I am from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada a city of crazy cold winters and warm friendly people from around the world. The travel bug hit in the early 80s and I've never looked back! Since 2003, I've called India 'home', working in ...
My name is Carissa and I’m originally from the Canadian prairies – Winnipeg to be precise.
When and how did you decide to move to India? Is it complicated to settle down there?
I first came to India on a study-abroad program in 1990, returned as a student from 1995 – 96 and then moved back in 2003 when they opened the “PIO” (Persons of Indian Origin) category for spouses of Indian citizens.
It can be complicated to get visas and settle down here however I had an in-built advantage – marriage to a ‘desi' dude.
Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you visited?
I got my first passport when I was 16 years old to join a student exchange program in Germany. I then returned the following year on a Rotary exchange program in France. Then again to study in the South of France. And again to study in former Yugoslavia as it was just starting to have multi-party elections.
By the time I came to India, I’d already hitch-hiked from Paris to Athens, spent time in Israel/West Bank during the 1988 intifada, witness the dawn of ‘capitalism’ at the Ljubljana stock exchange and many more remarkable memories.
In terms of countries I’ve visited, it would be at least 30 however I feel like I’m just getting started!
What do you like the most about India?
It is a place where multiple realities co-exist. You have obscene wealth jostling shoulders with those possessing little yet having tremendous dignity. It is vibrant, constantly changing and yet much remains the same too.
How is/was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with Canada, your home country?
I don’t remember having culture shock in the traditional sense. Partly this was because I was lucky to live with a friend’s family and they eased my way into life in Delhi, translating many things that could have been strange but with them quickly became familiar.
I also credit it to growing up in an area of Winnipeg close to the University with the influx of professors and their families from around the world. It seemed perfectly natural that my friends had parents who spoke different languages, ate interesting food, had different traditions, celebrations, beliefs… welcoming into their home a young girl. I never realised how amazing this was until I started traveling and would encounter people with limited exposure to other parts of the world – its peoples, perspectives, practices and more.
The main differences remain things like the lack of infrastructure – heck I’m still battling things such as water shortages, buildings crumbling around you, the insane traffic and pollution.
Do you miss anything from your homeland?
After your 1st decade, home becomes where you unpack your bags most often!
That said, I miss family and friends in Canada – especially seeing my niece and nephew grow up. I will also admit I’ve been known to go from the airport straight to an Eritrean restaurant! That may seem weird but that’s what I appreciate most about Canada – it’s diversity - which means I can finally dive into cuisines not so readily accessible in India or the many countries around Asia that I regularly travel.
Any 'memories of an expat' you would like to share with us? Your best souvenir? Or maybe your worst experience?
I’m probably closer to an ‘immigrant’ or ‘transplant’ than a standard serial expat, bouncing from place to place.
What does your typical day as an expat in India look like?
At the moment, my typical day starts with the doorbell ringing at 8am as various people come to our door providing services we depend on – like car washer, maid, press wallah and more!
Then I get down to work in earnest – calls, emails, messages or dashing out the door to brave traffic for business development meetings. Evenings are time to get out to various events or just chill at home. Sometimes these days it also means continuing to work like a maniac too!
No matter what – it is a full life. And I have no regrets adopting India as home. Let’s just see if that remains the case as rules can be a bit arbitrary and I’m always conscious that I remain a ‘guest’ here!
When did you start your blog? For what reasons?
I started my blog Everyday Asia (earlier known as Every Day Adventures in Asia) in April 2013 during a transition phase from manic corporate work travelling all over Asia to finding my way as a reluctant entrepreneur – setting up my company both in Mumbai and Singapore.
It was my way to start sharing stories of my everyday reality with friends not in India. What was unexpected, yet tremendously enriching, is how many of my ramblings struck chords with friends in India too.
My blog has evolved since I started… Last count people from 150 odd countries have ‘tuned in’, the topics and focus keeps shifting yet remains largely centred on everyday observations.
I also started a spin-off – Whisky Lady – as this interest wasn’t shared by the core audience of Everyday Asia. With my two tasting groups in Mumbai, I found myself with more than enough material for regular posts.
Did you make new friends with your blog?
Absolutely! Even met two blog friends ’live’ during our July trip to London - Distant Drumlin and An Englishwoman in Mumbai!
Why did you register on expat.com and what do you think of the website?
To tell the truth, I registered in reaction to being denied membership to an Indian blogging forum. Apparently my Canadian citizenship disqualified me!
So I decided to explore expat forums and came across expat.com. I’ve come to appreciate how it connects many of us who live beyond the borders of our birth and have discovered many other blogs I enjoy through it too!
Which advice would you give to the other Expat blog members who would like to settle in India?
Embrace the chaos, be flexible, patient yet remain true to yourself and your values.