The best countries to live abroad

Which country is best for an immigrant?
It depends. It depends on what is most important to you and how you rank associated facilities and conveniences.

There are all kinds of surveys where expats are asked their opinion about their destination country and their personal experiences. . The surveys often provide an insight into the expat life abroad.

The main factors that are important to anyone living abroad are:
Economics: The jobs and occupations, employment, earning levels, spend­ing, saving and investing etc.
Living Experience: The quality of life, ease of relocation, social circle, friends and family etc.
Raising Children and family Abroad: The childcare, health benefits, family friendly environment  and education etc.

Based on a survey by the Expat Explorer, here are the results – best countries for an expat to live abroad.

Overall Ranking – Taking everything into account – the local economy, living experience and raising a family, here the top countries :

1. Hong Kong

2. Australia

3. Canada

4. Netherlands

5. United Arab Emirates

6. United States

7. Saudi Arabia

8. United Kingdom

9. Kuwait

10. Cayman Islands

11. Thailand

12. Spain Continue reading “The best countries to live abroad”

You Know You’re Indian If (funny):

Some fun-facts, interesting observations and comic beliefs about Indians living abroad!  🙂
U r desi if:

  • Your parents drink 6 cups of tea a day.
  • When you are unwell/sick, everyone turns into a doctor advising what to do.
  • You have a 40 lb. bag of rice in your pantry.
  • Your parents lecture you in English “No English; you should speak in your mother tongue at home!”
  • “You want an iPhone? When I was your age, I didn’t even have shoes!!” Parents quip.
  • You have to call just about all your parent’s friends ‘Auntie’/’Uncle.’
  • You arrive an hours (or two) late to a party and think it’s normal.
  • Your dad is either some type of engineer or a doctor or a taxi-driver… or owns a convenience store.
  • Your parents blame everything bad on bad Karma from previous lives.
  • Everything you eat is savored in garlic, onion and tomatoes
  • Your parents talk for an hour at the front door when leaving someone’s house.
  • Continue reading “You Know You’re Indian If (funny):”

The Vaisakhi Abroad

April 13 – The Vaisakhi Day! The Baisakhi Day! Call what you like! 🙂
The Vaisakhi is one of the most popular festivals of North India.

For centuries, Vaisakhi has marked the time when farmers get ready to put their sickles to the harvest and celebrate a new year. Those old sickles have been replaced by the modern automated machinery; the farmers have outsourced the labor to the migrant workers but the Vaisakhi festival continued to be celebrated with same vigor, with same fanfare.

The festival bears even greater significance for the Sikhs – the Sikh Religion foundation was laid on this day in 1699.

The Vaisakhi festival is equally popular among the Punjabi communities abroad. Throughout the world wherever Punjabi’s are settled, the festival is a key part of their social and religious customs. Desi communities all over the world have their own ways of honoring this tradition of Vaisakhi Mela. Continue reading “The Vaisakhi Abroad”

Indian values or right values?

Learning the mother tongue…
The Sunday classes in the temple or Gurudwara…
Attending religious recitals even if you don’t understand what the priest is saying….

Growing-up abroad is a challenge in itself, not that we realize it when we are kids. Being a minority has its own offshoot effects that you cannot control.You cannot change your skin tone, unless you are Michael Jackson – not so easy, and you are still the same person inside! 🙂

Being an Indian overseas comes with its own demands. You not only have to worry about the the bigots and the racist idiots on the street, but your parents and elders are paranoid to the point of obsession; the obsession with raising the kids with ‘Indian values’.

Growing up in India – you are amongst your own kind; you are immersed in your own culture. As a child in India, the social values are spoon-fed over the years; you are surrounded by your own kind; you are the majority. No confusion, no duplicity.

Living abroad however, our culture at home is often different than the culture on the street. We are dealing with a multicultural society. Our social settings are totally different and multidimensional. As a kid growing up, we adapt to the surroundings, to the society we grow-up in.

Growing up in American or any other Western society, the Indian American families tend to hold on to the inherited culture and Indian social values much more closely. The parents cling to the carried-over traditions from India, holding on to the Indian roots very dearly. The Indian families make a very conscious effort to instill the Indian values into their kids. Continue reading “Indian values or right values?”

