Chris: Chris Neale's Blog
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to India, etc.
I am Chris Neale, from the UK. I moved from Oxford to Trivandrum in Kerala, India, in late December 2011 with my partner. I moved for work purposes, to complete a six month secondment to our Indian office. My partner moved with me on a tourist visa. I have extended my secondment in India for a further six months.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I decided to start blogging when friends and family all had the same questions, so I wanted to write it one place where those who were interested, could keep track of my experiences. I also started a blog to keep my own record of my journey in India, as something to look back on when I move back to the UK. Lastly, I wanted to blog so others could learn from my experience, as I have learnt from others through blogs and sites such as InterNations.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
The post entitled ‘The zoo, the boxes and the beach’ probably summarizes India up best.
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?
When I came to India to start my six months work, I had never been to the country before. A friend had given me some advice: ‘just accept it’ ‐ I didn’t know what he meant, until I had been in India for a month or so. Everything is chaotic, takes longer than it does at home and all with the added distraction of being 20 degrees hotter than home. Once settled in, you realize what an incredible country India is and how lucky you are to live in such a rich culture. The low living costs are a happy side effect of living here, which was a happy change from South East England! The people in India are really friendly, if very nosey, and like to ask all about your plans, travels, how you’re adjusting to the weather and what you think of India.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in India? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I didn’t have a clue what India would be like to live in. I would have put more thought into the practical side such as ‘What’s the best location to live town or close to work? ‘How does getting filtered water work?’ and more importantly ‘Where shall I travel to first?’
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
It’s very toilet humor, but one of the funniest moments so far has been exploring the local bar. See this blog post. We knew we were approaching the bar, as there were a few Indian men asleep on the grass outside. The done thing is to buy a bottle of spirits and stay in the bar, drinking your bottle of spirits until it’s all gone. We chose a table in the bar, cleared the empty bottles out of the way, moved some dirty dishes aside and tried to forget that there would no doubt be cockroaches under the table. Of course, as the only white men in the bar, you get a lot of stares and some drunken conversations, but that’s just general nosiness which is fine.
After a few strong beers (6% is standard), my friend comes back from the loo (a single urinal) and says ‘we need to go, now’. He went into the urinal and there was a local man, sat smiling at him. After a minute or so of conversation about being in India and how he’s finding the weather, my friend had realized that the man wasn’t sitting waiting.... he was sitting in the urinal, going to the loo.
Since then, we’ve settled for using hotel bars and steering clear of the local Indian bars for a while!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in India?
- Save up enough money to make the most of the country you are going to live in, for travelling around and making the most of your time in India.
- Just accept it. Whatever your doing will take three times longer than it does at home and you’ll be asked at least five irrelevant questions.
- Don’t be put off by ‘bad India days’. If you’re here for a long time, every now and again it all gets to you and you just want a pint of normal beer that isn’t 8%, and a McDonalds. We all have them!
How is the expat community in India? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community varies by region in India. In the North it is more common to find expats, but in the South where I am, it is harder to find other expats so it’s a bit more isolated. If you happen to live near a big city like Bangalore or Mumbai, make the most of the expat community.
How would you summarize your expat life in India in a single, catchy sentence?
One of the best, varied and hard work experiences I’ve had to date. Once you’re used to it, you learn to go with it and really enjoy the variety of everything in India.