Crystal: My Hindi Heart
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to New Delhi, etc.
I'm Crystal, I write for my blog My Hindi Heart. Many years before coming to India, I learned how much I loved culture. Indian culture seemed to be my favorite culture, and as I studied it, I fell further in love. I started to learn Hindi, a language I've been passionate about ever since. I came to India the first time in February 2014, and returned to the U.S.A. in June of that year. I learned so much in India, and though I spent a lot of time frustrated, I couldn't deny that India felt like home. I returned to India in September of 2014, where I got an apartment for a more permanent stay.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started a blog after finding bloggers who had a similar passion for India - in November of 2013. I wanted to write about my experiences in India, and I wanted to start before I even left the U.S.A. I had hoped that my blog would allow others to take that journey with me, by reading along. More than anything, I wanted my blog to help someone else who may have questions about travelling to India, or about Indian culture.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My top 5 favorite blog entries are:
- Journey Back To India: Crossing Distance and Time: This post talks about my return to India. I love documenting my journey in story form.
- Getting My Nose Pierced In India: One of the coolest experiences I have had in India is getting my nose pierced in Jhansi, India.
- Aloha Poha! DN’s Famous Poha Recipe: This is one of the most popular (and delicious) recipes on my blog!
- New Comic: Staring Indian Aunties: As I also feature a weekly comic, this is a crowd favorite that tells the story of older women that stare at you in India. A popular culture shock topic.
- New Comic: How We Express Our Love: This is the next crowd favorite, as it touches on my intercultural relationship as well.
Tell us about the ways your new life in New Delhi differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Living in New Delhi is completely different than home (Kansas City, Missouri). Well, to be fair, India is completely different in general. Luckily, New Delhi is a very modern city, and while culture and tradition is still present, it's much easier to adjust to life in a large metropolitan city like New Delhi.
When I first came to India, I had a bit of a hard time adjusting. Even though I had studied and studied culture, and was well-versed in the DO's and DO NOT's of society, I accidentally went against a few culture codes, and made myself look like a fool a few times. It's completely normal. Coming back to India this time, I was wiser and more prepared.
Culture shock is something I thought I would never experience, since I was so self-educated about India's culture - good and bad. But, I was wrong about that, too.
I experienced culture shock, not by seeing the homeless or begging people, not by living a simple life... But instead by the judgmental and vain nature that people have towards themselves and each other. I guess I expected to find spiritual enlightenment and higher consciousness - maybe understanding. I was a bit disappointed to learn that people care a lot about appearance, and many other things, and they don't see very far past that. That was my culture shock.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in New Delhi? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
If I could change a few experiences, I would change my first visit to India. As I said, I made a fool out of myself a couple of times, by accidentally going against culture in some ways. However embarrassing the lessons were, though, I've learned from them and I was much more prepared for my return to India - my flight to New Delhi. This time, I was definitely more prepared.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
The first time I've ever been on a metro train was during my first visit to India. I was very nervous, and had no sense of balance. To me, it felt like I was surfing - I couldn't think of any other way to describe it. I looked at others, bewildered that they stood so calmly. Some people were walking from place to place as the train moved, and some people were not holding on to anything at all. I struggled to find balance and fell many, many times.
One instance in particular, my friend was leading me to the exit door, while the train was still moving. I was concerned, because I knew I would lose my balance. However, he was concerned that the crowd of people would push me back and I wouldn't be able to exit the train. I did my best to follow and the train came to a peaceful stop... Before suddenly jerking forward again.
I tripped, caught myself, but ultimately fell in front of everyone.
An embarrassing situation I still laugh about.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in New Delhi?
I have a few tips, based on my experiences as an expat here, in New Delhi.
- Make connections in advance, before you come to New Delhi. Networking with other expats is a really great option. It's important to have a support system in a new place, especially one as challenging as India.
- Don't depend on travel itineraries if you plan on doing any travelling. The best places to get chai or the best places to eat are typically not on any list, and typically right around the corner. (Don't be afraid of the street food!)
- Do research on the typical prices of food and other things you need to buy, or ask someone you trust. People sometimes try to take advantage of foreigners by overcharging them. Rickshaw and auto-rickshaw drivers will do the same. If someone tries to charge you a higher price, don't be afraid to haggle - that's normal here.
How is the expat community in New Delhi? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I had an easier time finding fellow bloggers who were like minded, rather than fellow expats. For some reason or another, I was never able to connect with my expat friends. We always missed each other, due to work or other daily chores.
A network of expats is here in New Delhi, however, and making connections online was no trouble at all.
How would you summarize your expat life in New Delhi in a single, catchy sentence?
New Delhi was, as expected, a completely unexpected adventure.