The green door

I cannot believe he is dead!

He lived on the north side of my town, on Dorothy street. I used to pass by his house during my evening strolls. His house had an over-sized green door that did not seem to fit the neighborhood, just like him.

With a white beard and a grey turban; he was easy to spot from a distance. I always found him outside his house, gardening in the front-yard or just admiring the outdoor. As I would walk-by, I exchanged hello/hi with him. I was just being polite – out of respect for our elders. But over time, I made his acquaintance. He liked to talk, I found out pretty soon. Chatting with him became a part of my evening routines.
“Beautiful weather! Nice day for a walk!! Scattered clouds over there, look like a floating goat!!!” He would say random things with a chuckle. He laughed at his own jokes; that used to be a cue for me to laugh.

He was very fond – actually very proud, of India and all things Indian, I could tell. Not that I needed to know, but he often told me the virtues of Indian society, the pride of being Indian. He also reminded me how advanced Indian are, compared to the ‘white people’ as he would call them.

“I was the first Indian in this town” he mentioned one evening, “There were no Indian shops in this area!!”
“It must be hard back then”, I once asked; that was bad idea. For next 20-30 minutes, he told me all about the hardships of being an isolated Indian living amongst white folks.
“Many mornings I used to find eggs shells all over my new car in this driveway; these racist people, I tell you!….”

Sometimes, he complained, but he was not bitter. He told his past stories with the same braggadocio as a captain would shares his encounters with the rough stormy weather.

He was different. I enjoyed these brief daily encounters, and his stories from all over the places. He came across as a fanatic Indian; he never tried to hide his obvious bias for ‘the great India’. Without hesitation, he would share his thoughts about superior Indian culture, the sins of the western society…. But it was never monotonous; he always had new anecdotes.
I did not agree with many of his views, but I never argued with him either. When in serious mood, he spoke like a professor, like a preacher – as if never in doubt. I thought to myself – you cannot change the thinking of an old man, those outdated views….

I recall it was Friday; I did not see him outside his house that evening. It was strange, his absence. Then, even more disturbing, I did not see him for days, for weeks. I looked for him, I even waited and lingered around his house, but he was nowhere to be found. Continue reading “The green door”

2012 US Elections – Romnesia and Obamaloney

The US Presidential Elections are less than 10 days away. And, I can hardly wait for the whole thing to be over!!

The attack ads, the twisted truths and repeated slogans bombarding the airwaves day and night – the election campaign is a bit put-off, and quite often down right distasteful. I don’t think anyone look forward to watching these political ads anymore. I cannot see anybody enjoying the propaganda unless you are a fanatic follower of the candidates or you have nothing better to do!

Throughout these campaigns and bitterly contested debates, both parties are promising a lot for the next 4 years if you elect their guy – the economic prosperity, the financial reforms and how well they understand the average American’s woes…

I wonder if politicians believe that the voters are too dumb to see through the thin veil that separates the reality from the promise-land. It is sad and disheartening that American politics is down right dirty and is driven by so much negativity. You have to think – there is something fundamentally wrong they way the system operates!

I am not a democrat nor republican. Like many of you, I am turned off by the while political system. Moreover, I don’t think the American president has as much power as they advertise during the election days. Remember, any new law has to go through the both houses of US congress; and we all know how inefficient and how divided the US congress is.
So, no matter how many promises either of the candidate makes, keeping those promises is a whole different thing. May I advise, a grain of salt, or a spoonful! Continue reading “2012 US Elections – Romnesia and Obamaloney”

Pride

No matter where we live, there are always things to complain about; plenty of people to blame. It is human nature. Different culture, different place, and different values – yes, things are different when you live abroad, different from back home.

No matter where we live, Indians are good at adjusting and adapting, and ultimately competing toe-to-toe in every aspect of life, in every corner of the world. The same applies to those settled in USA.

Success is a part of Indian culture. We strive to accomplish high goals; we fight to prove ourselves. It is in our blood.  Just look within US boundaries: two reigning governors in the highest state offices, countless Indians in NASA and other prestigious research facilities all over. The same is true for a large portion of highly skilled occupations – doctors, scientists, engineers…. the Indians are everywhere in America, in every walk of life.

