Natalia Tyczynska from Poland first visited India in 2011 for an internship with a company that organizes international medical conferences. She then worked for a real estate company before leaving the country.
“I made great friendships and traveled a lot during those nine months that I lived here,” New Delhi-based Tyczynska, who hails from Poland, tells Little India. “I will never forget that time. I left India to work in France but soon realized that my story with this country was not finished yet. I just knew I had to come back. So I did.”
Tyczynska, 31, who finally moved to India in 2014, runs a boutique travel agency in New Delhi with business partner Sarune Baubaite. She talks about her work and experiences in India:
Wanderlust Brought Me Here
My love for travel brought me to India. I will always remember my paragliding experiences in Goa, and Bir Billing in Himachal Pradesh, my first Himalayan trekking experience, spotting a tiger on my first jeep safari, or my week of scuba diving in the Andamans.
I did my masters in tourism management and worked in the tourism industry before coming to India. So, I set up Nomaday Travel with my business partner from Lithuania, and we organize luxury tailor-made tours in India for travelers from all over the world. I feel very happy when another person falls in love with India after traveling with us.
Setting up the company, however, was not easy. The bureaucracy was illogical and the administrative process was extremely lengthy and contradicting. Opening a bank account took more than two months.
Life in Delhi
When I first arrived here, the weather was a big challenge. I had never lived in such hot climate before nor used the air conditioner. I like walking but it’s usually impossible here due to the heat and absence of sidewalks. Also, the size and messiness of the city was overwhelming.
During the initial years, I traveled in rickshaws, which was a real task. I was rather uncomfortable in crowded places in Poland but I had to get used to it here.
I like the fact that Delhi is vibrant, has international appeal and endless opportunities. People are creative and it’s quite easy to socialize. I don’t like the poor air quality, lack of nature and the fact that, as a woman, I always have to be careful when travelling alone.
I got to understand the country better after I met my partner Chirag Gupta three years ago. I am close to his family as well and thankful to have them in my life.
There were many things that seemed foreign or weird to me initially but I now understand that a lot of it is due to cultural differences. The importance of class in the Indian society, the concept of arranged marriages, and the fact that it is acceptable to be late were some of the things I found strange.
Initially, I was quite shocked when locals treated me as VIP. They would take photos of me, ask for selfies and invite me to parties. I could never understand why. Why would someone invite me to parties with free food and alcohol? I then understood it is all marketing strategy, and found it funny.
Being an expat in India has its lows and highs. There is a common misconception that all foreigners are very rich and are therefore charged higher in many situations.
I will always remember my birthday in 2011.
I took a rickshaw with my colleague to work. The driver figured that it was my birthday because he heard my colleague wishing me. After that I fell asleep and woke up at my drop location with the rickshaw driver holding a flower for me. It was so sweet. I will never forget that.
Takeaway from India
If I ever decide to move back to Poland, I will definitely take a lot of Indian spices, great quality shawls and jewelery with me back home. Addiction to masala chai would be another huge takeaway. I start each day with chai massively spiced with fresh ginger.
I have also noticed that I wobble my head and murmur “haan” when I talk to people, even back home in Poland!
Living in India also changed me as a person. I became more patient, more open and appreciative of life. You can’t be in control of everything when you live in this country. You have to go with the flow.
I have had my ups and downs, and moments when I have said, “India, I hate you and I love you.” Life can be way too hectic here sometimes. You have to learn to find your balance.
The interview has been condensed and edited.
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.