About Miriam Hofheinz – A German Expat Living in India
I am working in (e-) Publishing since 20 years in Germany. Last year I visited a German friend in Pune and fell in love with city/the people. We always wanted to work together and so we decided to start a company together here in India for Publishing Services. All of our vendors are situated in India, and we both love the country.
Here’s the interview with Miriam regarding her journey in India…
- What did you know about India before coming?
Not much. Only the colorful images from some movies and some historical novels I read.
- What expectations did you have about your experience here?
Not many. I was sure, that India is extremely different from every country (mostly European countries) I have visited before. Different in many ways like food, culture, weather, etc.
- What was the first thing that shocked you when you first came here?
I was very positive shocked by the kindness and openness of the people around. I felt very welcomed from the very first day.
- What things took you the longest to get used to?
The traffic. By now I am quite good with crossing the streets as a pedestrian. But I can’t image yet to drive a scooter or a car. Too much chaos 😉
- In your daily life what are the main challenges you find?
The language. I still struggle with English to express myself as good as in my own language (German). And of course the local language: Hindi or Marathi. It doesn’t feel right and I am not able to talk with the Rickshaw driver or the maid.
- Professionally what are main challenges you find? How do you deal with them?
Many employees from bigger companies are not that trained to take responsibilities and to “think along/active” how we phrase it in Germany. The companies are very hierarchical. Coming from a German start-up, that’s very challenging to deal with. To make sure that the business partner /employee asks if he has any problems with an instruction. And also help to improve the process and his work itself.
- Culturally, what things are hard to deal with?
The huge gap between rich and poor is sometimes quite overwhelming when you come from a country like Germany with this huge social security net. But you have to get used to it, if not, its very hard to stay in India for a longer time, I think.
- What has helped you the most to get used to live here?
Engaged myself into the new life. I have mostly Indian friends, they help me a lot with everything and don’t get tired to answer all my questions.
- How about housing? Was it complicated to deal with landlords? Were there new rules you were not expecting?
I had big luck with my landlord. She is friend of my friend. And her house was the only one I saw well furnished. She provides me with everything and replies immediately. I heard quite different stories from friends about their landlords. There are definitely new rules and I still try to find them out.
- Does people treat you differently because of being a foreigner?
Yes. As a white woman you attract more looks from the people. You get most of the time a better treatment in Restaurants etc. and many Rickshaw drivers try to charge you more. But I got used to it quite fast. There is no other option. I try to not to strike more as needed with descents clothes and behavior.
- Was it hard to deal with the immigration requirements?
India is quite famous for its bureaucracy and a lot of paper work has to be done. But there are agents who can help with that.
- What recommendations, tips and advice could you give to people coming to India for work?
Relax. From my experiences, time has a slower pace in India. Meetings hardly start at the time they were set up. And some of them are canceled at very short notice. It doesn’t happen on purpose so there is no point in having strong feelings about it.
- What advise would you give to Expats that are looking to relocate to India in the next 3 to 9 months?
Do it! India and especially the people are wonderful. A great experience you shouldn’t miss!
- What are the dressing restrictions you face in India?
Here in Koregaon Park it feels like there are no restrictions. The area is very western orientated and the women here wear the same short skirts as in Germany. On the other hand I know from my Indian friends that some of them are not allowed to wear Tops or T-Shirts at home. Only long sleeves. I like for example the comfortable Indian Kurtas and so I don’t feel like restricted.
- What problems are encountered during interacting or dealing with Indians?
Most of the time there are just language problems with the shopkeeper, the maid, the Rickshaw driver.
- What places you would like to visit in India?
All 😉 Most of my Indian friends come from all over the country and all of them tell me how beautiful their hometown / homestate is. I hope I will visit some of them and also meet their families.
- Did you observe any political, economic or social conditions impacting your stay in India?
The censorship and the lack of objective newspaper are very strange for a German. Its hard to get a “real” picture of the political country. It’s not welcomed to show affection in public. You can hug your friends, but not kiss your partner in public.
- What are your safety concerns in India as a woman or generally?
The same concerns as in every other country. Avoid certain parts of a city at night and don’t be too open to strangers.
- As a woman, while working or starting business in India, did you face any specific challenges?
Not really. Same as in Germany that some business partners prefer to speak to male persons. But when you make clear who is in charge, there are no further problems.
- Do you have any suggestions for improving your stay in India?
Learn Hindi or Marathi.
- Finally, what are the positive things of being here? (BTW, thank you for your time 🙂 Have a great day!)
The People, the Weather and of course the Foooood! 🙂