fresh and rejuvenated. Not every city can offer you anything of this sort.


Meet Ryan Zieak McFarland of Zieak, who is from New York and lives in Chennai as an expat. Let’s find out what he has to say about India:

What made you live in India? How long have you been here?

I am a teacher at an international school.  When my wife and I were dating she cancelled a trip to India to spend time with me.  Then she missed an opportunity to visit India for some training because she decided to move to where I lived.  Then we considered India for our honeymoon, but with just a couple of weeks we knew we wouldn't have time to see everything we would want to.  So when we got the job offers to work here we accepted them excitedly.  My family has now been in India for a year and a half.  

What were your FIRST impressions about India?

We had plenty of images in mind about India.  I would say that our first impressions were extremely positive.  We like our home, we love our job, our kids enjoy their school, we met great people - both other expats and locals.  

What’s the best and the worst part about being an expat in India?

I would say that so many facets of life here have pros and cons.  The fruits and veggies are great, though as a non-veg eater the meat options are limited.  The beaches go forever and could be world-class -- though are somewhat littered and have people squatting and leaving a mess that makes walking them unpleasant.  The people have such warm smiles and are so friendly, once you break through the staring.  The women in their gorgeous saris walking past contrasting garbage strewn about empty lots.  I think it all makes me much more appreciative of the joys in life and more sensitive and aware of the perils as well.

What’s the best thing about Chennai that makes you stay there?

Our employer is a big part, but the general quality of life that we can have here really helps too.  The fresh produce, having someone help with cooking and cleaning, the nice weather, affordable health care... There are a lot of reasons for us to stay!

What do you have to say? Would you like to live as an expat in a country?

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9 comments:

  1. Good idea and a Great post. Loved reading it. I myself was searching for such people. Hippie in heels is already one of my favorite. Thnx for sharing the other two. And im sure there are many more out there.
    India indeed is an incredible country. Before traveling the world, I too want to marvel at the beauty of every city of my country one day..

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    1. Nice to hear that, Khushmit! :-) I am glad that this post inspired you! All the best for your travels.

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  2. Very nice post. Only thing we lack is cleanliness else India is a best place to live. If someone truly wants to discover India then one life is not enough :)

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    1. Absolutely! Well said, Arun. :-) India has great potential. I think more than the govt. people need to change. These expats are giving us reasons to improve our country in every respect.

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  3. Lovely post, Renuka! It must be nice for you to hear expats saying such lovely things about your country.

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    1. Thanks Andrea! :-) Well, I am glad that they haven't said anything for the sake of it. They have given their real opinions.

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  4. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this post.Good to see that many expats love India in spite of inconveniences and discomforting experiences.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post! Yes, it's heartening to see people value and love what's more worthwhile.

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  5. You have done really a good job. I like your post. Thanks for the informative post.
    Best place to live in India after Retirement

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