Laura in Jaipur: "Besides the hospitality, I love the food!"

Expat interviews
  • Laura in Jaipur
Published on 2014-06-19 at 00:00 by team
American expat, Laura was living in the Twin Cities, MN, teaching fourth grade at an urban public school when she decided with her husband to make the move. They now live in Jaipur, India, and they share with us their expat experience...

Why did you decide to move to Jaipur?

My husband works for a manufacturer of ATVs, snowmobiles, and motorcycles. He was approached with an expat opportunity in which his American company and an Indian company would have a joint venture to create a new vehicle for the Indian market. One night we made a list of pros and cons on a napkin while out to dinner, and it was a tough call but the pros did out weight the cons. It is so hard to be away from all my comforts...home, friends and family, my career, however...having this opportunity is amazing. Despite it being chaotic, frustrating, and challenging, it is an experience most people would say no to, and it will forever bond my husband and I.
Originally, we thought we would be living in Gurgaon. We went to visit Gurgaon/Delhi together in the fall of 2012. However, things are always changing and they ended up putting the manufacturing plant outside of Jaipur. husband went to Jaipur solo to explore and find us a place to live and I stayed back because it was best for my students.
Upon our arrival in Jaipur of July 2013, I was not impressed with the beautiful apartment he had found! It was a disaster - crawling with geckos, roaches and spiders, and piles of dust and dirt. Clearly something larger than a gecko had been living there, as it had made a sort of "nest" in the kitchen. After being in a hotel for a week and figuring out where to shop and cleaning the apartment, we moved in. It's still not great, in fact there are times I find it completely disgusting, but it's our home and I appreciate all I have compared to so many others in India.

How was the moving process?

The moving process was very emotional for me. I was really sad (and crabby) the day we locked up our house and drove away into the unknown. At the time it made me second guess every decision we were making.
The logistics of the move, however, went smoothly. We were lucky enough to have movers hired by my husband's company to pack up our house. Everything from our dining room table to over half of my wardrobe was boxed up and put into storage. We only brought to India what could fit in a few suitcases and a small air shipment of about five boxes. We opted to purchase most of our essentials here, such as a couch and kitchen items, and essentially only brought clothes and a few personal items. It's pretty surprising how much you can actually live without! The process also made me realize how much I take for granted the "big box" stores where I could buy everything in one easy trip. Once we were here, finding even the most common household items proved to be an ordeal. It took three trips before I finally found a screwdriver, which I eventually bought used from an auto-repair shop.

What are the formalities you had to go through in order to be able to live in India?

To live in Jaipur, or any Indian city for that matter, getting registered at the Foreign Registry Office, or FRO is a requirement and a hassle. Each city has their own FRO, and because we live in a small (relatively speaking) city, that lacks many modern conveniences, it has been a very big struggle. Not only that, but the corruption in India has also played a large role meaning you can get accepted or denied for things such as registration or visa renewal simply based on someone's mood that day. There is also no form of electronic filing there, and only one computer which I don't believe has internet access, so getting things accomplished is near impossible. My suggestion is to find yourself a good law firm who has English speaking representatives to help you with the loads of repetitive paperwork.

Did you face some difficulties to adapt to your host country (language, culture, do's and don'ts)?

Adapting to my surroundings in Jaipur was at first quite difficult. There were many cultural differences, from the lack of anything familiar to the safety concerns I had as a woman. Amongst all the adapting I had to do, the biggest challenge for me was the lack of privacy. In a country with over a billion people, logistically speaking there just isn't room for privacy. Households can have several generations living together in tight quarters, and people are used to being involved in everything going on around them. That combined with the fact that I am one of only a few Westerners living in Jaipur, I certainly stick out.
The first few weeks we were in our apartment, the doorbell range at least five times a day. I had people standing at my door, and I didn't know what they wanted because I don't speak Hindi. Often times people would just ring my door bell, stand there and stare. Even now, there are people at my door daily - bill collectors (bills don't get mailed or posted on-line), curious people, or repair men for the daily issues I face in my outdated apartment.

What surprised you the most in Jaipur?

Customer service and hospitality is the one thing that always impresses me in India. People are constantly going out of their way to make sure my needs are met, whether it's at a restaurant, mall, or visiting a hotel, the staff always make sure you are satisfied. Friends and strangers alike are always offering to cook for you, or invite you to holiday celebrations in their home.

Is it easy to meet new people in Jaipur? Any advice to share with the other members?

Meeting other expats has actually been very difficult in Jaipur. Most people who come to India are only visiting for a few weeks, usually on an internship or traveling. The is very small. A suggestion I have is that if you're curious about someone, talk to them! Usually people are in the same position you are, and are also seeking new connections and suggestions. I use a variety of on-line tools, including expat blogs and Facebook to try and reach out to others in my same position. Hearing how and why someone else is in India is always an interesting story.

Could you please share with us something you like about Jaipur and something you don't like?

Besides the hospitality, I love the food! I had never eaten Indian food until we made the decision to move here. I think it gets a bad rap as too spicy, but it's actually really delicious and more "spiced" than "spicy." I could eat garlic naan and butter chicken every day.
What I enjoy the least about Jaipur and India in general, is that it can be completely over-whelming. It is very hot, very crowded, very dirty, and very loud. All those things can make even the smallest errand extremely exhausting. I'm not ashamed to admit I took quite a few afternoon naps the first few weeks we were here.

A common belief about India which wasn't right:

One misconception I think a lot of people have, is that Hindi is the only language spoken in India. Actually, English is quite common and is considered a national language here. There are over 1,000 different dialects of Hindi, which can make communication difficult amongst traveling locals. English is taught in schools, and you can usually get your point across when shopping or giving directions using English.

What do you miss the most from the US, your home country?

Besides my family and friends, what I miss most is my career. I had to put my job as an elementary teacher on hold, and it is very hard to go from working full time to staying home. I have filled my days with some part-time volunteering as an English teacher, but I truly miss having my own classroom and adult interactions.

Is there any "local" habit you have adopted since living there?

The head wobble! The Indian head wobble is a very confusing thing for a foreigner. It can mean yes, no, maybe, I understand, or I don't know. It takes a lot of practice to figure out what someone means by it. I have noticed I use it a lot now as a signal to someone that I understand them. When I first moved here the wobble used to drive me crazy because it's very confusing. But I am getting better at deciphering the meaning.

What's your favorite Indian food?

Garlic naan, Kulfi (Indian ice-cream) and fresh sweet-lime soda.

Why did you start your blog, Girl meets India?

I initially began my blog as a way to keep in contact with my friends and family. They are always wondering what I am up to, and this was a way to reach out to everyone at once.

Which advice would you give to people wishing to live in Jaipur?

For anyone coming to Jaipur, I would advise you set up a driver and a trusted person to show you around for a few days. The road conditions and lack of enforced traffic laws makes for crazy driving. You'll also want to get your bearings on where to find grocery stores, how to set up a cell phone, etc. Someone who knows the language and customs is the best friend you can have!

Share your expat experience!

Contact us to be featured in the Interviews section.