charankanya on November 13th, 2008

It has now been almost two and a half years since I moved back to India.  It is only in the past 10 months or so, that I truly feel settled and feel “at home”.   The first 18 months were a rough roller coaster ride, and I have lost count of how many times I wished we hadn’t moved or I was ready to go back.  I don’t think my hubby ever went through any of the angst or stress that I experienced (except when he was on the receiving end of my volcanic eruptions).  In the past few weeks, I have met many women who have moved to India sometime within the last 6 months, and I see them going through the same frustrations and emotions that I went through.  It got me thinking…..could there be a pattern or stages that almost all women who move back to India go through?  Maybe it just wasn’t me alone….maybe it’s a little more generic.  So I thought I would share my stages of adjustment with all of you…in the hope that those who are already here hang on a little longer to the roller coaster ride, and for those of you who are planning on moving to India can prepare yourselves mentally for the rough ride ahead.

I feel these stages more applicable to women than men, because most of the men I’ve met who have moved back seem to have adjusted extremely well, and really fast too.  Plus, generally the hubbies get involved in their work and in the business of catching up with family, and its usually us women struggling with the new routines at the homefront.

STAGE 1: The First Three Months – Ready To Catch The First Flight Back

The first three months were the worst.  The biggest frustrations came from the maids.  Having done everything on my own for the past 14 years, I resented being dependent on maids over here.  It is not easy to do everything on your own over here, as it is in the US.  For one, the house here needs to get cleaned everyday because of the amount of dust.  I didn’t have a dishwasher in my rental apartment, and we were supposed to move into our own place in less than 6 months, so I didn’t want to get a temporary dishwasher.  Laundry needs to be done everyday here, because the washer capacity is so small.  A load of laundry took almost 2 hours to complete.  I had to shop for groceries every alternate day, because I had this itty-bitty refrigerator in my rental apartment, and also because fresh produce doesn’t last that long here.  This is just a small list…..overall, everyday basics demanded far more time & effort from me over here in India, than it did in the U.S.  So, either I had to have a maid, or literally just spend the entire day doing housework.  The maids were the biggest source of frustration, which unfortunately I took out on the kids. 

At one point I even told my hubby, to not even bother having our container clear customs.  Just have it loaded on the next ship going back to the U.S., coz I was outta here.  I was not happy and not mentally at peace.  I realised that I had yelled at my kids more in these 2-3 months, than I had in the past 7 years.

Most women I’ve met have gone through a similar first 3 months.  If it’s not been the maids, it has been either the architect or interior decorator, or the plumber, or the carpenter, etc.  It is frustrating and annoying.  There is no concept of “customer service” or “employee loyalty” or “workplace ethics”.

Stage 2: The Next Three Months – Good Days & Bad Days

Months 4, 5, 6, I came to terms with the situation.  I began to have some good days….days that I didn’t yell at the kids, days that I didn’t let the maids ruffle my feathers.  Those were few and far inbetween.  But they were there.  Having my container arrive, and having all my stuff again must have helped.  But I still didn’t feel settled.  I missed my home in the U.S., I missed my friends.  I still hadn’t made many friends here.  Making friends was very difficult (read my other article on this topic).  I still resented having maids.  I didn’t like having to drop what I was doing and rush home, because the maid was going to come.  I missed my life and my peace of mind.  But for the sake of the kids, I made sure that I didn’t let any of it show.  My hubby and I had decided that we would give ourselves 2 years, before we made any decisions about going back.  Our children were well adjusted, and were having a good time here.  We figured that since we were already here, might as well stick it out for atleast 2 years.

Stage 3: The Next 5 Months – Alternate Good Days & Bad Days

It did get better with time.  I came to terms with a lot of things, and didn’t let them bother me as much.  I started having more Good Days and fewer Bad Days.  But  I still missed my home in the U.S. and my life.  My husband kept telling me that I was only remembering the “good things” about the U.S.  He tried to tell me that life in the U.S. was not all roses.  That we had our share of frustrations there as well.  But those seemed all far more minor than the annoyances here.

Stage 4: Trip To U.S.  – Brought Closure.

During the kids summer break we went back to the U.S. and spent about 6 weeks there.  It was great to go back.  We stayed with relatives and friends, and I got to meet all my friends and neighbours.  I even rang the doorbell of my old home, and the new owners were gracious to invite me in.  They took me around the house to show me all the changes they had made.  The entire trip got me a lot of closure.  When we came back to India, things in India no longer seemed so “bad”.   I was far more at peace and much more happier.  Ever since, it’s just got better as the months passed by.  I now finally feel at home here.

For those of you who are already here…..hang in there.  It does get better as time passes.  For those who are planning to move to India, make a list of all the daily annoyances and frustrations that you face in the U.S., all the little things that you don’t like, or the things you don’t like to do. (even minor ones such as folding laundry or clearing the table).  Refer to it when you have bad days here.

I’m glad my roller coaster ride is over (atleast I hope it is).  While the ride was rough, it was definitely worth it.

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3 Responses to “Moving To India: Stages Of Adjustment (Especially For Women)”

  1. Great article expressing the various stages after returning back. My wife is going through these exact stages right now. It would be nice to hear your suggestions to make every stage more bareable.

  2. back after a decade
    February 15th, 2011 at 6:21 pm


    First, I have to congratulate you on how well you have articulated your thoughts. This is the second time I have read this particular entry. The first time was when I was still in the US, a couple of months before moving to India and the second (today) a month and a half into my stay in India. It is only on my second read that I can really relate to the things you have written. Like you described, I miss my life in the US, my apartment, the friendliness of people, the orderliness of things in general (like road traffic!) and the clean air. I feel like it’s a constant struggle here on so many levels: people NEVER come on the time the say they would (if at all they do turn up), the horrendous work ethic, bad quality of workmanship in so many things, not to mention the absolutely chaotic traffic and pollution. I have turned into one of those people I had earlier scoffed at who visited from the US. On the one hand, I feel like I have legitimate cause to complain but on the other hand, I feel guilty about complaining about things which others here don’t seem to have a problem with. And to be honest, I do ask myself sometimes why I returned. But I take hope in the fact that people like you have settled into life here and find ways to deal with these issues over time. I hope that time will come for me too.

    Thank you!

  3. Thank you so much for writing this post. I am an American (no Indian background). I am moving to India for a second time. The first time I lived in Chennai as a student where I earned my master’s degree at Madras Christian College. I was there for two years. Now I am married to a Malayalee (who grew up in Delhi) and we live in Kochi. Been here about 2 months. I wonder how much of your experience will resonate with me. For me the difference is I don’t know the local language so I can not understand or participate as much as you are probably.

    I wonder if I can have permission to reprint this article on my blog. Can you contact me


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