InterNations Featured Blog
Karsten: From Norway to India
At least on the surface, few places are as different from each other as Norway and India are. Karsten stepped up to the challenge…and, as it turns out, the differences and changes always seem more drastic beforehand. His blog, From Norway to India, is both a platform for his thoughts and a log of his experiences abroad.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Mumbai, etc.
I’m a Norwegian IT-director of good age. A few years back, I decided that I had done enough IT-development and wanted to see some more of the world. India was a very obvious option then. One of my Indian colleagues who used to work in Norway was about to move back to India early 2010. He kind of challenged me and said: “why don’t you join me!” I thought about it for some time, and decided to give it a try. So here I am. Since July 2010 I have said “Mumbai mera ghar hai”, which means “Mumbai is my home”.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I decided to start blogging before I moved to India in July 2010. My ambition at that time was to use the blog to keep in touch with friends and family in Norway. Little did I know back then that my blog would be read by a huge number of other people and that I would get comments from people that I didn’t even know.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
One of the reasons why I moved to India in the first place was that I wanted to do more for the NGO that Capgemini supports there, Nanhi Kali. When I reached 10.000 hits on my blog I decided that I should use the blog as a way to generate money for Nanhi Kali. The blog post where I wrote about this is probably my favorite.
Also the post about crocodiles in Powai I find quite funny. Still I think that this is the article that most people read on my blog. At least it seems so when I look at the different search results that send people to my blog.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Mumbai differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I try to be quite aware of who I am, where I live and where I come from. Before I left, I read an article about transcultural management. In this one it is said that in order to “survive” in a foreign country, you have to not just adapt, but to really be like a local. I say that I’m a Norwegian in the morning, Indian during the day, and maybe continental in the evenings. That works well for me.
The biggest difference is probably that everything was new. Simple things like opening a bank account or getting a SIM-card was not simple anymore. It was a big hassle. And a lot of frustration too. So yes, off course I had some trouble, and also some shocks. But I still think that to say that “everything is different” like some people like to do is not really correct. I still sleep in a bed, eat the same for breakfast, and my car still has four wheels, although I drive on the other side of the street here.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Mumbai? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Is it at all possible to be fully prepared to move from Norway to India? I honestly think that I was almost as well prepared as I could be. I had been to India a number of times before I finally moved there. I also have a number of books about the city, the country, the religion and other generic books about India. If I could turn time back, I would surely have done the same again. Maybe I could have planned and prepared a bit better for taxation issues, but that’s the only thing that comes to my mind right now.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I guess there are a number of stories. And some of them should surely not be told. For me working in the IT-business, one of the “myths” we hear about IT-people in India are that everything has to be specified in detail. When I moved into my first flat in Mumbai I realized that specifications/expectations are quite different in Norway and India. I moved into a completely empty flat and demanded from the broker that I needed something that I could use to cook my food and something to sleep on. In my mind I thought about a simple mattress, or an “IKEA-bed” for those of you knows what that is. What happened was that when I arrived there, there were five people in the room making the bed! Not really what I had expected.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Mumbai?
- Mumbai is a huge city, so you have to plan carefully where you live. Otherwise travel will be a big issue.
- Be curious about your new city. It is too easy just to sit home and go to the nice restaurants, but you should seriously try to explore it.
- Take the local train! Seriously.
How is the expat community in Mumbai? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
When I first moved to India I was very clear that I did not wanted to live like an expat but try to interact more with the locals and to live as a local. So for the first few months I didn’t really interact with other expats at all. After some time I realized that this made life a bit boring for me. Nothing wrong with interacting with locals, but many of them are quite busy with family and other obligations, so it was not that easy to find that many to hang around with. I went to some InterNations parties, and through that I got to know more people. That has really helped me in my life here. Still I don’t see myself as a true 100 % expat, as I guess I interact just as much with locals as I do with expats
How would you summarize your expat life in Mumbai in a single, catchy sentence?
Mumbai is like constantly being in love and in hate at the same time.