There are plenty of things to complain about. But, there are plenty of reasons to be proud of, if we look around!

Indian American population in America is a growing and prosperous section of US society. If you get the chance to walk through the corridors of any leading US corporation – banks, medical offices, engineering firms….., you will notice that Indian Americans hold every level of positions including officer and executive jobs. Indians are contributing to the US socio-economic dynamics from every aspect. The numbers and ratios of Indians employed by the leading companies – the like of Google, Microsoft, Apple, Citibank…. continue to grow. Continue reading “Pride”

A baby’s cry

“Mom, it is a baby girl…,” her voice barely audible, she called her mother in India.
“Are you okay? Is the baby okay?” Her mom inquired, her voice nervous, but excited.
Sonya was too tired to respond, but that did not stop her mother from asking more questions, “When was she born? Who she looks like? Have you named her?…”
“Mom”, Sonya interrupted, “the nurse is here, I am very sleepy; will call you later..”
“Are you okay, is the baby okay?”
“yes mom, we are okay,” she said before ending the call.

The hospital discharged her along with the baby two days later. The nurse gave her a handful of literature, each pamphlet with a different title – ‘How to care for a new born’, ‘what to expect after a natural birth’, ‘Newborn feeding techniques’….
She was tired, she was drained, she was not ready to take care of her first born. The Nurse helped buckle the baby in the new car-seat and Raj drove them home – to their apartment in Mississauga.

“How is the baby doing,” he mom phoned again next morning.
“Esha is okay, she is sleeping now.”
“Beautiful name”, she paused, “How are you doing?”
“I am okay mom, I am very tired. the baby was awake all night.”
“Oh, where is Raj?”
“He is at work, I am home alone with the baby and I am worried”
“Worried about what, Sonya?”
“If the baby wakes up..” Continue reading “A baby’s cry”

The gold pendant

She does not know her real date of birth; nobody does. By her own accounts, “I was 12 when India became free; when England split Punjab into two parts….” The date on her passport is as random as a weather forecast from a medicine man.
In her 70s, she has outlived all of her siblings, and one of her own sons. Her eyesight is fading. The arthritis in her hands bothers her only during winter chills, “a little pain here and there is good for you; reminds you that you are still alive!” Ups and downs of life don’t affect her much.
She is happy; she learned compromises over the years; she learned how to be content, how to adapt.

Her son greeted her at the Toronto Pearson airport. They hugged, for a long time. With moist eyes, she looked around.
“Where is Anita?” She inquired in Punjabi, the only language she can speak.
“She is still at work maa!” He replied in Punjabi.
“How about Jessie, my little angel?”
“At school, should be home by the time we drive there. “
She looked around – a brand new place, a brand new country.
“Let’s go home maa!” He interrupted her thoughts.
‘Home’, she said to herself, ‘I left my home in India…how many homes one can have!’ she chuckled at her own thoughts. And then, she said out loud, “We need to get two boxes of sweets on the way!”
“Maa, there are no Indian stores on the way! Plus, we don’t eat much sugar anyways”
‘Canada – Strange country’, she looked around, again….

They arrived home. Anita and Jessie, greeted his mother at the door. They hugged, for a long time. Her eyes filled with tears of joys at the sight of her 12 years old grand-kid. She hugged her, again. In a strange way, she felt at home!

After the tea and some rest, she opened her suitcase and took-out a gold pendant with a small diamond in the middle. She had it custom made for Jessie. Handing her the expensive gift, she embraced her her gently.
Jessie took the pendant, looked at it for a long time, as if mesmerized. She hesitated, paused, walked over to Anita sitting in the love-seat.
“I don’t want it, mom!” She handed over pendant to her mother. Continue reading “The gold pendant”

Accent improvement for Indian speakers – the ‘V ’ vs. ‘W’ sound

English Pronunciation for Indian and South-Asian Speakers: ‘v’ vs. ‘w’

Listen carefully to Americans/British speakers when they say words with the letter ‘V’  and ‘W’. Notice how the ‘V’ sounds very different from the ‘W’; there is a clear difference between ‘w’ and ‘v’ sounds. Even though most of Indians understand the difference, the distinction is often not carried out in spoken English.

