Initial Difficulties Since Moving to India from the West

I thought I should share a couple of things I have found difficult since moving to India, especially as it’s something everyone keeps asking me.

I thought I should share a couple of things I have found difficult since moving to India

I may always find some of these things difficult while others I will surely get used to with time. It’s only been two months so it will be interesting to look back on this post one day and see if things have changed.

1. I miss my family and friends

I have no idea when I will return to England to see them again. I wish England and India were not half a world away and plane tickets were free. One of my best friends will soon be getting married, another one is due to give birth, I wish I could be by their sides during these special times. This leaves me feeling low sometimes.

2. Being unable to understand my new family

This is my ongoing struggle, the language barrier. My mother-in-law and I cannot communicate very well which sometimes leads to confusion but mostly leads to frustration.  When I have tried to speak Marathi people laugh at me which makes me feel uncomfortable and leaves me feeling disheartened. When someone speaks to me in English, people laugh at their attempts which I sense also makes them uncomfortable and  disheartened. The result is a feeling of isolation.

This brings me on to #3.

3. Giggling makes me self conscious

Trying to adapt to Indian life means having to try many new things, such as eating with my right hand (I am left-handed), cooking Indian dishes and wearing Indian clothes. I am trying but there have been many occasions when I have unintentionally been made to feel defeated when doing this.

My attempts are often met with laughter and giggles which makes me want to grab a fork, a pair of jeans and run to my room. I know that the giggles are not malicious or nasty but they still make me feel so self-conscious. I desperately look to my husband to check if they are laughing because I am doing it wrong;

I really do know that these giggles are harmless and only because they are seeing something unusual. I know that I have to work on building a thicker skin and a little more confidence. This will just take some time I guess, time for  my confidence to grow and time for people to get used to having me around and seeing me do crazy things like eat.

4. Lack of Independence

I have now made some short trips to the local coffee shop and supermarket but still feel a lack of independence. This will also take some time, learning the language and knowing my way around Nagpur for myself will surely help. For the time being, I still depend on my husband for everything.

5. Hearing that fair skin means beautiful

I have been bombarded by advertisement for fairness creams and fairness enhancers. I read ‘seeking a fair bride for our son’ in the newspaper personal columns and I have been told that fair skin means beautiful regardless of facial features.

I’m finding it upsetting that some people feel the need to bleach their skin to feel beautiful. The strange thing is that in the West girls desperately try to darken their skin with bronzers and tanning products with the opinion ‘the darker the better’. Ironic, right? The fairness obsession can be seen everywhere in India, from billboards to glossy magazines.

6. Lack of privacy

At first I was shocking when someone would walk into my bedroom without knocking, but I am slowly getting used to it. It keeps me on my toes, I have to make sure I have the door locked when because someone could (and has) walk in when I am getting dressed.

There always seems to be loads of people in our house, people I have never seen before turning up unannounced anytime, day or night. This is something that rarely happened in my house in England, people would make appointments, so I sometimes find it uncomfortable and overwhelming, especially when I am still in my pajamas with bird nest hair and I turn around and see we have guests.

7. Having maids

It sounds luxurious but I have found this to hard to adapt to. We have two maids and both of them are extremely nice and friendly but I find them intimating, for some reason I cannot put my finger on why I feel that way. Maybe it is because they can go around the house with confidence, walk into any room and do what they have to do whilst I hide around corners waiting for them to leave so I can make myself a cup of tea. I guess I just do not want to get in their way.

I have been woken up a couple times by one of our maids sweeping the floors in our room, she lets herself in without knocking. I also find it hard to find a time when to maid is not in the kitchen so I can cook for myself, I like to make my own food because the food that is made by the maid is not to my taste so I have to wait until she is finished, I rarely manage to make it to the kitchen before she does.

8. Touching the feet of elders

It is not just because of my clicking knees I find this a struggle. This tradition is a source of great anxiety for me and it all started on my first day in India. Touching the feet of your elders is a gesture of respect but I don’t yet know when it is appropriate or to whom it is appropriate.

When my grandmother-in-law was waiting to welcome me to my new home, my husband reached down and touched her feet and everyone looked at me. I had no idea whether I should do it or if maybe shouldn’t, countless thoughts flooded my mind. Do I have to wait until we are married to touch her feet? Am I allowed as a Westerner? In sheer panic I just gave her a massive hug which was fine. On subsequent meetings I knew she expected me to touch her feet but I am still slightly anxious about it when faced with new people.

