Expat Voice: India, Home Away From Home
Michael Dreusicke from Germany talks about how he has discovered himself in India.
Michael Dreusicke came from Germany to India in May 2015 on a three-week business trip and found it easy to connect with people in the country. He immediately knew that he wanted to make India his home.
“I finished work, went back to Berlin, sold whatever I had and came here with not much in hand,” he tells Little India.
Dreusicke set up his company, named pubport Publishing, in Pune with his friend and business partner Miriam Hofheinz and there has been no looking back ever since. He talks about his work, his life in Maharashtra and more:
Life in Pune
I didn’t really face any major challenges adjusting in Pune. I love the weather and the people are pretty open-minded here. They are warm and curious to know what I think and feel about the country. I love the fact that they are expressive and appreciate people, unlike Germany, where people are quite cold and laid back. There is professional appreciation but, on a human level, it is rare for Germans to express themselves.
However, people here don’t really understand the concept of individual space. For instance, if I am standing at a bar and someone else is standing with his back turned towards me, the person ends up coming really close and intrudes my individual or private space. In Germany, this would be considered quite rude.
I’ve also realized that Indians have a tendency to always say “yes.” For instance, my vendor never says a “no” for any work that I ask him to do even if he has no idea how to go about it. People have a tendency to avoid confrontation and also hold back from expressing differences in opinion. So, you can’t always expect the “yes” to be meaningful.
As far as food is concerned, I did not face a problem since I am a vegetarian — which happens to be the default option here unlike Germany, where non-vegetarian food is preferred.
Friends in the City
I have a spiritual teacher here, whom I meet on a regular basis. We hold quite a few satsang, and it has changed my life fundamentally. It has helped me know and understand my true self. I am very good friends with my squash coach as well.
The nightlife in Pune is amazing. I get to play the drums and piano as a lot of live music events are held in the city. I host discussions every Friday evening at my place. It was a friend’s idea. I thought it was interesting, and offered to host it at my home. It’s a social get-together where we meet and talk about relevant topics, usually in the presence of an expert. For example, if we decide to talk about depression in children, we try and get a child psychologist to speak at the event.
I think girls in India are pressurized by their families when it comes to marriage. The pressure on the girls is more than boys. At times, families force them to get married.
The pressure leads the girl to believe that she wants to get married, which is wrong. Some of my friends have left the city and even the country just to get rid of the pressure.
My company provides IT services for German publishers. Our main vendors are based in different cities across India, and I train them about the requirements and expectations of German publishers.
We also need to double-check the work the vendors do. When they say that the work is done, it does not always mean that it is done. We need to make sure that it meets the expectations of our clients.
Not an Expat
I am around Indians all the time and introduce myself as an Indian. Most people usually laugh hearing that because I look different. But, in my heart, I am an Indian and I feel completely at home here.
I don’t really consider myself an expat because an expat is someone who leaves his or her homeland to settle in some other country. I don’t feel that I left my home country because India is my home.
Discount on Bribing
Once, the police took away my scooter because I had parked on the wrong side of the road. When I went to get it, they asked me to pay Rs 1,000. But I only had 800 bucks on me. He took that and let me go.
The irony of bribing in India is that they give you a discount if you don’t have enough money with you! But I also know that I was charged a huge amount because I am white otherwise they normally charge Rs 100-200. I figured there’s no fixed fee and that they just wanted the money.
Treating Each Other as Equals
The downside is that people can be quite racist here. I feel I am privileged because I am white but it hurts me to see Indians treat people of darker skin differently. I see my security guard treat me like a superior being. He’s put me at an imaginary god-like pedestal.
I can do the same with him to make him feel that we are equal. We can then communicate with each other as equals.
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.