Adélie Herbelet- An Indian Expat living in Pondicherry
“I love the noisy life that so many hate. I come from the countryside and had enough time enjoying the silent and boring evenings. Now I am loving the busy streets, the crowd. I know that I might change my mind if I go to a bigger city probably, but I’m enjoying my busy life in Pondicherry”, the 25-year-old Adelie told BananiVista.
Hailing from a small town, Chalons-en-Champagne in the North East of France, Adiele has fallen in love with Pondicherry since she arrived in May 2016. Her passion for travel and living abroad led her to stay in India. She did a Masters degree in Foreign Languages and currently working as a Guest Relations In Charge in a hotel in Pondicherry.
At the end of her degree, she needed to complete an internship so she decided to come to Pondicherry (I wanted to see India, she specified). She loved it so much that she ended up finding a job right after her internship.
She feels free and enjoys her freedom while riding her 2-wheeler in the alleys of Pondicherry. “In France, I do not have a car and a 2-wheeler is expensive and not too safe. I always have to rely on public transport which is not the most reliable. Here, in Pondicherry, India, I feel free to drive around. The cost of leisure activities also makes me feel more independent and happy. Back in France, the cinema would cost 11 Euros in average for a single ticket, a beer costs 5 Euros and a nice meal in a restaurant is way out of my budget”, Adiele added. She also mentioned that the buses are her favorites. “You might not be able to sleep if you need rest but there is so much to observe that it is impossible to get bored.”
Talking about the food, she mentioned that India is definitely way cheaper than France however once one start living with an Indian salary, the costs make more sense. Food is for sure the cheapest thing compared to other countries she had been to earlier. “In France, it is not possible to have dinner for 40 rupees (0.5 Euros) while in Pondicherry, two “chapattis” with some “channa masala” is good for dinner for that price. I think in France for 0.5 Euros you can’t even get a bunch of fresh mint”, she giggled.
On the other hand, renting is quite expensive compared to the salary. “As I don’t have a family here that can help me with things such as furniture, I need to rent a furnished flat (at least for basic things like a fridge), and rent is high (around 10,000 to 15,000 for a “good” location, 1 bedroom flat). I could buy a second-hand furniture but because of visa, coming back is never 100% assured and I wouldn’t want to lose all this investment. That was my choice for this year; maybe I may change my mind for the future”, she mentioned.
The bargaining is an everyday challenge for her. Some shopkeepers or rickshaw drivers probably think that “white” means rich and double or triple the prices. She has been here long enough to know the price of a rickshaw from one place to another if the actual fare is 80 rupees, some of them will ask for Rs.150 to Rs.200.
Sometimes, language becomes the barrier and the communication becomes difficult. “As I don’t speak Tamil (or very little) and I can’t expect everyone to speak English. Usually, we managed to understand each other with hand gestures”, she smiled.
On asking regarding the healthcare in Pondicherry, she seemed quite happy and satisfied. “I am particularly happy about the Eye clinic I have been to. Where I come from, there is a lack of ophthalmologists and appointments need to be taken a year before. Generally, we have to be on a 12-month waiting list to see a doctor. You have time to go blind. However, in India, I waited 30/45minutes, saw the doctor, got my prescription and a week or so after got my new glasses (and the price was amazing as well)”, Adiele mentioned as a happy customer.
Adiele loves hanging around with her local friends but enjoys meeting other French at parties or events. She does miss her home however her tech-savvy family communicates to her often through Skype. During the summer in Pondicherry, she misses the cool French weather (the French summer temperature are more breathable) but not on a daily basis as she enjoys the sunny days here in India.
“The biggest culture shock I had and still have sometimes is to understand the “honesty” of locals”. To talk about a few instances she mentioned of getting remarks all day long for weeks at work when she had acne spots which are not great for self-confidence. “I understand now that they were asking me because they were concerned about my health”, Adiele said.
“I also add to adjust to the “Indian timing”. I feel this is a little stereotype but it is still very difficult for me to understand that they can arrive 20 or 30 minutes late to an appointment and feel like it is normal. At work, I know that if my shift finishes at 10, I will probably have to stay until 10:30”.
She passes a message to the ones who are looking to visit India- I would recommend not to be scared of what French TV could show (poverty, danger) but at the same time be ready for a busy surrounding and waves of people, noises, smells, colors and more life, she signed off.