Rimène Maizi first visited India in 2016 and instantly fell in love with the country.
“I always wanted to visit the country I had heard about so much. A good friend in Chennai invited me to his family house. Though I spent most my time in bed due to a food allergy, the trip was a memorable one,” she tells Little India.
Maizi, who moved from Paris to Bengaluru last year, talks about setting up her hair salon in the city, visit to a village in Tamil Nadu, life in the Garden City and more.
Life in Bengaluru
Life is not difficult for me here. Everything is very accessible and affordable.
Understanding the language was the challenging part. When I moved here, I knew basic English and had zero knowledge of Kannada. I would talk to the autowallas in sign language as communication was difficult due to the language barrier.
Adjusting to the food was also difficult initially. But that is not a problem anymore. I think I am on a street food diet now. The infrastructure in the city, however, needs a lot of improvement. Roads are not well maintained and there is way too much waste around.
There is also the usual struggle with cab drivers in the city but public transport is, nevertheless, easily accessible. The spirit of entrepreneurship is strong here.
Setting up L’Atelier
I own a hair salon called L’Atelier – a place where you create any form of art – in Bengaluru.
Setting up the salon was extremely frustrating. The architect was the worst anyone could find. I would stay at the site day and night on floors full of dust only to explain to the laborers how I wanted the work to be done. I would try to explain in a mix of English and sign language.
It was probably one of the worst experiences of my life.
I miss the architecture and access to art in France. There are so many amazing artists in India but they do not get the right exposure or platform to showcase their work.
Living in India is very exciting. As a foreigner, I happen to have a lot of funny interactions with different people on a daily basis. I always get to discover something new and see a new side to the city.
However, what bothers me is the stereotypes that people have in their minds about French girls or French people. Sometimes, they come up to me and randomly start talking about French people in general.
A Memorable Experience
Once, I visited a friend who was teaching English in a village church in Tamil Nadu. The entire village came to greet me. They received me like royalty. I was invited to every house in the village for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was very difficult to eat all the food but I didn’t have the heart to refuse. I wasn’t even able to walk by the end of the day and also fell ill for a week. But I left the village with a sense of happiness.
Despite their financial condition, they made sure I ate the greatest food and welcomed me wearing their best outfit. They put jasmine on my hair and also performed a puja. We played a few games outside with the children and also met the women of the village who happened to be really curious. The difference in language didn’t stop them from asking me a lot of questions. If my friend was unable to translate sometimes, they would use their hand or even draw to make me understand. It was a very rich interaction. I will always cherish this memory.
‘What Will People Think’
Living in India definitely changed me as a person. I went through a lot of challenges that have made me stronger and have helped me dissociate with the “what will people think” logic. I am not used to being judged by unknown people, therefore, it was hard to understand the reasons behind their judgments. However, I realized soon enough that they probably had their own personal reasons to behave the way they do.
I love my life here. There are great opportunities, good networking, amazing food and travel options and quite easy accessibility to everything.
If I ever decide to move back, I think I will take 200 kg of Gujarati snack with me, especially khakhra. It is delicious. I love it.
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.