Can an American Girl Adjust to Life in India? 3 Things That Helped Me!

Some months ago, I wrote a few tips on how to feel more settled when moving abroad. I wrote that post from the heart. June marked four months into my stay in India, but no, I wasn’t settled. Am I settled now almost nine months into my stay? Have I taken my own advice? What was the result?  

Well yes, I feel more settled. Do I feel completely settled and comfortable? Well, no, there is still time yet as I gather my foothold here and take more of my advice and my friend's advice and put it into practice. So, yes I have taken my own advice and it has helped me tremendously. So what are three things that make me feel more settled and comfortable now?

Getting work

Getting work, and adjusting to the work culture in India means I am getting out and meeting new people. Previously, my client roster exclusively held online clients. This was fine in the US because I still understood my surroundings and felt comfortable and settled there. Here, in India, its imperative for me to get out and interact in society and online clientele really doesn’t allow me that kind of experience (though I still do have online clients). I have held training programs, been invited as a visiting lecturer at a college, and have met clients for one on one coaching and English tutoring.

Making Friends
Ok, in my neighborhood, I have some really good acquaintances but it will still take time to make true-blue friends. But, I am more comfortable interacting with neighbors and strangers. That this was so difficult was a surprise to me having had lived in India before and also having been in the Non-Resident Indian, Malayalee and Tamil communities in various cities in the US for the past ten years. I guess so many other aspects of the move had been a culture shock to me, that it was natural this was too. But, now I can say I feel more at ease in everyday interactions- at least in English and very broken Malayalam. I cannot always respond in Malayalam but I can understand more than I think I can!!

Identifying Local Favorite Brands

This one shocked me. We take this for granted when we are settled long-term somewhere. When we go shopping, we get used to particular brands of foods, household cleaners, laundry detergents, soaps, toothpaste and much more. Unlike in American  stores which pretty much carry the same brands in every store, in Kochi, not all stores carry the same brands and availability is always a question. So, “stupid” little things like toothpaste or cereal or flour, which seem like they’d be the same anywhere are actually quite different abroad. So, I have been able to identify brands of things I like to use and recently found a store that carries all the brands. Ironically enough that store is a mini mart attached to a gas station! Since not many would think of shopping there, it also has the luxury of less crowd and relatively good stock. So, in case you’re wondering some brands that I have identified as ‘liking’ are: Soyfresh (soybean milk), Eastern spice mixes, Nestle everyday milk powder (we don’t like the milk packet milk), Lux (shower soap), Maavila (toothpaste with mango leaves), Meswak (another herbal toothpaste), Chik (shampoo with henna or hair darkeners), Tide (which I never used to use in US, the powder), Harpic (toilet cleaner), Lipton (ready to drink Ice Tea), Lizol (Indian Lysol liquid cleaners), and the now infamous Exo dish cleaning liquid (not the bar!).

Feeling settled is a different process for different people. Though it happens at different rates for different people, many major characteristics are similar (finding friends, places to shop, getting your bearings – directions, and many others). Things that we take for granted in our hometown or country trip us up abroad. The simplest things like dialing a phone number can become a challenge when we have to learn to do it abroad.

Feel free to share some of your experiences in feeling settled after moving abroad in the comments below. What were things you did that helped you feel settled faster? Which were the challenges?



Author of this post, Jennifer Kumar, has moved to live in India a second time. Coming from America, there are many things to learn to adjust to in India. Jennifer understands some of the adjustment issues faced by people moving abroad because of these experiences. Feel free to follow her on Facebook by clicking here. Contact her for more information on coaching by clicking here.

Copyright © 2011, Jennifer Kumar. All Rights Reserved.
Permission to Reprint: This article may be reprinted, provided it appears in its entirety with the following attribution (link included): Reprinted by permission of Jennifer Kumar, Cross-Cultural Coach at Authentic Journeys.

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