-Where were you born?
-In which country and city are you living now?
-Are you living alone or with your family?
With my family : husband and two daughters.
-How long have you been living in India?
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in India?
I did not come up with the idea. My husband was posted here.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
It is very hard for spouses to get a working permit. My husband works for the UN, so our visas were taken care of. But it's not always easy - we frequently hear stories about people stuck in their country, awaiting the release of a new visa.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
We have medical insurance in the US.
-How do you make your living in India? Do you have any type of income generated?
I'm very lucky to have a portable job : I'm a translator and a writer.
-Do you speak Hindi and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
I speak English, which is one of the official languages in India. One can manage with English only, but of course knowing Hindi or better even Telugu, if you're in Hyderabad, would probably make things easier at times. I haven't had the energy to try. Of course, expats should respect local customs : they can also observe them if they feel like it. We've certainly partaken in many celebrations and festivals, here, but as most of them are religious festivals, I also feel being respectful means being unobtrusive. But Indians are usually very happy to share their culture.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
I don't know where home is anymore. I left France too long ago, and anyway, I'm half Spanish so I always felt somehow split in the middle. I like to go back to France about once a year, but I can't say that I miss it. I do miss my children not spending more time with their grand-parents, and their cousins, but they see them in the summers.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
We're waiting to know where we're going next, so yes. And we always make sure we travel as much as we can, wherever we are.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
Foreigners cannot buy property in India. We are renting, and I cannot give you a price because the housing market has exploded, here, in Hyderabad, and prices have more than doubled in the past four years, and still counting. It's getting very expensive to live here.
-What is the cost of living in India?
If you buy local food, fruits and vegetables only, it's quite cheap. Imported goods are expensive. Housing prices have gone through the roof, as I just mentioned. Overall, life here is no longer cheap, especially if you travel around (which you definitely should), but it's certainly worth it.
-What do you think about the Indians?
Indian people are usually mild mannered and quite nice. If you are light skinned, they'll treat you quite well most of the time. If you are dark skinned, that's another story (and I should know, as my husband is black). Communication is not always easy; you must understand, for instance, that it is rude for an Indian to say "no". So, they'll often say "yes", even when they have absolutely no intention of ever doing what they just agreed to do. Their notion of time, promptness, and quality of service is rather hazy by western standards.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in India?
The culture, the sights, the architecture, the unlikely cohabitation of modernity and ancient times, are truly fascinating. One could spend a lifetime exploring India. I don't believe there is any negative aspects to living here, or in any country, for that matter, as long as there are no security issues. If you have children, one down side is that there isn't much to do with them, on week-ends, or as extra curricular activities (I'm talking about Hyderabad, here.)
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in India?
Cultivate patience and your sense of humor, as you will definitely need them. Then again, these are qualities useful anywhere in the world. Come with an open mind, try and get out and see as much as possible. If you have children, be sure to check the schools personally (unless you go to Delhi and can afford the American Embassy School, there, which has a fantastic reputation), and not only by taking the tour, but by trying to meet other parents, if at all possible.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about India?
www.katianovetsaintlot.com : I have a website and I also keep a blog where I often broach subjects relevant to the expatriate's experiences (among others).