In Hindi, Punjabi and many other native languages from India, we do use ‘V’ sound. The absence of ‘W’ sound in our mother-tongue may be the reason that we often confuse/mix-up the two sounds in English language.

The ‘V’ sound:  To pronounce the ‘V’ sound correctly, place lower lip gently against the upper front teeth and make the sound. Don’t press it hard, you should be able to exhale through, while making the sound. You will need lots of practice if you are not used to it.
Remember, ‘V’ is a “hard” sound; make a tone, don’t just breathe out. Just breathing out makes the ‘F’ sound. Continue reading “Accent improvement for Indian speakers – the ‘V ’ vs. ‘W’ sound”

Accent improvement for Indian speakers – the ‘R’ sound

Accent and pronunciation improvement for Indian speakers – avoid ‘rolling R’

When it comes to English language, especially for a novice speaker from India, many sounds and pronunciations need extra attention. The ‘r’ sound is one such challenge for many Indians treading the English speaking universe.
The American/English ‘r’ sound is very different from the way many Indians pronounce it. Without realizing, some of us put extra stress on ‘r’; this extra stress/pronunciation may sound similar to ‘rolling r’. Continue reading “Accent improvement for Indian speakers – the ‘R’ sound”

Funny translations around the globe!

What do you call a person who only speaks English? An American! But fear not, many countries try to help the visitors by putting up signs in English language.

A hotel elevator in Paris read:
Please leave your values at the front desk.

The real meaning may be lost in translations unless that’s what they really meant! The unintended outcomes of English translation are at full display in many of these travel signs, intended to help the tourists! Here are some of the funny ones:

Ladies have fits upstairs.
~ Outside a dress shop in Hong Kong

Drop your trousers here for the best results.
~ A Bangkok dry cleaner’s sign Continue reading “Funny translations around the globe!”

The Life Abroad – I

Life. Life is a sequence of seasons – winter waiting for spring, summer-heat longing for autumn. Life is a picnic in the playground, with bread crumbs scattered all around, attracting the pigeons and crows alike. Life is daydreaming and being satisfied with the resulting illusions.
Life. Days spent surfing the net, wandering in the shopping malls, driving to the country side, watching an old tv show re-run, to relive the past – life is what we never thought it would be.

He was 23 when he migrated to Canada – big dreams, bigger illusions. University of Toronto campus was his home for next 2 years – long sessions in the engineering labs, studying for exams until 4AM… working on the gas-station during week-end… His father, a small farmer in Punjab, sent over money regularly, but that could barely support his tuition.
He shared the apartment with 3 other Indian students – it was cheaper that way, more economical for student life. A few times a week, they went to the Dixie Gurdwara; not because they were religious, – half of them were not even Sikhs, – you just cannot beat the free food from the ‘langar’ – the ‘common kitchen’. Continue reading “The Life Abroad – I”

The fading hue

The bright yellow saree with flowery pattern clings to her tall slender body, almost exposing her to the imaginative eyes. She wears it, the saree, with grace – her walk measured, her stance determined. Her lips are wide; her smile big – like a Bollywood movie actress, only less assuming. She speaks with politeness, yet determination of a teacher. Her animated hand gestures and a fair complexion mislead you to think that she could be Italian. Her attire, the controlled manners, and the lowered eyes give away the secret however, that she is Indian. As she walks from guests to guests, she leaves behind a trace of French perfume; she leave behind many turned heads.. Saying that she is pretty does not do a complete justice.
On her right shoulder she has a flower tattoo – not a real tattoo, no! Her mother would not allow that. It is a kind of tattoo that some kids and teenagers make out of sticky and shiny glitters. She is no teenager, not by any measures except some traces of childish youth left in her heart. She has her own kids aged 3 and 6, a boy and a girl, left for the evening at her mother’s house.
It is a January, a wintry cold weekend. They are gathered for a social evening at her friend’s house, a mansion actually. The big house stands on the outskirts of Surrey, British Columbia. The sunlight from the west filters through the huge windows accenting the silky curtains that seem to never end, not even when they touch the marble tiles of matching floor. Continue reading “The fading hue”