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Dear Returning NRI...

A letter by a Western-born OCI to those who decide to make the big move back to India.

NRI returning to India
Moving back to India


Dear NRI Friend,

How are you? I hope you are well. It’s Jen here, OCI living in India.

I just wanted to write to you to see how your packing is going?

It was hard, right? The decision to leave your country, again!

There aren't many "How to..." guides to prepare you psychologically to move a whole life from one country to another.

Sure, there are packing lists, banking and tax information, moving and relocation services etc.

But how do you prepare the mind?

You have already left once. Maybe you were young. Perhaps you had a new partner or a young family.

And now you are ready to do it again! But back this time. Back "home."

Well, guess what? I’ve done it - partly! I left my country of birth permanently for India.

I have psychologically (and logistically) moved to India. And I left the "seven times most liveable city" behind.

So you are preparing the mind. But then the questions start. Oh, how the questions start coming!

Are you Crazy? - Why are you going back?

There are MANY opinions and misconceptions about India. (Just as there are opinions and misconceptions about any country).

I'm not going to discuss why you left India to live in a foreign land. That was your decision; whatever the reason, it doesn't matter.

Because something now draws you back.

And whatever your situation, you are likely to face the myths and misconceptions about India in the form of many confused and baffling questions from well-meaning friends and family.

I find one of the primary assumptions behind many of the questions I faced is that foreign countries are overall "better" than India.

And this assumption is often made by people who have never stepped foot in a foreign country, let alone lived in one!

My Story - Why did I move to India?

I have been visiting India since 2000. I first visited Mumbai 22 years ago. See my article Mumbai - Then and Now for a glimpse of some of my observations.

Each time I visited India over the next two decades, the gap became smaller between my experience in my city of birth, one of the most liveable cities in the world, and Mumbai.

A lot of factors fed into my decision. My stage of life, family situation, work direction and situation in the city I left all mixed with many other reasons to form my ultimate decision.

It is rarely just one thing.

I don't think many people agree with my decision. However, most of those people had never been to India. They had no idea about the variety of experiences in India.

Due to film and other media, many people's perception of India remains one-dimensional from my experience.

Re-thinking Life Priorities

Your priorities and their subsequent weightings are where the rubber meets the road.

Ultimately, your priorities are unique to you. And your priority list may have changed as your life changed, or the country you moved to also changed.

Initially, maybe it was a financial decision or an environmental decision. Now it’s family and lifestyle.

A personal priority list is a vital mental list to think about before moving ANYWHERE.

A permanent move is a big step.

There are possibilities these days to allow people to live across several countries or keep a base in the West.

But moving for good is expensive. It's a huge psychological undertaking. It needs serious consideration.

Just so you feel okay, you are not alone.

Many people around the world re-assess their chosen country of residence.

It's not accessible to everyone, of course.

But take a look at the "Nomad Capitalist" website as an example. The website refers to HNI’s (High Nett-Worth Individuals), mostly from Western countries, leaving the West or at least shifting a large part of their life elsewhere.

So, why would they do that if it was “better” in the West?

It's not just you.

What's it like living in India?

This question is not easy to answer. It needs to be asked at different stages to get an accurate answer.

There will be a re-adjustment period when moving to any country.

Many people experience lengthy periods (over one year) where they may hate everything about the new place, as they compare any small (or big) issues to the place they have left.

But as seasoned Expats will tell you, life can turn around after an 'incubation' period.

With initial irritants forgotten, a new lifestyle starts to emerge.

The list of priorities starts to make sense, and you put things in perspective rather than becoming over-reactive to one-off challenging situations.

I adjusted quickly to India because I had planned it for years.

I was sure of my priority list.

Yes, it is louder and busier than where I had come from, which poses a potential problem for a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) like me, who possesses a nervous system wired to detect subtle changes.

BUT I trade these examples of possible negatives against other priorities higher on my list.

I now have cab drivers tackling the traffic instead of me, like back home.

The weather was an improvement for me, which greatly affected my daily mood.

And there was an enormous range of unique experiences open to me I did not find in my hometown or country.

Many lifestyle conveniences and innovative home services exist in India that were unavailable to me when I lived in the West.

(I’m not talking about maids either. I clean my own home and probably always will. It's my exercise).

One example is the technology and service sectors in general.

Many services I had to leave the house for are now available straight to my door.

I had a meal delivered to my sleeper seat on an Indian train by ordering two hours in advance from my mobile phone and receiving it at the next platform!

Innovation is everywhere here and can sometimes be overwhelming!

And the innovation grows daily with the number of young startup ventures in India exploding.

Before you say it, I am not wearing rose-coloured glasses. I survived the disorienting and dangerous Covid-19 situation in India for two years.

I have set up and worked in business in India, a challenging exercise for some.

I have had some of the worst personal experiences of my life here.

However, I do not blame the country for those things.

I can see incidents as incidents. I don't extrapolate them to a negative judgement of the country.

I see the fundamental reasons why India is a good choice for me (regardless of the opinions of others).

Sometimes you may not be able to isolate the reasons you want to move.

In the end, only I know if I enjoy living in India.

Congratulations on Moving to India

I want to tell you that you are brave! Not for living in India, it's a delight to be here, and it's a great option that NRIs have that many in the West relish!

India is a great place overall, in my experience.

No, you are brave to go against the trend, to go against strong opinions.

Maybe you admit you made a mistake years ago. Or perhaps you had made the difficult decision to follow a new opportunity at the time.

Sometimes we seek "permission" to go ahead with our decisions.

I wish you well, whatever happens.

No one can guarantee your life will be better in India. But no one can guarantee it won’t be.

The point is that India is not "better" for some, but neither is the West.

Your priority list in life is just that – YOURS!

So let’s catch up over a chai or filter coffee when you return home.

We'll fight over the bill. We'll chat about cricket or Bollywood (or not). We’ll wait for the monsoon – together.

Take care,


Your friend in India

Let me know your experience moving back to India. Comment below.

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