Jenny, U.S. Expat living in India has shared her experience.
- What did you know about India?
I knew a bit about India through my friends in the U.S. I knew about food, how they dressed, how dirty and they have no personal space. I prepared my mind and get ready with my children to come to India. We had Indian friends in the US, so we are comfortable with the culture.
- What expectations did you have about your experience here?
Everything is a facade. People, Indians, from the States are different. I always figured I would find the same kind of Indian friends like in U.S. They are different from Japanese or other Asians. My Japanese friends genuinely likes to serve people. Here, they do it out of responsibility but they don’t care. They help you in a store or follow you because they want to make sure you don’t steal anything. It is not a genuine or an honest desire to help another person.
- What was the first thing that shocked you when you first came here?
The first thing that shocked me here in Hyderabad was – I came in June to check it out-; it was as expected. Even with my children, we had already picked a school. It annoyed me having a driver. The other thing that was strange was being a tourist attraction. Kids get touched all the time and they want them to be in a picture. I have started to be a bit more careful and don’t appreciate being a tourist site that much. The lakes are very dirty as well. We stayed at the Marriott near the lake for a month. It shows a lack of respect for nature or the area around them.
- What things took you the longest to get used to? (Food, people, noise, dirt, traffic, pollution, etc.)
Having a driver was the strangest thing. We tried to adapt to the food but after a bad experience in Kerala I found it hard. I cook for my family and we eat out. We all got sick from Indian food and now we have no more desire to try Indian food.
- In your daily life what are the main challenges you find?
In my daily life it is my MAID. Clean for her is not clean for us. She does not have the same standards. I stopped having a maid and my new driver helped me to find a new one. Communication is a problem. They don’t really speak English. Words are different, you have to figure out the meaning and the syntax is wrong. Even though they speak English, communication is difficult. We wanted a good school for our children but it was hard to find a real international school and in the end we did. Thirty countries are represented in their school ISH, the International School of Hyderabad. Children have friends from all over the world and that is great.
Going to the doctor often means that they blame everything I have on me being a bit overweight and they don’t look at the root problem. Example: I hurt my lower back by jumping in a funny way but they will say it is because of my weight.
- Professionally what are main challenges you find?
My husband works has communication problems, related to the inability to give data. He is a scientist who grows rice. Here, they grow plants and look at it and don’t look at the genetics or the DNA. They are not proofing it enough through data. The structure is about: I will look bad if I do this and that. They talk to the older guys and not to my husband who has more experience. It comes down to hierarchy and communication problems and they think they have to be cautious. So, they can’t make the progress they could because it is limiting their ability to do good science and not acting like a drama queen.
I personally don’t work here. I was a real estate agent and I was a victim’s advocate for the police. I don’t miss the advocacy job but I like houses. People always want perfect houses to live in and I miss that job.
- What has helped you the most to get used to live here?
What helped me most was my friend from Miami. The community at the International School and friends we have were accommodating us.
- How about housing? Was it complicated to deal with landlords? Were there new rules you were not expecting?
The company dealt with it. They have relocation specialists. Our landlord tried to be a friend but I don’t just talk to him. We need to talk to the relocation specialist who deals with the landlord. It is actually the brother and sister of the landlord who we got acquainted with first.
- Do people treat you differently because of being a foreigner?
I experience that they try to rip me off all the time and take advantage of me. I can’t say that in Telugu and my driver helps me. I walk away if they cheat on me. Why would I pay double because I am white. I live in a community with a lot of wealthy Indians and they are stingy. I know I pay more for services than my neighbour. We had someone who cleaned the garden for us because we have a dog. He even wanted the money for not showing up. Some days I can’t handle it.
- Was it hard to deal with the immigration requirements?
Immigration was easy because it got done for us. Our company helped us. We spent only 1.5 hours and we were done. We just showed up at the FRRO building. They love paper work and bureaucracy here. My husband’s company had the contact. Getting a cell phone was harder than dealing with immigration.
- What recommendations, tips and advice could you give to people coming to India for work?
It is cheap to get passport pictures here and you need a lot. Make sure you have someone to help you. Find someone who has been living here more than you. Be careful with Whatsapp. They use cell phones a lot for texting nonsense messages. On July 27th my cell expires on the same day as my visa. Be prepared there is no customer service here. The customer is never king.
- What are the positive things of being here?
The positive thing is the school here. We have enjoyed our school and the community a lot. I have made a good friend here from Florida. There is no winter here just like in Florida. We had good travel experiences. We are going to see the Taj Mahal next week. Transportation is pretty cheap. We did a bit of train travels and it was okay.
- How is the work culture?
I described a bit above. Sometimes, driver stop the bus on the side of the street to buy a samosa. They always need a certificate for everything. I rather give out a real award but it is more my husband who is dealing with the work culture.
- Is dating easy in India (for unmarried people)?
I cannot imagine that I ever wanted to date in India. I can’t imagine it being easy. It’s a status thing. I see it a male dominated society.
- Finally, can you give a brief description of your background (Work area, time spent in India, Age, interests? (BTW, thank you for your time 🙂 Have a great day!
My name is Jenny and I am 39 years old and have 3 children. We have been in India for 10 months and have three year contract. We will be moving to the Philippines a bit before the contract ends. I have done B.A., my husband has done PhD from Cornell University, an Ivy League school. Our next job will be at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. It is a bit different because it is different organisation and more oriented on social welfare. My husband wants to be able to do some good and he can do it through international agriculture.
I miss home but like life abroad. I miss the good things, the food there, the variety, the comfort. We miss our family but we get to talk to them a lot. When we go home, we have a different perspective. The company gives home leave allowance and we can go home and visit. Our kids adapt well and I want them to be adapted and being able to live in both places. We are a family here, which brings many advantages.