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Gabriela Steiner, Bangalore

Who are you?

I’m Gabriela Steiner, a graduate of University of Graz, Austria, with a BSc in Environmental Sciences and a Master in Business Administration. I have studied in Montreal, Canada for six months.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

After finishing my MBA, I moved to India in May 2011. Since then, I have been working and living in Bangalore. I have traveled across the Indian subcontinent as a tourist and as a researcher for several months in 2009 and 2010, and moved here to become immersed in a different culture.What is life like in India, working in India’s biggest IT hub and spending weekends on the beach?

First of all, there’s no such thing as “India” – The slogan “Unity in Diversity” is more than accurate: not only is North India fundamentally different from South India, a city different from a village, but each family seems to have their own codes of conduct, traditions and beliefs. I’m here to learn more about this country and in turn about myself, my own traditions and beliefs.

Did you experience culture shock?

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I traveled across India twice before moving here. So I knew what I was getting myself into! I had my culture shock during my first trip, and I wrote about it in the article My teenie-weenie culture shock on my blog. There are still days on which I wish I were back home, or just somewhere else, but the other days on which I drink a coconut on the road side and am happy being here far outnumber the bad days.

What is living in India like?

Living in India is very different from traveling here. My friends had warned me, and I have to admit that they were right. Working 9 to 5 in a corporate environment is honestly not as exciting as taking night trains across India to discover ancient temples. Everybody who considers moving here should be aware of the challenges that will be part of the daily life here.

What do you like about living in Bangalore?

While Bangalore may not be the most interesting tourist destination, it has a ton to offer for its residents. One thing that always gets mentioned is the pleasant climate – but besides that, you can take overnight buses or trains in literally every direction and you will end up in a wonderful place. The options for weekend getaways seems unlimited and one of the things I have enjoyed most during my stint here is that I had the opportunity to travel to more than 30 places around Bangalore.

Can you share a funny experience of your life in Bangalore with us?

My entire blog is a collection of all these hilarious experiences that I have had. Currently, my favorite one is the story about the return gift:

“The first time I actually understood the concept of a return gift was when I attended a wedding and was given a big gift-wrapped box. It had a sticker ‘Handle with care’. I told the bride “Thanks! But you should be the one receiving the gifts!” Everybody was looking at me and I felt it: There is a cultural difference and I just made a fool of myself. They must have thought ‘What? From which planet does she come from? That girl, claiming to be from the civilized West has never heard of a return gift?’ Honestly, in my world, the invitation to a party is the gift itself, and the birthday present is kind of the return gift. No need for the birthday girl or boy to give me another gift in return.
Well, not in India. (…)”

You can read the full story here.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between India and life back home?

The ubiquity of idols, god images and symbols. In India, faith is interwoven into everyday life. Employees touch Ganesha’s feet at the wooden statue adorned with fresh flowers right in the lobby.

Men and women alike apply colored powder on their forehead. Nobody is afraid (unlike in the West) to show their belief in god. The year is filled with festivals of all different religions and there is always a reason to celebrate the divine.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
1. Come curious and with an open mindset.
2. Learn to be patient; things will rarely get done when you want them to. Know that it always works out in the end.
3. Observe the people around you and make Indian friends.

Gabriela Steiner is currently working and living in Bangalore, India. She is a graduate of University of Graz, Austria, with a BSc in Environmental Sciences and a Master in Business Administration and has been an exchange student in Montreal, Canada.

She has traveled across the Indian subcontinent as a tourist and as a researcher for several months in 2009 and 2010, and started working and living in India in May 2011. Since then, she has been observing and studying Indian culture and customs. She is writing about her daily adventures and insights on her blog GabrielaSteiner.com .

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