In a lot of ways, India and Nepal are quite similar. We love the street culture; open shops, street food, vendors of all kinds, public transportation, running into friends who invite you up for a beverage, meeting new friends on the way to get milk… it’s so different from the empty roads, closed doors, and the fast-paced “in and out” culture that defines most of America. And although Nepal is also a relational, open streets, honor-shame based culture, we are discovering more and more of the distinct differences between here and Bangalore.
The food is quite different. Formal and traditional mannerisms and customs are more preserved and the culture here is overall less affected by the West. And remember when I wrote about having to change out of our pj’s in India when locals would call or come over late in the evening? Dinner with our Indian friends was never much earlier than 9 pm, and many social events had us up and out until past midnight. We totally adapted the local schedule there; later dinners, active nights, and we slept in much later than what is acceptable in the states. In fact, it took us a little bit to readjust to culture when we were back in Fort Worth, and I remember being embarrassed a few times when people made comments about our bedtimes and sleep habits. Anyway, while the streets in India are still full and lively into the evening, everything here shuts down pretty promptly around 8:30. Walking outside past then is lonely and a little eire. Being able to walk so many places is great in the daylight, but it’s not very awesome when the taxi’s stop running and you have no other option than to walk in the dark when there is rarely even a car or a scooter out and the only company you may have is a pack of stray dogs. When we’ve been out late, we have to get the guards attention so that he can unlock the gate and let us back into the colony, rescuing us from the dogs that begin to congregate.
The company house is in a small gated community in a nice neighborhood. It’s been a terrific landing place; the location, other kids, the safety while starting off in a new land… but, we are ready to come out from behind the gates and move into a place with a little more foot traffic and local community. Plus, as we’ve already shared, not all of the neighbors have been welcoming and inclusive. It’s true, this has been a pretty smooth and easy transition, but it’s not been without any struggle. Do you want to know a few of the things that no one tells you about before you sell all of your belonging and trek across the globe??
Yes, it’s true, a lot of locals adore foreigners. But also, there are many who don’t; they’re skeptical, and mostly with good reason. Some people treat foreigners dishonestly. Today the boys and one of their expat friends were asked to pay 370 rupees for sodas that cost 35 rupees. When they said no, the woman dropped they price by 10 or 20 rupees at a time until the boys gave in and paid 200 rupees per 35 rupee soda. It’s not just them. It’s us too. It happens in America. We are all prone to give in to temptation and take advantage of situations. We struggle to know how to relate to people who are different from us. And without a compelling reason, why would one make the effort to try? On top of that, humans are competitive; and I’m not just talking about rage quitting a game of Settlers… When someone shares exciting news with you about an opportunity, or a new position, or pregnancy, or relationship… what’s your gut reaction? How do you respond? When I shared with a local gal that I was going to try and start going to Zumba, she said “even I am going to go to Zumba.” Now, she had no prior interest in Zumba before our conversation, but the interaction totally illustrates my point. How many times, instead of saying “hey, I’m glad for you friend” or “that’s awesome, tell me more” do we instead say something more like “I’m doing that too,” or maybe even the equivalent of “I’ve got something better going on.” How many times do we share information simply to say “I’m doing this awesome thing” without any intent to give an invitation. People often communicate in rounds of one-upping each other. How many events get planned out of feeling left out of something else? How many things do you find yourself being a part of because you feel compelled to be the first, or to be included, or to be in charge? Man, we can run ourselves ragged. I’m here to admit that the folks who move overseas haven’t risen above these things.
Moving to any new place can often feel like high school all over again. Some friendships are quick and amazing, but not everyone wants to bring you into their cirlces, or make room for extra or unexpected guests at the table. Not everyone will share the good chocolate, or tell you where they shop for coveted commodities. Not everyone appreciates collaboration. Making new friends is still emotional and messy, relationships still take work.
I’m sorry that social media feeds (mine included) can often make the expat life look like a long glorious vacation. Please read my last post too, and know that being an expat is hard. Cultural adjustment alongside navigating relationship dynamics… all in a new faraway place, while learning a new language, leading your kids and helping them with all the same struggles to varying degrees… Yes, it’s good, it’s so worth it, but let’s just be honest about what it looks like.