India was a transformative experience for Susanna Di Cosimo on her first visit to the country in 2011: “It was such an overwhelming experience that when I went back to Italy my life was not the same anymore.”
Back in Naples, she resolved to move to India permanently. She gave up her job as a managerial secretary at a law firm and headed to India in 2013. She hasn’t looked back since, and even found love. She currently works as a travel designer, developing itineraries for Italian tourists.
Moving to India
Once I decided to move to India, I left my rented flat in Naples, sold every piece of furniture I owned, got all the possible money to face the first few months in India. I knew that I would not be able to get back on my feet and start supporting myself financially for at least some time. My family didn’t think so too and for the first few years, they hoped I would change my mind and come back. But, I just couldn’t leave.
Life as an Expat
Very often, expatriates are like walking wallets for the Indians. It is always assumed that an expatriate is rich, which is not always so; not all of them are. And sometimes, we are charged much more for everything just because we are “expats.”
There are a lot of difficulties to go through to find your place in the society and language is one of those. Learning Hindi for me is quite difficult and English is not spoken everywhere.
Finding her Partner
When I started living in Delhi, I found a house, which I shared with four other people, who were from different parts of the world, one from Africa, Columbia and two from France. We always had different people over from our workplaces and one time at one of my roommate’s birthday parties, I met Gaurav (Sharma), who is now my husband.
We both had our own sets of prejudices and insecurities, but we overlooked that and went out for a cup of coffee. And ever since, we have been together and got married in 2016.
What I like the most about my relationship with Gaurav is that he didn’t like me for my looks or my “white skin” but the fact that we both could connect beyond that.
The Cross-Cultural Wedding
Both Gaurav and I belong to two different nations and cultures, so we decided to keep one of our ceremonies in India and one in Naples in Italy, where both families could reunite and celebrate the occasion.
Adjusting to India
To be honest, in these four years, I never had to “adjust” to India. I’ve always felt comfortable. Every time I had to go back to Italy, I felt like I was going abroad and not “home.”
Living with my mother-in-law is something I am still getting used to. There is a lot of love that I receive every day, not just from her, but from my husband’s whole family, which I have never been used to, so I feel overwhelmed at times.
Best Thing About India
In India, you can get everything you want or need; it’s just a matter of money. But more than that, In India there is always something that you cannot find anywhere else, whether it is going to an ashram or to meditate on a mountain or just opening your heart to new experiences, without any fears.
The one thing I would change about India
The lack of respect for the ecosystem, and people’s attitude toward it. I live in a very beautiful area in Delhi, Mehrauli, which is near the Qutub Minar and unfortunately to go home I have to pass through a dump of garbage thrown away by people who simply don’t care.
Most surprising thing about India
The most beautiful and surprising thing about India are the women here. From the big cities to the small villages, I think the whole of India relies on the shoulders of their women. Not only do they work hard, but they do not complain, move ahead, and support their husbands, children and parents. I have never seen this anywhere in the world.
Obviously, there is a down side to it, because their patience is infinite and unfortunately there are those who take advantage of it. For this reason, often the condition of women in India is certainly not enviable.
Socializing with Expats
I like to socialize with the expats, especially with the ones who are from Italy. I am heading an expat group on Facebook, where I organize monthly meetings for Italian expats. A portal where they could get access to all the help that they need while moving to India, or if they are in India.
Sometimes I really miss my family, the food, the blue sky, the drinkable water and the clean air back in Italy.
Best Advice for Expats
Live like a local. Integration is the key.
Expat Voice is regular column on expats in India. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate yourself or another expat for the column.