As promised, I am asking to international travellers and people living and working in a foreign country to share their life stories with me to know why they decided to leave families and friends behind to explore new realities and meet new cultures!
Are you curious about how they managed to adapt and settle in their new countries? Then follow my expat interviews categorised by country! Are you an expat wanting to share your tips and experience with the rest of the world and be a source of inspiration? Then fill in the expat interview form: I would love to hearing from you!
“Travelling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Iba Battuta
Let’s meet Helene: a “serial expat” who lived in multiple countries
Introduce yourself briefly. Tell us who you are!
Hello, I am Helene, I am French, I’m 47, married and mother of two boys aged 7 and 9.
I am a professional stage actress and nutritionist dreaming about a virtual show, streamed on multiple platforms at once! I started my actress career in France I reinvented myself along the way: I became store manager in Sydney, I helped in on the go in Calcutta, became a mum, studied nutrition, became nutritionist in Manila and back to theatre in Melbourne.
Why did you move to your current country?
I left France 15 years ago and followed my husband first to Sydney then to India, Philippines and now living in Melbourne.
What do you do for a living? How was the job hunting
When I was in India, in Calcutta, I was not married when we first moved there, so it was not possible for me to move and work. I was in charge of our daily life then got married, had a kid and fell pregnant again, so I was busy enough!
How is the social life in your city, is it easy to make friends?
Calcutta was a blow minding place very rich in culture! Everyday was an adventure of smell, noise, taste, friendship, activities like nowhere in the world. Calcutta was the most social city I lived in, the expat community was really small and I knew everybody. Bengali people are extremely social and I had to learn to say no to invites =)
Why should people move there? Why did you fall in love with this place?
In Calcutta you really need to live near to your workplace if you don’t want to spend hours stuck in the traffic. India is not only incredible: it is moving, culturally rich, and it will change you forever.
What do you want to say to people looking to move there?
Just enjoy and embrace the cultural differences, learn how to respect their way of living, how to dress, act, learn the Hindi religion and you will have the experience of your life!
How is the health system? Is it a safe place to live in?
We had a private insurance for health but compared to Australia it was nothing. Delivering my baby in the best hospital has cost me less than $1000, but is was dirty and really backward. (Baby was kept in the nursery, and I had no real contact with him). Doctors were excellent especially for dealing with tropical diseases.
How is the general cost of living, what is the average rent?
It can be expensive for expats looking for a luxurious lifestyle; most of them live in Ballygunge or Allipur. We had the luck to have a two-bedrooms house with a private garden in Ballygunge for $700 a month. It was 10 years ago so there was no real website, and you find estate agencies brokers, but the best way is to connect with your consulate or the expats community (Calcuttaaccueil for the French community)
Transport was very cheap, the underground system was not well-developed unfortunately. Trains are cheap and amazing so we used them a lot! Rickshaws or taxi are everywhere but foreigners pay way more than normal fares, so you have to ask for the meter to be on . Food was cheap if going to local markets.
Electricity was really costly and cooking is done with gas bottles.
Tell us something you don’t like about where you live and the difficulties you came across when settling in.
The cast system is really difficult to accept, there are serious social inequalities and poverty but I met many incredible human beings on the way!
Tell me an unmissable thing to do in your city over a weekend
I would recommend you to visit Calcutta’s Temples, the new market, the park street, do a trip on the river, the flower market, a drink at the Oberoi, a golf game at Tollygunge, the Victoria building, or simply just take a walk in a city where every little corner could be an adventure.
Did you find Helene’s experience useful? Then check out the other upcoming expat interviews in other cities!