Who are you?
Hello, my name is Lauren and I am originally from England. I have a master’s degree in pharmacy, but I have now left my career as a pharmacist behind and followed my heart on a one-way ticket to India.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
Nagpur is now my home, known as the orange city (famous for growing oranges). It is located in the state of Maharashtra and is centre point of India. Since I was a child I had dreamt of travelling to this mystical land.The more I learnt about the culture and spirituality, the more the country enchanted me. I knew it was inevitable that I would visit India someday. I did not expect that when my dream finally did come true, I would be going to India to meet my in-laws, get married to an Indian and I would be living here permanently.
After our marriage I had to return to England for a year for work purposes (July 2013). I soon arrived back in India in December after quitting my job in a well-known pharmacy multiple. I had become too stressed balancing work and a long distance marriage. As soon as I was reunited with my husband in Mumbai, I knew I had made the right decision for me. I chose my happiness over my career.
What do you like about life where you are?
I love the beauty of Nagpur. When I look out of my bedroom window I can usually see a cow or two sitting in the middle of the road or grazing on the patches of grass, children flying kites and even wedding processions passing. Whilst riding around on the back of the bike with my husband we see little baby puppies plodding around, flower stall selling piles of marigolds and beautiful garlands and we can smell of burning incense wondering from the numerous temples. I love the atmosphere here.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
There are two things I dislike about my expat life. The first is being so far away from my family and friends in England as I often get pangs of sadness when I think of them. Thankfully, we have Skype always which always helps me feel closer to them. They are also joining me here in April for our Hindu wedding.
My second dislike would have to be my reduced independence. Most people you meet in shops or restaurants can speak enough English so you can get by with little or no Hindi or Marathi but husband currently does everything for me. I hope as I become settled here, know my way around and gain the confidence to leave the house alone, I will also feel independent once more. I know these things take time. My life here is so different from my life in England; I lived in flat on my own and worked 40 hours a week whereas here, I am a lady of leisure with maids and live with my in-laws.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
The biggest cultural difference I have experienced is the way people act around me. I have spent an entire day walking around London on my own and I was invisible, no one started a conversation with me or smiled at me as I passed by. I love London so much, I think it is a beautiful city and I feel completely at home there but it highlights a major cultural difference.
Here in India strangers want to start conversations, ask questions and invite you to their home. Most of the time it is really nice, it creates a sense of community but there has been times when it can be quite awkward. Time such as when someone asks you sensitive questions, for example, about your salary or when your personal space is not respected (people do not find it so strange just to walk into your bedroom without knocking).
What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
India has the lowest meat consumption in the world; there are approximately 500million vegetarians here. I have been a vegetarian for the last five years and when eating in English restaurants, I am usually stuck with two or maybe three options (sometimes even one). I have to either scrawl through the menu looking for the green V or I am limited to a small list of vegetarian options hiding below the fish dishes. Here in India, the vegetarians have choice a lot more choice. It is the people who eat meat (known as non-veg) who can only go to certain restaurants and have the more limited choices (if they don’t want to eat vegetarian that is- I know many meat eaters who love vegetarian food).
At home (in my home at least) breakfast, lunch and dinner are pretty much the same, bhajji (vegetables), daal and roti. It is not only the same kind of food each meal, it is the same every day, and this food is prepared and cooked by our maids. Growing up in England with an extremely different and varied diet, it is pretty tough to eat the same thing every day for every meal, especially daal and rice for breakfast. I have started to cook my own food but our kitchen, like most in India, lacks an oven (most dishes I crave are prepared in the oven). There is little need for an oven in Indian cuisine. Luckily, ovens are available here and we are getting one soon. I am looking forward to being able to bake cakes and roast potatoes again.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Listen to your heart. If you seek adventure, spirituality and love to be shocked daily- come to India. It is also good to remember how important it is to ask lots of questions about the place you plan on moving to, from locals and other expats. There will always be some hints or tips that will make adjusting to life easier, the best place to have coffee or where you can buy those western style goods you miss.
What are your plans for the future?
After my immigration is completely sorted out and I have my X visa we want to start a family. I never imagined that I would be starting my family in India, let alone giving birth here. I guess that will be the next part of my adventure here in India. I also plan to start a new career; doing what? I am not sure; I am going to see what this wonderful country has in store for me.
Lauren shares more experiences of Indian life, love and marriage through her blog englishwifeindianlife.com.