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Moving Back to India – How I Did It

By Susan Jackson

Summary: One woman shares her story of returning to her native India from a 15 year life in San Francisco. Would her kids adjust to the new lifestyle? Would it be a good transition for them?

Moving Back to India - How I Did It

Many Indians who emigrated to the USA, Europe and other countries, are moving back to India, largely due to better career and entrepreneurial opportunities in the fast growing Indian economy as well as strong family ties.

First of all, let me tell you the main reasons why I returned to India after living in the USA for more than 15 years. I was concerned that my US born kids would be very different from me when they grow up. Then there was my need to be closer to my parents and family, the culture that I grew up in, and of course exciting prospects in the hot Indian economy.

Let me warn you that this is not your every day kind of move. To be transplanted from a pristine, organized and clean city such as San Francisco to a dusty, unorganized and chaotic city of New Delhi was quite a shock even to me let alone my kids.

I sincerely wondered if I did the right thing! Most people cannot handle this sort of move, I had been told. Some people warned me that I will be back to San Francisco within 6 months. Since I have now successfully settled in India, many people ask me how I did it, how my children coped, etc. and I have attempted to tackle these issues in this article.

Adapting back to Indian Life

It's not as tough as it appears. Once you get past the dirt, crazy traffic, Indian Standard Time on the pace of getting things done, etc., settling down is a breeze. Just kidding! Did I have trouble adapting to life in the US when I moved from India? Yes. Once I got past the fancy cars and beautiful landscapes in a few months, life in the USA was a grind. Day in and day out. On top of this missing the family and culture like crazy didn't help.

The support system that my family provided when I moved back to India, was easily the biggest reason I was able to transition smoothly. I always have lots of extra hands to do things for me and I am loving this aspect of my life in India.

But living in India is a totally different ball game. What experiences we have had while coming on vacations to India do not apply when we are moving to India for good. Vacations are usually spent at relatives' houses where everything is taken care of. It does not compare to the numerous issues encountered when starting afresh and building somewhat of a functioning household in India. So be prepared for it. Also let me tell you that India is expensive – living in the metros and having a decent house, cars and lifestyle will cost $$$$. Metros are a lot different than what they used to be when we were growing up. Metros are very dynamic cities now with plenty of top notch malls and retail establishments, international restaurants and pubs, excellent schools and big convenience stores like Safeway. Shopping wise – Most US and International brands are available in India now. You will be able to shop at these branded stores as long as you don't compare the prices, as they can be 2-3 times more expensive as in the USA!

When moving to India you have to accept the country as it is with all its good and bad and remember the reasons why you made this move. Once you become a part of the system and accept the country for what it is, you will start to enjoy and love your life in India. Living anywhere in the world is a mixed bag and bitching about the issues will not change anything except make your move harder.

In my experience, my move to India has been a fun rollercoaster ride with it ups and downs. Do I regret leaving the US? Absolutely not!

Kids

Can your kids handle it? Yes. Most kids can. Kids are very flexible, resilient and adaptable little humans. They should get more credit than what we give them. The first few days they will be a little wary of their new surroundings but once they come in a routine and start to make friends at school everything else becomes secondary. After a few months they will start to ask you for Indian treats like Choco Pies, Wai-Wais, Maggie etc and the Oreo's will start to lose their shine.

The purported problems children face:

  1. Language

    My kids did not speak the local language at all except for a word here or there. So, coming here did make us anxious. But kids are like sponges as far as language is concerned. I am so enamored and jealous of their ability to pick up a new language. Put me in Germany or France for an extended period and you will find me opening a book every time I want to say something. But within a few months, my kids were speaking, reading and writing the language well enough. By next year, they will probably be speaking like a native.

  2. School System

    This is the only large problem as the traditional school system in India is not the greatest and is very competitive. Traditional schools in India do not appreciate the “Out-of-the-box” thinking and focus on how much your child can memorize regardless of the fact whether s/he has a good understanding of the subject. But with a lot of international schools opening up and the Embassy schools having branches in the metros, this problem can be largely overcome. But honestly I still think it is a bit of an issue. We have to come to a middle ground when selecting a school for our kids – good balance of academics, sports and open culture. It's a happy zone then.

