My expat story: Inna Kolomiiets. Bitter sweet Indian experience.

Inna Kolomiiets-Ladhak-noprobleminindia

Do you consider moving to India? Long term contract? Permanent stay? There is nothing more useful than hearing genuine stories from other expats who have lived there. For weekend bedtime reading – personal experience about the difficult and demanding path of moving and living in India.

Meet my guest Inna from Ukraine. What’s the biggest thing she’s learned from living overseas? Find it out in bittersweet Indian experience.

Hi Inna. I’m glad you agreed to share your experience living in India. Could you please help readers know you better – we know you come from Ukraine, where are you currently? Are you back in Europe?

My name is Inna. I’m a Ukrainian who lives in South East Asia since 2013. I cannot tell exactly the country of my residence as I continuously move from one country to another. Currently, I reside in Sri Lanka and it seems like this is the country where I plan to settle down but let’s see because you never know here.

I can’t tell you about my occupation either because for the last four years I’ve changed at least 5 fields of activity and more than ten jobs. I worked in the HR field, English teaching, translation, extras in movies and TVs, currently, I’m trying myself in the hospitality field. Well, let’s say I’m an anthropologist. I do a little blogging as well, I just want all that experience to be documented.

That’s quite impressive! Your life seems to be a rollercoaster. Would you dare to describe yourself in three words? – what would they be?

Adventurous, optimistic, risk-taker.

I was actually expecting any synonyms of adventure in your answer 🙂 That’s actually quite a perfect start to decide to move to India for some time. What is your Indian story, Inna?

My first experience working abroad was  AIESEC internship in TATA Consultancy Services (TCS) in 2013/14, based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It wasn’t easy for me to get this internship but it was definitely worth the effort. Every step towards getting into TCS was a challenge, especially the visa part. But despite all, I did it.

But my Indian story started a long time before the internship in TCS. In 2009 I’ve chosen India as a country for my first volunteering abroad and this is when I’ve got the Indian “virus”.  After volunteering, India has become my annual vacation destination. Year by year I was traveling to India solo or with friends and it was usually standard two-week trips which were never enough as I was eating just a small piece of cake but I wanted the whole cake. And in spring 2013 I left my job in Kyiv (Ukraine) and went to India for a year to finally enjoy the whole cake.

But the things did not work out for you as planned?

I thought the fact that I’ve been to India before so many times will be a big advantage for me here in Chennai. I came there so confident as a person who knows everything about India (as I thought so). So naïve I was that time. South India is totally different from the rest of the country. It is more traditional and a language barrier makes your life a bit more challenging. I knew a little of Hindi that time but it didn’t make my life easy in Chennai as a local language there is Tamil only, definitely English is there too but sometimes people refuse to speak to you in English.

Then little by little I started facing the reality of life in Chennai: arrogant auto-rickshaw drivers who never lose a chance to overcharge you, lack of pedestrian crossings on the OMR road, extreme heat and high humidity, extremely spicy food (spicier than the North Indian cuisine) and so on. And that was just a beginning. The real challenge started a month later. The office I worked in was based in the Southern Chennai, the area where IT-park is being constructed. Being a girl from the countryside, life in such a polluted environment had a tremendous effect on my health. I was suffering from migraines for more than a month, after that, I had a teeth problem – the gum from the front teeth got detached and I looked like a skeleton when smiling, then I ripped off the mole on my back accidentally and I had to go for a minor surgery to remove the root. And that was not all. I spent most of my salary on doctors and medicine. In between work and visiting hospitals I managed to travel a little bit in Tamil Nadu. Next six months were even more challenging in terms of my health. I got an infection on my foot and I kind of neglected it as was busy with migraine and the mole. I couldn’t handle all of it at the same time. I was limping for a long time, then the minor operation was conducted on my foot after that it took me a few months to recover. Then finally when my foot was OK, my teeth of wisdom reminded about themselves and I had to remove 2 of them. Before coming to India, I thought I have good health, but after I left Ukraine I was literally collapsing. Having all the above-mentioned troubles, I was working full-time at the office, going out with friends and cycling a lot. It was easier to ride a bicycle than to walk for me.

And with health problems, also a professional career was not the dream one?

TCS office life is worth a whole new chapter in the book (if there was a book). That’s something you cannot describe in one paragraph. Nothing was on time there, everything was super slow, never-ending scolding from a supervisor, unachievable targets, tension, mess, lack of efficiency of any kind. My first months there was a nightmare. All the KTs [knowledge transfer – comment] were not efficient enough as people who were supposed to explain to you how things work in this company were extremely busy and it was difficult to catch them for the KT. I started enjoying working in TCS only when my internship was getting over, let’s say after 9 months of figuring out. I was getting lots of support from other interns because we all were in the same boat. My teammates became more or less friendly with me only after 6 months or so before that it was some kind of hostility between us. As for the supervisors, there was only scolding or ignorance.

Looks like it all went from bad to worse. Any tiny sweet memory in this story?

Nevertheless, in TCS I met the nicest people in the world who made my life in the TCS office less painful and somehow enjoyable. I have eternal gratitude to them for guiding me, explaining how things work there, for being patient and understanding.

My whole experience in Chennai was one big challenge, it was undoubtedly an invaluable experience that helped me to survive in other countries of southeast Asia such as China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. So, thank you India, I got what you wanted to teach me.

My expat story – Inna Kolomiiets. India Ladakh trip 2014
My expat story – Inna Kolomiiets. India Ladakh trip 2014

What is your most beautiful memory related to India?

There is no way I can point only one.  I have countless memories through that 1 year in Chennai. Moreover, every day was memorable in its own way. It was in India when I started my cycling “career” and realized that I have pretty good stamina. Cycling in India is such a challenge for a person not familiar with Indian traffic but I loved it so much. After India, I continued cycling in Vietnam, China and Malaysia.

Is there anything, any Indian values that you would like to adopt in your culture?

Indian values valid for India and Indian people only. Even if I wanted to pick something and introduce it to Ukrainian people it won’t be accepted. We have our own values that work for us.

Do you have any golden rule for those who have just moved to India? Any plans to visit India again?

Many people come to India and try to change things there or set their own rules because they think they know better how to do stuff. But it doesn’t work like that and people just end up fighting with windmills instead of enjoying the country. What is illogical for you is logical for Indians. If to get things done takes time, don’t try to make it faster, you will surely fail. So, keep calm and accept India as it is. If you can’t accept it, don’t torture yourself and the others, just leave and love India from distance.

Of course, I’d love to visit India again one day but just for traveling. I would say, that after visiting more than 10 countries in South East Asia, India remains the best traveling destination for me so far. But I will think twice before accepting any job in India. Travelling is OK, but working in India is another thing. Being a well-organized and punctual person, I found it difficult to fit in Indian office culture.

My expat story – Inna Kolomiiets. India Ladakh trip 2014

What can you advise people who are going to India for a long time?

Once a decision is taken to come to India and live there, be ready for everything in this country. India is very “moody”, it kisses you in the right chick and hits you on the left one. This country is not like any other country. This country knows your thoughts and your intentions and it treats you accordingly. Keep in mind that India will show you who you really are and what are you capable of. Please don’t try to understand it, because it’s a useless occupation, you will definitely fail, just accept all the gifts India will give you. India is not a country, actually, it is an organism, a living being.

Thank you, Inna, all the best and I hope you will be back in India and find your peaceful place here anyway.

Anyone interested in following Inna’s Asian adventures? You can find her on Instagram.