Deborah is a British Expat living in Bangalore. She became a 'trailing spouse' in October 2015 when her husband was offered a job in Bangalore. In her interview with Expat Arrivals, Deborah talks about the culture shock she has experienced in India and the ups and downs of expat life.
She has recently started blogging about her experiences: bengalurublogger.wordpress.com
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: The UK. I was born in Southport in the northwest of England but have lived all over the country including Hampshire and London. I lived in Derby prior to emigrating.
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Bangalore, India
Q: When did you move to Bangalore?
A: October 2015
Q: Did you move to India alone or with a spouse/family?
A: I am the ‘trailing spouse’ and we have a daughter.
Q: Why did you move to Bangalore; what do you do here?
A: My husband is setting up a new division for his company here in Bangalore. I am a Licensed Insolvency Practitioner but not allowed to work or study whilst in India.
Living in Bangalore
Q: What do you enjoy most about Bangalore? How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country?
A: The people are very friendly and helpful. Our quality of life is different in many ways than it was at home.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about the UK?
A: There are lots of challenges living in Bangalore. The traffic and roads are horrendous. There are power cuts several times a day. There is rubbish strewn everywhere and men frequently urinate in the street. I miss the smooth roads, clean streets and decent pavements to walk on amongst a whole host of other things.
Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life in India? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: The biggest adjustment was the loss of independence. Having to have a driver for security purposes and help at home to achieve the daily chores we take for granted in the UK and the general lack of privacy which goes with it. Experiencing culture shock as an actual physical thing was also a shock!
Q: What’s the cost of living in Bangalore compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Some things here are incredibly cheap – most noticeably food and books (which are subsidised by the state). The cost of imported food is astronomical. Imported goods (toys, clothes etc) are generally 30 percent more expensive than in the UK.
Shopping outside of malls can be expensive as sellers will generally quadruple the price at the sight of a foreigner and sometimes you just don’t have the energy to haggle!
Q: How would you rate the public transport in India? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?
A: Trains are fully booked weeks in advance - so get in early. Buses are crowded but frequent. The Metro has limited stations but clean and efficient. Most people travel around on two wheelers (motorbikes and mopeds). We have a car and driver for security reasons.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Bangalore? Have you had any particularly good/bad experiences with regards to doctors and hospitals? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?
A: We registered at Columbia Asia hospital and unfortunately we have all had to attend it since we have been here. The service was excellent and relatively cheap.
Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in Bangalore? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: I wouldn’t recommend women travelling alone at night generally here. There have been some attacks on expats in cars at accident spots and also for a tattoo that offended the Hindu religion.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Bangalore? What different options are available for expats?
A: Expats generally live in gated communities and complexes with security. There are many such developments all over Bangalore which include villas or apartment blocks.
Q: Any areas/suburbs of Bangalore you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: Expats need to think about commuting times when moving here. We chose to live half way between the school and place of work. Whitefield is a popular expat area but others nearer the airport are becoming more popular.
Meeting people and making friends in India
Q: How tolerant are the local Indians of foreigners? Is there any obvious discrimination against particular religions or women etc.?
A: Women are known by their husband or father. There is a long road ahead before women are treated equally in India. It is shocking to a westerner. India is a Hindu nation and there have been incidents and attacks on those practicing other religions.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: All expats are very welcoming and helpful. The Overseas Women’s Club (‘OWC’) of Bangalore is a good place to start. School parents are very helpful and everyone is willing to share helpful hints and tips when living here (and you need them too!).
Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends? Any social/expat groups you can recommend?
A: Some of our neighbours in the complex are locals and have become friends. There are expats from all over the world here so it is easy to make friends with those who have a shared experience. The OWC is a good place to start meeting people.
About working in India
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: My husband’s firm dealt with the visa applications and process and also hired an agent in Bangalore (Fragoman).
Family and children in Bangalore
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home? Do you think there are any specific challenges for a trailing spouse?
A: I am the trailing spouse. Daily life is completely different from the west and so takes a huge adjustment. A trip to the post office is not simple and shopping cannot be done in one shop – one has to go to a supermarket, butchers, liquor store etc. Nothing can be obtained altogether and the supply chain is fragmented meaning that one day something basic will simply not be available anywhere until the next delivery. Power cuts are particularly difficult. Ensuring there is enough bottled water in the house for drinking is a new skill I have developed.
Q: Did your children settle in easily? What were the biggest challenges for your children during the move?
A: Our daughter settled in to her school and home life easily and quickly. The biggest challenge was leaving all her friends behind.
Q: What are the schools like in Bangalore, any particular suggestions?
A: There are several International Schools in Bangalore. I would recommend choosing one close to your new home so the commute isn’t too long. Stonehill International School and Canadian International School are two popular ones in north Bangalore.
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Ask for help often – don’t be shy. People are very willing to help. Every expat has been through the same overwhelming feeling – you are not alone so don’t think you have to cope on your own. Take a notepad and pen everywhere you go and take notes (or take notes on your phone). Don’t try to achieve more than one thing a day – you will end up frustrated. Everything has its own pace in India and sometimes you simply have to go with the flow (however frustrating that may be).
~ Interviewed March 2016