  3. Weather

    Yeah, it's hot. So? You will be OK. Keep yourself hydrated. Keep your car AC on High. That's it plain and simple. Kids play out in the sun at school. Nothing happens. You might faint thinking of them scorching in the heat, but they'll be fine. You grew up here and you were fine so they will be fine too. Stop being a worry head.

  4. New friends, Old friends

    Kids are quite fickle when it comes to friendships. An old best friend competes with a new friend at the start of a school year and often looses the "Best Friend" title. Moving to India is a big change for kids and they have to deal with a lot of things. There will be so much change in their lives that they have little time to think of their old friends. The World is a small place now and they can keep in touch with old friends should they choose to.

    As for new ones, that should come about after a couple of weeks once they join school. Be prepared to be thrown off the couch laughing when you hear your kid speak like Apu from The Simpsons, in an effort to fit in. Absolutely hilarious. Also, US returned kids are considered cool at school so your son or daughter will glow under all the attention coming their way. Your children will catch on this very quickly. They're not that naive, you know.

Make up your mind where you want to be, and once again remember, did you not live in India before going abroad?

About the Author

Susan Jackson is a freelance writer who writes for www.globemoving.net

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Comments about this Article

guest
Apr 3, 2012 02:54

As an American who has been working in Delhi for the past 3 years, there are some things in your article I want to address. It is very telling that you write: "I always have lots of extra hands to do things for me and I am loving this aspect of my life in India." You mean lots of servants for very cheap, something you cannot get in the US. And this to me is one of the biggest problems with the Indian middle-upper classes: exploitation of the masses of poor people here and an unwillingness to do anything about overpopulation because it's just too convenient for you to have all this cheap domestic help and labor. Come the revolution.... Also, as someone who's been working in the Indian education system, I can guarantee you that your children will suffer academically. I only hope they've completed most of their schooling, and do not plan to attend university here. And no, the embassy schools do not have "branches" in other cities. The only decent American schools are in Mumbai, Delhi, and Chennai and they are very expensive and hard to get into. Only AES is a true embassy school. A few of the old boarding schools in the hill stations are ok but are not international in outlook or curriculum. Be aware that the over-rated CBSE curriculum is totally test-centered, and academically a disaster. A few schools in the NCR have the IB program but again, if it's run by Indian administrators and teachers, then the quality will be sub-par. There's lots of lip service given to progressive education here, and schools in Delhi throw around all the right buzz words about child centered education, but like many things in India, it's all a sham-just sound bites and image, no substance. The teachers here are woefully unqualified. I can understand you want to be near your family, but I believe your children, unless very young, will come to resent your decision to bring them back here. There is no advantage for them in a country with a soaring population, inflation, lack of real job opportunities, inadequate education, and rampant corruption that is also running out of water and has millions of poor and illiterate or semi-literate unskilled people--in fact, double the population of the US. And if you have daughters....then it will be even worse for them because although India has made progress in some areas, it has not progressed in its attitudes towards females. Good luck to you!

guest
Jan 3, 2014 14:59

Dear American working in Delhi for last 3 years, Here is an excerpt from a single (presumably) American Mom living in Bangalore, from the same site. "I have a driver, gardener to look after my plants and all, a cook, a nanny, and a housekeeper. I preferred no live-ins, and its definitely a challenge - you need good people management skills, and you need to be a little tough." So exploiting the mass of poor people is not something that only Indians do. I have seen US expats do it quite frequently, and unfortunately more they stay in India more they tend to be behave like the vilified upper Indian middle class I clearly see a problem in exploiting the poor, but Americans complaining about it is little over the top. They buy dresses sewed by slave labor in emerging countries, eat food picked by illegal immigrants who are paid next to nothing, but electronics manufactured by child labor, but want to retain a hyper righteous attitude about forced labor. Just because there is a comfortable gap between the person who is slaving to make the product and the consumer does not mean that all is fine and dandy . I agree with your view about Indian education system. DK

First Published: Mar 27, 2012

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