From Ukraine to India: Mrs. Sharma
Hi! I’m Marianna. A designer, unshakable optimist, enthusiastic cook & non-Indian Indian wife. A born-and-raised Kyiv girl with keen interest in spirituality, miraculously turned Pune dweller years back.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I never thought I could live without picturesque hills, snowy Christmases and jazzy summer nights of Kyiv. But love won over my childhood attachments. And that was love at the first sight. I was eager to visit India and meet my guru.
After two years of raja yoga and multiple precautions from friends who’ve been there, I boarded plane to Delhi. All those stories about crossing Indian road, garbage on the streets, getting lost in railway station, where trains are never on time, made me nervous and excited. Amidst exotic chaos of Indian reality I surprisingly felt at home. And deep down inside I knew I’d be back. When following autumn design internship opportunity turned up, I packed my bags without thinking twice. And that was the beginning of my Indian story.
2. How do you make a living?
I currently help husband in his brand consulting business. With my background in marketing and design it became a perfect match of personal life and work. It took quite some time to find a ‘professional nook’ though. I had to learn the culture, which drives the way people work and clients demand. In Ukraine we generally avoid working with relatives or friends, fiercely believing that business ruins relationships. Focused on personal performance, I found it difficult to work in team.
For Indians collaborating is the natural way to live and get things done. I recently realized this when we had to prepare festive dinner to celebrate Lohri. I left from office a little early, ready to make puris for twelve people at parents’ place. To my surprise the dough was already prepared by mother-in-law and resting under muslin cloth. When I started rolling breads, sister-in-law joined to fry them, and another one came over to pick up puris and serve them hot. It felt good to be a part of the team. At the same time result didn’t belong to anyone, - we did it together. The same principle works in office too. It took me years to move from personal performance to teamwork. In Indian office I’ve learnt to appreciate everyone’s role and keep my ego balanced.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I speak to dad in Kyiv daily. We share experiences, plans and recipes on Skype, chatting throughout the day. My husband and me visit him once a year, mostly in July, swapping Indian monsoon to Ukrainian summer.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in India?
I love learning. India is the blend of cultures, languages, beliefs, cuisines, which is infinite source of experiences and knowledge. It’s so vast and multifaceted, that I know for sure – there’s no way to stop learning. This means to keep your mind and heart open, be adjustable and sensitive to other human beings. And this is true gift for expat.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in India?
I find monsoons in India a little depressing. Three months without sun makes me feel like a bear in winter sleep. It takes at least a week for laundry to dry, spices become moist and clumping, sometimes there’s no water and electricity at home. Month into the monsoon I stop noticing when continuous drizzle change to downpours. Rain never stops. Spending most of the time indoors or in traffic amidst flooded streets, I cannot wait to wake up into sunny day again.
6. What do you miss most?
I miss wandering around the city without agenda. Kyiv is forever happening place, - summer or winter, day or night. There’re literary parties and street performances, cozy cafeterias serving Turkish coffee with cinnamon. It’s the best place for couples and even better place for being on your own. If I weren’t married, I would just date my city.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
My husband and me keep on meeting people from design circle and industry. I joined Pune expat club and various expat communities to connect with foreigners living in India. This is one of the reasons for starting a blog as well. I’ve learnt that being curious and open minded helps to adjust and make friends in new place.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
People here are often indirect when they speak. Avoiding saying ‘no’ is the form of Indian politeness. You have to be patient and learn reading between the lines.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
When I was moving here five years back my parents were horrified, imagining place I’m going to live. It’s common belief that India is the country of slums and dirty streets, which you get to see in international news. They are there of course, existing side by side with palaces, ashrams, and middle class societies, but India is far greater than that.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Five years back the cost of life in India to compare to Ukraine was twice lower. With prolonged crisis that had hit Ukraine in 2013, it became equally cheap for us, but much more expensive for its citizens.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Becoming an expat means moving out from your comfort zone. Packing your life into few bags and boarding plane is easy. After few weeks of initial excitement you realize that things are not the same anymore. Environment, people, food are different. You have to accept and adjust to new home. Be curious, welcome people and unknown culture without prejudice. The more open-minded you are, the sooner you start enjoying expat life.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog Mrs. Sharma in May 2016 to share little stories from daily life in India. Being an expat, designer and non-Indian Indian wife my focus is to learn, understand and absorb new culture. I love connecting to readers. The biggest gift of blogging is to hear back from them. It makes me realize how they relate my experiences to their life.
Marianna's blog, Mrs. Sharma
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