Now I have a basic rule of just following husband but on the occasions when he is not around and I meet new people, I panic. Will they be offended that I think they are old? Will they be offended if I don’t do it? I try to keep in mind that people will understand my ignorance as I have not grown up with this custom.

9. Having my photograph taken without my permission

I am not sure why men want to take photographs of me, but they do! I do not like it at all. I have been photographed in may different ways without my permission, some more intrusive than others. I didn’t mind it so much to begin with but it soon became tiresome. I have been photographed from a distance and I have had a camera phone thrust in my face whilst I am eating a meal. I have had people who stand directly  in front of me and click a photo whilst others have been much more sneaky about it.

My husband and I were standing watching one of the marriage ceremonies during the wedding in Aurangabad we recently attended. I spotted a guy pretending to take a photo of his friend as he pointed his camera phone directly at us, I nudged my husband and said ‘I just saw another photo being taken’. My husband replied ‘yeah, I saw it too’. I pointed in the direction of the amateur photographer and my husband said ‘I saw it happen there’, pointing in the opposite direction. Two people were taking photographs at the same time, I couldn’t believe it.

10. Craving food I cannot find in India

I dream of cheddar cheese from the West Country melted on top of Heinz baked beans…  There is no need to continue on this point, it is torture to talk about it.

To conclude:

Whilst there are some things that drive me absolutely crazy, upset me and make me feel extremely uncomfortable, so far so good!

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164 thoughts on “Initial Difficulties Since Moving to India from the West

  1. Pingback: Valentine's Day: A Series of Cake Related Disasters | English Wife, Indian Life | Diary of a Firangi Bahu

  2. Pingback: How my relationship with the maids has changed | English Wife, Indian Life

  3. Hey Lauren,

    Wanted to comment for sooooo long
    i m reading ur blog for couple of months now
    n i m nJoyin it a lot

    I m also from Maharashtra (Pune)…. a marathi gal!
    if u feel like talkin to somebody, do mail me, and if u plan to come to Pune, let me knw we can definitely meet 🙂

    Like

  4. Pingback: Harassment in Temples: Is anywhere sacred? - English Wife, Indian Life

  5. I know this is an old post, but I had to comment to let you know how much I identify with this post even though I grew up in India. I wonder if I would be better off had I not lived abroad. Coming back to India and adjusting to the life here has been the worst struggle of my life so far. I wonder if I’ll ever be comfortable.

    I hope your journey is a lot smoother than mine. Wish you the best!

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    • Aww thank you for your comment, Sowmya!
      I has taken a lot of time but most of these things I am starting to come to terms with. It really is such a struggle!! I hope that you are well, sending you hugs xxx

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  6. Hi . It is much difficult even for Indian women to adjust to a huge joint family , I can only imagine how it would be for you. Nagpur as a city is still a bit conservative as compared to Mumbai and Pune which have become more cosmopolitan and are a melting pot of different cultures. I am from Pune at is not uncommon here for couples to live separately even if their in-laws stay in the same city which is much easier ( and better what I feel ) . Wish you all the very best

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  7. Indian relationships by western standards might be too primitive. In india between husband and wife I am correct, there are no personal spaces, it is just we. between relations in the family and between family the personal space is very limited (too small). It is quite common for friends and relatives to drop in the house unannounced because afterall can there be formalities between friends and relations? The concept of taking prior appointments are yet to be catchup.
    We in Chennai also face this problem especially it is very difficult when both the husband and wife are a working couple.
    Best wishes

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    • Hey Ila,

      I could be attached to my husbands hip, there is not space between us… it’s just everyone else I am uncomfortable with. Over time, each side has adapted though. To drop by unannounced in England is considered EXTREMELY rude, so it’s been a big adjustment!

      I hope you are well!

