Indian Expat Living in USA - Interview with RItu

Published: 8 May at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,USA
Ritu Kaushal is a writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She sees her writing as a bridge that connects her inner life with the outer world. She writes about her experience with transitioning from India to the States in her blog at www.walkingthroughtransitions.com. In it, she focuses on what it means to be an introvert and Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) in America. RItu's expat blog is called Walking through Transitions (see listing here)

Meet Ritu - A Writer in the San Francisco Bay Area
Meet Ritu - A Writer in the San Francisco Bay Area

Here's the interview with RItu...


Where are you originally from?
I am originally from India.

In which country and city are you living now?
I now live in Milpitas (a city in the San Francisco Bay Area) in the United States.

How long have you lived in USA and how long are you planning to stay?
I have lived here for just under 2 years. I am planning to stay here long-term.

In the early days - the red bangles symbolize being newly married
In the early days - the red bangles symbolize being newly married
Why did you move to USA and what do you do?
I moved here because I got married and my husband works here. I am a writer and photographer.

Did you bring family with you?
No.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
The first few months were the classic honeymoon period. As time went on though, I realized that living in a foreign country is a hugely challenging experience. Just like anything else in life, it has its positives and negatives. On the positive side, it can help us grow and become more of who we are. Also, personally, since I am a creative person, I am fortunate to be living in the San Francisco Bay Area. It's probably one of the best places in the U.S. for arts. I have been part of several writer's workshops since I moved here and have gained a lot from them.

On the negative side, a shift creates the loss of everything that you've known as familiar. It can give rise to feelings of extreme loneliness. I have had really bad days when I have felt completely isolated. I've also felt like no-one understands my situation. In a sense, no one does because being an expat is a unique situation that only other fellow expats can relate to. Even then, we all have different personalities, so what might be difficult for us could be easy for another expat and vice versa. This can leave you feeling extremely alone and disconnected.

Here, I want to interject and also say that having gone through these feelings, I have emerged on the other side as an independent, self-reliant person. Instead of always looking at other people for support, I've learnt to give myself what I need. I would say that a transition to a foreign country provides the stimulus for growth, but it's also fraught with risks, so it's very important to take care of yourself during this time

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
It hasn't been very easy making friends and meeting people. But that has got to do with many different things. Making friends as an adult is anyways more difficult. Also, it is important for me to find people who share similar values. So, it's taking time, but slowly, I am finding people who are part of my "tribe," so to speak.

Yes, right now, I mainly socialise with other expats right now. It's easier to relate to them. With time, I hope to find more friends - both expats and non-expats

At the Golden Gate Bridge with my husband Rohit
At the Golden Gate Bridge with my husband Rohit
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
The San Francisco Bay Area is an amazing place. There are so many wonderful things that you can do and be a part of. There are innumerable tourist attractions. From the Japanese Tea Garden in the Golden Gate Park to the Exploratorium to the amazing De Young museum, SF has so many things.

Apart from the city, there is a lot to do in the Silicon Valley cities and surrounding area. There are nature trails and opportunities to learn sailing or skydiving if you are an adventure junkie. This is a great place for activities, no matter what your interests are

What do you enjoy most about living in USA?
I am deeply nourished by nature. I love the fact that I live in a place with so much natural beauty and access to so many different nature trails and parks.

How does the cost of living in USA compare to home?
California is an expensive place, but it's hard to make a correct comparison with New Delhi.

Quintessential San Francisco
Quintessential San Francisco
What negatives, if any, are there to living in USA?
I would say that the biggest negative is inherent to being an expat itself. As I plan my life ahead, I realize more and more everyday that my family will not be there to share the bulk of my life. The challenge is to be constantly aware of this reality and take proactive steps to bridge this gap.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to USA, what would it be?
I would say that your transition will be unique to who you are. So, don't compare your experience with someone else's. When I shifted here, I found that everyone had a different opinion on how long it "should" take to adjust. Some thought that all it takes is a few months, which I found incredible. A few months is a very short period. I think the more common experience is that it takes a minimum of at least a year to adjust in basic ways, and 2-4 years to really feel at home.

Real transitions - shifting emotionally, forming new connections, finding friends - take time. I also think that since moving away from your home country is a hugely transformative experience, you'll always be coming face-to-face with new things to adjust to. So, it's probably a life-long process of change and hopefully, growth.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The hardest part, as I said before, is being away from your family.

The Rocket Boat in SF
The Rocket Boat in SF
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Don't compare your experience with someone else's.
  2. Focus on the positives in your life.
  3. Find ways to nurture yourself in the absence of a support network.
  4. Go out and do things that bring you joy, and you'll find people who are similar to you.
  5. Keep in touch with family and friends as much as you can.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog is on www.walkingthroughtransitions.com. In it, I talk about my experience with transitioning from India to the States. I am an introvert and an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) and my writing focuses on discussing how these aspects of my personality play out in a different culture. Being an HSP also means that I take more time to adjust to change. As someone told me, I need to double the amount of time it will take me to make a true transition, as compared to someone who is not an HSP.

Writing about my experiences helps me break down and integrate them. I also consciously ensure that my blog is not just a "personal experience" blog, but a blog that uses my experience as a starting point to start discussions about universal, common experiences - what it mean to be an introvert in a culture that values extroversion, for example.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I would love to connect with future expats through my blog and on twitter.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingRItu is an Indian expat living in USA. Blog description: This blog is about finding happiness in a new country. I focus on what it means to be an introvert and a Highly Sensitive Person in America, how I am adapting to cultural differences as well as what it means to create a home away from home.
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