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Interview with Ellen W - an American expat living in India

Updated 8 Feb 2010

Ellen Weeren moved from Northern Virginia to Delhi, India a year ago and has since made Delhi her home, along with her husband and three children. They reside on her husband's employment visa which was arranged by his company. 

Read more about Delhi in the Expat Arrivals expat guide to Delhi or read more expat experiences in India.

About Ellen

Q: Where are you originally from?

A: Northern Virginia right outside of Washington, DC

Q: Where are you living now?

A: Delhi, India

Q: How long have you lived in Delhi?

A: 1 year

Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?

A: Husband and three kids and two cats

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?

A: My husband runs a publishing company - I try to keep our family sane. (In my former life, I owned my own business - a handmade stationery business.) We moved here because my husband's job is here but we wanted to show our children how different the world is and let them experience another culture.
About your city

About living in Delhi

Q: What do you enjoy most about living in Delhi, how’s the quality of life?

A: The quality of life is honestly very different. It is very crowded and dirty here compared to what we are used to. But of course, the advantages far outweigh the negatives. We have met some amazing people and have seen amazing things. One great thing about life in Delhi is that it is never boring. Being away from home makes you really appreciate home.

Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?

A: The infrastructure just isn't consistent here - electricity, water, good roads are not a given here. Of course, we are very lucky to have what we need (okay want) most of the time but there are millions of people here who live without basic necessities everyday. It is hard to understand why India is letting that happen. Without a doubt, what we miss most about home is our family and friends. Okay, and the sunshine.

Q: Is Delhi safe?

A: I feel very safe here. There are a lot of crowded areas but that just means you have to take the same precautions you would in any crowded city.

About Delhi

Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Delhi as an expat?

A: Anand Niketan and Shanit Niketan are two of my favorite areas. Malcha Marg is also lovely. The farm house areas are also fabulous but you have to be willing to put up with a lot of traffic and long commutes. In return, you get land and often orchards and swimming pools and animals roaming. But the farm houses also require a lot staff. That is not for me.

Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in Delhi?

A: It is very good. We are extremely comfortable. We are fortunate to live in a single family home pretty close to the kids school. We have a driveway which is fabulous for the kids to play in and a small park right across from our house.

Q: What’s the cost of living in Delhi compared to America? What is cheap or expensive in particular?

A: That's a funny question. We thought we would save so much money moving here. Housing is expensive (but like most expats, my husband's company pays for our housing) and food can be very inexpensive. But you if you buy the imported "comforts from home", you grocery bill goes up quick. And we have really taken the opportunity to travel so it is actually quite expensive. 

Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?

A: The kids school has families from all over the world so we spend a great deal of time with expats but not just other expats from America.

Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?

A: It is easy to initially meet people because everyone has been the new guy at least once. People are friendly and quick with helpful advice on how to do what or where to get what. But real friendships take time and I think people are hesitant to get too invested because everyone knows we are all leaving at some point. I joined the American Women's Association and got involved at the kids school. That has helped a lot.

About working in Delhi

Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?

A: My husband is on an employment visa and we tagged onto that. His company coordinated the logistics of that so I am not sure how hard or easy it was to get. Sorry I can't be more helpful there.

Q: What’s the economic climate like in Delhi, is there plenty of work?

A: It seems like people are not being sent back home - expat jobs seem pretty secure here. There are lots of people who do not work and find themselves begging the streets - but the newspapers are not filled with stories of recession or lack of employment opportunities.

Q: How does the work culture differ from home?

A: How much time do you have? The biggest frustration I think is that Indian people are very hesitant to disappoint someone, which sounds lovely at first. But the reality is that while they are trying not to disappoint, they are not forthcoming in what they are actually capable of doing. So they will say "oh yes, that is no problem" when they actually have no ability (no matter how great the desire is) to accomplish something. It is completely cultural and it is meant with sincerest of intentions but it is counter-productive. Another obstacle is timelines - tomorrow simply means not today - it in no way actually means tomorrow.

Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move? 

A: No. My husband's company coordinated our move.

Family and children in Delhi

Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?

A: Yes, we all did. This is our first move and it was a big, big adjustment. We appreciate that it is a grand adventure but very much miss being home.

Q: Did your children settle in easily?

A: Fairly easily yes. They immediately started school when we got here and that helped. We did not have anyone in high school and am super thankful for that - in fact, that would have stopped us from moving. I think moving kids in their high school years is a very difficult thing to do.

Q: What are the schools like, any particular suggestions?

A: The school is pretty fantastic. If you can go to the American School - do.

Q: How would you rate the healthcare in India?

A: I am hoping we do not get very sick while we are here. Most people go to Singapore for any serious medical issues.

And finally…

Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?

A: The best advice I got before coming was not to have any expectations then you won't be disappointed by much and quite often you will be pleasantly surprised.

~ Interviewed February 2010

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