Everyone living abroad talks about returning to India, going back to their homeland. They even have a term coined for it: r2i – return-to-India. Sooner or later, every Indian settled overseas considers returning home, or at least thinks about it. Regardless how much you plan and how much you look forward to it, the real life experience always brings its own surprises – the good and the bad ones.
Most of the NRIs romanticize about the life in India. However, those returning to India have their own complaints about life back home:
Traffic: After living in America or Europe for a long time, we get used to the smooth flow of traffic and the traffic rules. We know, it is not the same in India. There are just way too many cars and bikes on the road, compared to what we are used to abroad. And remember, the more aggressive drivers make their own traffic rules, most of the time.
Not the same old neighborhood: I wrote a full article on this recently, the home we left behind many years ago is not the same, neither is the neighborhood. The old friends have moved on with their lives. The shady tree next to the pond is gone, so is the pond. It is not the same India you left behind decades ago. Time changes everything. The past is long gone – even in India!
Kids hate it: many parents return to India to raise their kids in Indian culture speaking Indian language. However, the whole experience is very hard on kids. The language, the new place, the new surroundings, the power cuts, the crowd…the whole thing overwhelms them. They like India for vacationing, but forget the permanent living part.
Faded bonds of Family and friends: Many of us return home to be with family and old friends. However, once you go back, it does not feel like the good old days. Everybody is on a different wavelength; they have their own lives to live.
Customer service lacks: There is no reliable customer service. It is getting better slowly and the private businesses seem to understand the importance of it. However, the bureaucracy and politics run the government offices.
Too crowded: The shops, the marketplace, the streets, the doctor’s office…every place is way too crowded. Get used to waiting for a long time, even if you have an appointment.
Reverse culture shock: R2I brings the reverse adaptation – getting used to the new Indian way of life. The language, the social interaction, the pace of daily life…it is time to recalibrate to the new standards of life. You don’t realize how much you have changed until you come back.
The system is broke: If you need a drivers’ license, need to get passport or have any other need that requires going to a government office, get used to the waits, delays and very poor customer service. Once you tell them, that you are an NRI, they want to help you, but for their own monetary gains.
Everybody is after your money: You will make lots of local friends, but many of them like you just for your money. I guess that is same everywhere, but more so In India.
Everybody is in your business: Forget the concept of personal privacy; everybody wants to know everything about you. Anything that you do is a public affair.
Too laid back: Now, many may consider this a good thing and it probably is, the life in general is very laid back. Nobody is in a hurry. Even your driver does not see anything wrong with taking a break at his own convenience or showing up late.
Pedestrian and bikers have least right of way: In America, we pay extra attention to the bikers and pedestrians on the road. It is quite the opposite in India. The ones with the bigger vehicles rule the roadside.
Medical and doctors: Medical care, the emergency care and the response to critical medical needs is nowhere close to what we have in Western courtiers. There are lots of good doctors but the system lacks efficiency and order.
General Hygiene: It is hard to ignore the hygiene issues. People ignoring basic cleanliness, the flies hovering over everything…it is everywhere – the restaurants, the houses, the parties, the bazaars. But that is no surprise, you might say, it was always there. It must be that we tend to forget! :
There are lots of good things about being back in India, being back at home. There are many pleasant surprises for returning NRIs, but some unpleasant ones too.
- NRIs’ misplaced nostalgia of good old days
- Why do NRIs return to India?
- The NRI dilemma: This country or that home?