      Take care

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  8. Hey Lauren,

    I Stumbled upon your blog today and I’ve been surprised by what I’ve read. You seem like an absolutely wonderful person who is going above and beyond what is expected of her. Indian girls in India don’t do what you do. Girl, you have a choice. You don’t have to touch people’s feet, a namaste or a hug will do. And the last time I heard someone conforming to the covering chest with dupatta was in a 80s Bollywood movie. Your in laws may have a lot of expectations, but you don’t have to be so self sacrificing and do things to solely please them (and wait to be able to live your life only after you move out of the house). The more you comply, the more will be expected of you. Whenever I visit India I ask people to knock on my bedroom door, and they do! If you like a tradition, adopt it. But if it makes you uncomfortable, don’t. You seem like a very polite person, I’m sure you can tactfully raise issues in your family.

    Good luck!

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    • Hey Rd!

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment!! Yes, it’s been a while since I wrote this post and most of these things have been sorted (PHEW!). Knocking is such a big thing, I am glad I could transfer it!

      Sending you lots of love

      Lauren

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  9. Hi Lauren,

    Agreeing with the post above, I’m afraid your husband’s family seems a lot more conservative and orthodox than a lot of modern upper middle class families nowadays. In fact, having lived in India all my life, I’ve hardly met families where wearing dupatta or such other customs are followed. My own mother is free to wear jeans/skirts etc. and do whatever she wants. Perhaps you could get your husband to point it out to your in-laws that feet-touching, dupatta wearing etc. are not prevalent practices even for Indian brides.

    You should considering telling the maids to refrain from entering the room before knocking, after all they are only there to make life easier and not worse! I agree Nagpur is a lot smaller than the larger Metro cities but all food options should be available if you really search.

    Also, I wanted to point out that joint families are not the norm. Feel free to tell your husband if you want a separate home and are unable to adjust with in-laws. Trust me, tons of Indian couples do it.

    Anyway, I wish you all the best and a happy married life!

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    • Hey Saumya,

      I hope you are well, thank you for your comment!

      It was a good while since I wrote this post and after living in a joint family for over a year, we are moving out to have some time alone.

      I have found some Western food outlets, pizza hut just opened which is great!!

      Thank you so much again for your comment! Wishing you a lovely day!!

      Take care,

      Lauren

      Like

  10. Hi Lauren

    I don’t know if you’ve been asked this, but how do you feel about giving up your career that you had in England?
    In time, would you, and could you, pick it up again in your part of the world
    Does your sense of self begin to change as the cultural identity is different there?

    Like

    • Hey Julie,

      I wasn’t completely happy in my career, I wanted to be a pharmacist to help people but soon it became apparent that pharmacy is a lot more to do with making money and sometimes I felt as if the way it was dealt with was very immoral and I became really distressed by it. I have now decided to pursue a writing career and hope to help people with my words instead. But, who knows what the future holds?

      My sense of self was initially broken (living in a joint family was tough on me) but slowly I have been building it up again, finding myself, my happiness and my truth.

      I hope you are well xx

      Like

  11. Hi Lauren,
    I have been reading your blog for a while and I find it interesting. We share the fact that we both are non Indian (I am Italian) married to an Indian husband and we live in India. I live in Mumbai and even tough I can relate to most of the things your share with us, I really can not relate to the conservative/ traditional society/ family in-lows you sometime have to deal with. The reason can be that Mumbai is a very cosmopolitan and modern city and I don’t live with my in lows. My Indian friends here are citizens of the world in the sense that they embrace the best of the western and Indian culture, they are a mix of both. Not everyone of course, but the majority for sure. When I came to India I made a slightly different choice then yours, I didn’t go for the sindoor or for traditional clothes, I kept my western style and this never bordered anyone. I mean I never felt like I have “to fit in” or maybe I nerver felt I have to go Indian style to fit it, but this is my personal stand/feelings. Living in India for more then two years by now changed me a lot as a person, mostly in better, or so I hope! I also hope that by now you have gained much more independence in moving around because I feel this is very important. A city like Mumbai helps a lot in terms of confidence in moving around because there are lot of safe parts/areas in the city and the outskirts and there are so many places to go to. I am also part of a community based in Mumbai called Adaar, foreigners married to Indians, it’s a support community and through this community I met lot of women coming to India from abroad to live here for good with their Indian husband. Lot of them are living here from so many years and are confident and socially active women, and some of them run very successful business. I like to be part of that community because the people in it inspired me in many ways as you did with your blog! Anyway it’s nice to read your blog and let’s keep in touch trough it.

