Every week I talk to a Belgian who moved abroad and built a new life there. This week Christelle tells us about her life in India.
1. Hi, Christelle! Please quickly introduce yourself. Tell us who you are, where you’re from, where you moved to and when/why you moved.
I’m Christelle Haeyaert and I’m originally from Antwerp. In July 2007, my family (we have 2 sons, now 10 and 17 years old) and I moved to Gurgaon, India. My husband had been offered to start a printing company there for a Belgian company.
2. What did you expect from India and life there before moving? Did those expectations hold up?
We’d always been dreaming of a “not so ordinary life”, so we were open to everything. Of course we knew that our lives would be very different, but that turned out pretty okay. We mostly feared for our boys as they were being dragged into our adventure. But they’ve adjusted quickly, which made things a lot easier for us.
3. What’s the biggest difference between life in India and life in Belgium
It’s completely different. Everything is less structured. The roads are bad, especially in Gurgaon. There’s bureaucracy and corruption. The contrast between the rich and the poor is extreme.
You can plan your day, but there’s always something that can happen and that will make your day look completely different.
We have power cuts here and twice a day we receive water supplies in the two big tanks on our rooftop. You absolutely can’t drink water from the tap.
In summer, it’s blazing hot. At the moment (Sofie: when I was sent this interview it was June) it’s 44°C. Luckily, we have air conditioning. In winter, it can be very cold. The houses are badly isolated and there’s no heating.
We have personnel here, which is a luxury.
There are also fewer food options, especially when it comes to meat. We’re always amazed when we go on vacation in Belgium: the offer, the variation! Incredible. It makes us feel like a kid in an amusement park :-)
4. What’s the best part about living in India
The unpredictability, but I do like that life is “challenging” here sometimes. It’s a country of extremes and all your senses are being stimulated. There’s so much to see. So many people always and everywhere, the colorful sari’s, the masses of herbs that tickle your nose, the bright sun, the cows, pigs, dogs and monkeys on the street. And the fact that we’ve been able to make beautiful trips thanks to this expat adventure is also great.
5. What do you like least about living in India?
The unpredictability. Sometimes I crave for structure and routine. Order and cleanliness. And silence. I also miss the four seasons, especially fall.
6. What do you miss most about Belgium?
Family and food.
7. Is there something about Belgium that you don’t miss at all?
The nagging about futilities. The grey weather.
8. Do you think you’ll stay in India? Or is there a chance you’ll move abroad again someday?
No, we’re definitely not staying here. We’re open to everything and don’t have a life’s plan.
9. Do you have any tips or advice for other Belgians who consider moving to India?
Come here with an open mind and a lot of patience :-)