Eileen Warner, @eileen_warner
I am from an Irish immigrant family brought up in Scotland. I lived in England for 29 years before coming to India. In the UK, I was self-employed working on Organizational Change Projects.
I arrived in April 2019. My husband was offered an opportunity to transfer with his job. We had always liked the idea of working abroad and decided to grab the opportunity. It is not ideal yet as I do not have a work visa but I hope one day that will change.
About first impression
Traffic chaos. Every stereotype unfolded in front of us even on the route from the airport — cows, buffalo, autos, random transporting of extra-large loads on tiny carts. It was great. My next was how friendly people were.
Convincing people that we were new to India but not to life itself. We had lots of ‘advice’ to not go here, avoid this, be careful of that. While I am sure it was well meaning, it did seem geared towards protecting us in an ex pat bubble which we did not want. We came to live here not to live in a mini UK if that makes sense.
Time keeping and appointments are very flexible. The approach of ‘chalta hai’ was frustrating at first e.g. viewing a house with an appointment at 10 am would mean maybe 10 but if it rained it would be 11 and then someone would not have keys so it became 12. Everything was discussed over chai and eventually you would get to details by two. That laid-back approach is very different to what we were used to.
People are people no matter where you come from. Irish culture is very much about respect your elders, always be able to chat to anyone, work hard and have fun. I see no difference here in India. Strangers chat easily to each other, elders are respected. In particular, you would never go into an Irish house without being offered tea and an abundance of bread, scones, and biscuits and here the food is different but within minutes, you have an array of snacks appear like magic. From a British perspective then bureaucracy is abundant here with red tape slowing things down however the reality is a lot of that red tape comes from the time of British India so it is familiar.
It is quite different to the western way. In poorer areas it is quite public living, small homes so lots of time spent outside. There is a lack of embarrassment at living your life in the open that is refreshing.
In the middle class areas,there is an acceptance of always having people in your home like house cleaners, drivers and so on, so again that can seem quite public compared to English reserve but again it is quite refreshing.
I am still constantly amazed by the ability of Indians to find a way to sleep anywhere anytime. I am used to seven hours sleep a night then up all day; here people are up much earlier and go to bed later but the seven hours are split throughout the day. The first time I saw a rickshaw walla sleeping on the handlebars of his bike I was amazed.
What I like here
Enthusiasm. There is quite a blasé approach to having access to everything you want in the western world and here there are children who cannot go to school, do not have toys or treats yet they still have an enthusiasm for life that is inspiring. They find a way to play and have fun; they ask questions and are curious. I help with time and donations at a few slums and an orphanage and seeing the eagerness to learn and be educated is humbling. There is no such thing as ‘too cool for school’ here. Those lucky enough to attend study so hard and those unlucky not to be desperate to learn. I am involved in a project called Mera Bachpan by the NGO Webcom Foundation and the expat social site New Delhi Life Talk. It is to build an education center for underprivileged children from Tughlakabad slum in Delhi It came about after we fed slum kids during the pandemic and realized more was needed. The fact that a group of expats and locals can come together quickly to attempt this is not something I think we could do at home. It is exciting.
Tatsiana Chykhayeva, Delhi, @lifetalkdelhi
I am originally from Belarus. For the past four years,I have been living in Delhi. Now, my husband and me own and run an Italian Restaurant by the name of Roadhouse Cafe. Also, work on various charitable projects. Prior to lockdown, I also organized a social platform Life Talk Delhi. I organized various social and charitable events for expats and locals who live in the city.
I have visited India for the first time in January 2014. I absolutely loved it. Since my husband decided to move here in 2015, I saw it as a great opportunity to come and explore it. He is originally from Darjeeling, but Delhi had always been his first choice for running a business.
About first impression
I remember being scared to cross a street. Everything seemed so chaotic and I could not understand how things work here. Everything seemed complicated. We did not have to understand much either. Rohan, my husband, took a great care of me and our friend from Canada. We just followed his command and he, being an awesome host, had everything planned for us.
I also thought that people were very friendly and polite. Now, the impression had changed. However, many are still very nice, but I am no longer as naive as I used to be.
Everything seemed the same to me and I kept on getting lost. I do not know how people managed to adjust without the google maps. But hey, once the technology is there, I eventually figured it out. I have lived in many countries prior to my move to India, so I did not really face any certain difficulty relocating here.