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    • Hey Tiziana,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I do hear Mumbai is a lot more liberal than little Nagpur. This post is kinda old and so much has changed. I too feel more independent, we are moving to our own place and I have overcome many of those “culture shocks”. Lovely to hear about inspiring women, hopefully a network will be here in Nagpur one day!!

      Thank you again,

      Keep in touch!

      Lauren xx

      Like

  12. Hi Lauren…
    Your life seems very interesting.. I can’t imagine how you have managed to adjust in different country..
    I have married my boyfriend who belongs to different cast but still I face many issues with culture , language and many more.
    Lady.. hatts off to you!!

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  13. Thanks Lauren.
    Yes I and my hubby are doing well.
    There are many issues with the religion and culture but.. it’s our “LOVE” which binds us together.

    I mean, e.g. I used to love egg omelette but I left it for my hubby after marriage and became pure vegetarian as he belongs to a Jain Family (Jains/Brahmans are vegetarians).
    I left spicy food which I used to have at my mom’s home, as at my hubby’s home the food is not so spicy.
    There are many more things like this where I did sacrifices but still life is good because “He is with me”.

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  14. As your room requires privacy , your eating and living , so your married life also requires privacy, with so many advisers ,they can ruin . If you love your man and did everything do accept their parents , traditions and life because before u came in his life he was their part, so he can never forget them,many year later you will realise that the golden opportunity you got to live with in laws is no more as they are no where in this world and you will be confused with dual living of your own. If you married him love his totality along with country , culture , home parents and friends otherwise its slightly cracking which you may not be seeing. But you have left his parents. And may soon leave his indian food, indian dress, his friends , relatives,truth is you are cracking . Marriage is mot a poster you share with strangers but with the person and his family.
    Hope you will take my advice seriously.

    Like

    • Hello Kumar,

      I hope that one day you will realise that everyone on this Earth is different and not one way of life fits all. Just because you feel that your way of life is superior, do not dictate to other people what is right and what is wrong.

      We are not cracking, my husband and I are living our life the way we want to live it. If anything, we are blossoming. You have no idea what the “truth” is because you don’t even know us.

      I am a writer, this is what I do. If you don’t like it then please stop reading.

      Like

  15. Hi lauren , I been reading your blog and you are such a sweetheart. Congratulations on finding your soul mate .from what I been reading in your blogs, he is such a great guy.you are very lucky to have a husband like him.
    Let me adress some of your concerns.
    First touching feet of elders-yes that’s a custom we follow in india.but if you are confused of that tradition, you can just say ‘namaste’

    Like

  16. Hi there!

    I found my way to your interesting blog suddenly and wanted to write a few words. I am Scandinavian wife of an Indian guy and we have been living in India for several years now. We are also living in a joint family and we have a little daughter. Things have probably changed a lot for you within this first year, but this post from 2014 brought a lot of memories of my thoughts when I first came to India (and some struggles are kind of growing and changing and occasionally going back to the point where I started:-).

    Now let me devour some more posts! How wonderful that you keep this blog!

    Henna

    Like

    • Hey Henna,

      Thank you so much for your comment!! Lovely to hear from you!!!! I would love to hear more about your experiences some time! I hope you have settled down well now and India feels like home, it must have been hard at first!

      Lots of love to you and your family!!

      Lauren xx

      Like

      • Hi Lauren,
        I think I’ve seen u and ur husband on a TV channel interview first, after that just now only I’ ve seen ur story on internet unexpectedly, while I was searching the procedure of marrying a foreign women, I’m Indian. Really u r husband s so lucky guy he got u (an English wife).. I liked ur blogs n replies for others comments.
        I was so interested n liked to read ur story and experience bcoz I liked it so much and I had a wish if an English girl court me someday but it couldn’t happen, instead of that God decided a Filipino girl for me..we r in a relationship now an planing to get marry.. thank u so much to share ur story on internet n ur blogs it’s very interesting..May God bless u n ur family..

        Like

  17. I feel sorry for the pictures taken of you without your permission. Some of my friends do that too and I don’t find it good. And hey why don’t you tell them to knock the door before coming? My family used to march in my room without knocking the door, i made it clear that I want it be knocked before anyone comes in.

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