Cynthia: Cyn's Adventure in India
Another seasoned expat from India: Cynthia’s adventures in India started way back in 2003; the following year, she began her blog of the same name. In our short interview, she shares her views on forming your own opinion, trying to fit in, and the little differences – even in everyday items.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to India, etc.
My name is Cynthia, I’m from Geneva, Switzerland. I moved to India in November 2003 to be with my then boyfriend now Husband, we officially got married in 2006 and we have a daughter born in 2009. We lived in Bangalore for a number of years, and are now living in Mumbai. The year 2010-2011 has been chaotic with 3 moves across the country in just that time.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
An online friend of mine said I had a gift for words and writing, and suggested I start blogging about my adventures in a new country as she put it. I started blogging in 2004, but looking on it now, it was quite amateurish, and there weren’t a lot of relevant entries. Back then it was mostly a venting tool, and I wasn’t even regular at writing, but over the years I needed to write more and more, and this is how my blog came to be what it is today.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
There are over 300 entries on my blog, the first that jump to my mind as my favourites are the ones about my relocating from Bangalore to Navi Mumbai in July 2010. They were written in a chronicle way, I remember taking notes in my “brain external drive” aka notebook. I also like the one where I blog about my daughter’s free spirit and how unconventional she looked to some aunties....oh and the recent “feeding the aunties” one is a good one too.
Tell us about the ways your new life in India differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I sure did experience culture shock, but that was a long time ago. Interestingly that was at the time I blogged the least. For a long while I actually kid myself into trying to do everything Indian to just fit in, dress Indian, eat Indian, cook Indian, and even look down on all things western. That was stupid, and I came realising that I don’t have to change all that I am to fit in, beside is there such a thing as fitting in? Not just in India but anywhere. I was considered odd by some back home, I’m considered odd by some here in India. But I’ve been living in India for 8 years, so the today me is definitely not having culture shock issues like I had back in the days.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in India? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
First I never prepared myself as such. I took my now husbands advice, but I grew up in a family of rough travelers, and my parents always said to never form an opinion about something before experiencing it. Getting a few pointers is always good, but don’t take what medias, books and others say for the ultimate truth, so I set myself with just the basic information about India: climate, and culture, and did a lot of observation on my own. We are all entitled to our view, and it’s very important to me to get to form my own opinion based on personal information. I’ve always been a person who likes questioning instead of being fed something and be told to swallow it as a fact.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Oh my so many to choose from! One I’ll always remember though is a few months after moving to India I realized that local brands of pasta were not very good, and I once decided to splurge on an imported brand. Because it was imported and costly, I didn’t feel like buying an equally expensive imported pasta sauce as back in the days I was on a tight budget, so I looked around the store for tomato sauce, and I found a big bottle of Maggi Tomato sauce. I assumed that was a tomato concentrate thing I could season my way...That’s when I learned that in India tomato sauce means Tomato Ketchup. I found it out the hard way by actually tasting my pasta in tomato sauce at home. Needless to say it was a disaster, it was disgusting, and I felt horrible because some otherwise very good quality and expensive pasta had been wasted. Back then I didn’t know I should have looked for tomato puree, and that it comes in tiny juice type cartons. It took me a year or so to figure it out.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in India?
- Reading is a good idea, but I would advise to keep away from fancy expert’s books and TV documentaries, read expat blogs instead. There are many around, and you will get a better idea of what LIVING in India is like.
- Once in India, first give yourself priority. Don’t try to do it all Indian, you will not fit better because of it, and you will feel more frustrated, once comfortable explore.
- Read papers and magazines (yes magazines), that will give you a good idea about what’s happening around you. Magazines will even point you toward what branded goods are available and at what price. I used to read Cosmopolitan and Femina in the beginning, told me what cosmetic and clothes were available in the country and how much it cost and what were alternatives. Now I prefer interior decoration magazines, though.
How is the expat community in India? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Actually being married to an Indian, I tend to socialize more with Indians. I interact with fellow expat online mostly. I’m a notorious introvert; big expat meetings are a bit too much out of my comfort zone.
How would you summarize your expat life in India in a single, catchy sentence?
You better like roller coasters, because you’re in for a hell of a ride!