Timing. I used to be very ambitious in the beginning and could plan more than one meeting in one day. Now, I am very careful. Traffic can get you delayed for hours, and the distances in the city are huge. So more than one meeting can happen in case it will take place in the same location.
We often discuss it with my husband. There are more similarities in our cultures than differences. Family values, hard work, discipline it all reminds me of home when people give me examples of "Indian culture" and this is "how things are here".
It is almost impossible to answer this question. People are so different here and one should not generalize. I can just say the disparity is huge here. Plus, the nature our work allows us to meet numerous people, from various backgrounds and the differences are very noticeable. I also go to the slums often and see the living conditions here. The word "Unacceptable" is not enough to describe it. However, you will be surprised to see people who live in a tiny room and seven of them sleeping on one bed, so happy and cheerful all the time.
What I like here
Opportunity. There is many downsides to life in Delhi: traffic, pollution, crowds, corruption. However, there is plenty of room for creativity. You can start your own business, you can do freelancing. It is much freer than at home. Plus, many people guarantees you will always find customers.
I think most of the fun happened when we came here as tourists. Probably because that time we also understood very little about the country and its people. I remember coming to a shoe store on my first visit and asking to try out a shoe my size. It did not fit. The boy ran to get a bigger size but returned with another shoe of the same size. I said "but it is the same". He looked at me, did a typical Indian head wobble and said, "No man, they are both size 39 but one is big and another is small". We had left without a purchase but with a very healthy laugh.
Sergey Zaberezhnyy, risk manager, @szaberezhnyy
I am from Kazakhstan. I have studied in Moscow on engineering but after several years of working in science and industrial design have decided to switch to risk management as I have an opportunity in India.
I was not thinking much when I got an opportunity to live and work in India. The personal and career experience I would be getting out of it was outstanding and beating all the negative aspects that come with moving to a country so much different from your own. In two and a half years of living in India, I have travelled and explored more than in my whole life.
About first impression
I think I will not deter from most people’s opinion when I say that the first thing you notice is contrast. The contrast between rich and poor. The contrast between clean and dirty. The contrast between beautiful and ugly. When you live in a good hotel and right outside it there are tents of people living on a street. You drive through the city and you see velorisksha driving next to the latest BMW. It really takes time to get used to seeing such things on daily basis.
The next day after arriving to Gurgaon I went on to explore the surrounding area near the hotel as you usually do in a new place. In just a couple blocks, I walked on a short stretch of a pavement, walked on a busy road among the cars, passed through piles of dust. It turns out that in India people rarely walk for pleasure and you do not walk to get to places – you always drive. Even on the MG Road that is packed with malls in order for you to get from one mall to another you have to walk on a road. It took me more than a year to find some places where you can just walk in the city and enjoy the process and even to them you need to drive first.
After a couple of months in India you start realizing how many things you were taking for granted in your country. As a post-soviet country, we have always been raised that people are equal. Walking in the center of Almaty you will rarely be able to guess what is the social status or income of a specific person. In India, you will be able to notice casts and income bracket of a person without breaking a sweat. Good education in India is quite costly so it creates a vicious cycle – to get an education you need to earn good money but in order to earn good money you need a good education. So, the knowledge becomes in a way monopolized.
When you are comparing the cultures of India and Kazakhstan, first things that come to your mind are numerous differences and you have to work it out to actually find similarities. The one that is the most prominent to me is the way how our countries are traditional in respect of families. I have seen all that and more in India. You start realizing how India is about family when you first look for apartment – if it is a good one, it will be huge. Apartments are built in consideration that there will be living families of more than five people and most of them also include living quarters for house help. Weddings are huge as well. If before I was thinking that weddings in Kazakhstan are big for having 200 and more guests but in India it there at least twice more on average.
People in India are very kind and gentle with a great appreciation for life. You see it in the way how people treat homeless animals – dogs are always well fed; they are given water and during the cold times people even make warm jackets for them. On the road cows always have a right of way. In India 80% of population is vegetarian which also tells you a lot.
What I liked here
Indian government has been implementing many laws to phase out import and boost the local economy. Right now India is almost completely self-sufficient country – you can find any type of product on a shelf that was produced locally.
You might get taken by surprise when you go to cinema for the first time. Just before the movie starts, the screen shows Indian flag and everyone stands up and proudly listen to national anthem. Second surprise comes when in the middle of the movie picture suddenly freezes – intermission. It is very convenient especially if you drink too much coke but the movie holds you in a grip. Also, you can restock popcorn you finished while watching trailers.