Girl Talk: Making A Home Away From Home

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In this edition of Girl Talk, we talk about being away from ‘home’. Payal came here as a student two decades ago, Priyanka moved 13 years as a young bride and I came more recently as a not-so-young bride. Read our adventures (way too many are food-related) and do share some of your stories 🙂 

When and why did you move to the US?
Shradha: I left India in the end of August 2014 and moved in with my fiancé. We got married in December that year and the US has been home since. I’m relatively new, but what’s strange is some days it feels like I’ve been here forever and other days I feel I JUST moved!

Priyanka: I moved in August of 2004, right after my wedding. (Yup, been married a while now!) Dallas is home now. As a kid, I moved around a lot when I was in India but funnily enough, Dallas has been the longest I have lived in anyplace. That strange feeling you were talking about, that doesn’t seem to have gone away for me even after all this time. Some days I feel like this isn’t home, it’s temporary, that I just moved and will move again. And some days I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Payal: I came to the US for my undergrad way back in 1998. I stayed in Michigan for four years, got tired of the extreme winters and moved to Texas when I got my first job. Have been in the Lone Star State ever since! Can’t believe it will be 20 years in the US next year!

 

Via Priyanka’s Instagram

What’s the toughest part of being away?
Shradha:
 I hate being so far from friends and family. And eating home cooked meals NOT cooked by me is a pain point too.

Priyanka: Can I just say Ditto? Friends and family are a big part of it. Considering my sister moved back to India and sees my parents more often than I do, I can’t shake off that FOMO. And friends too! I have been incredibly lucky in finding awesome friends this side of the pond. That said, there’s something about pre-adulthood friendships that makes them invaluable. Oh and I have major bai/dhobi/cook envy.

Payal: I grew up in the Middle East so I’ve been away from India since I was 12. I also lived in a hostel for a while. Being away from home was something I was used to. When I moved to the US, I guess I missed food the most. Indian food wasn’t so readily available back then let alone good Indian food. But, it’s different now. Dallas has us spoilt for choices. Now, if only I could find a restaurant catered towards Oriya/Bengali style of cooking, and I would be a happy girl! The only thing I miss now are the festivals. Like the mood around Eid in the Middle East. And Diwali and Dussehra while I was in India.

How long did you take to adjust to life away from your roots and how did you build your new support system?
Shradha:
I think I’m still adjusting. The first year in New Jersey was rough. I tried the whole house wife thing but it wasn’t as glam and I wasn’t really lunching that much with any ladies! My husband had a group of friends who gave me the 411 on life in the US — everything from how to boil dal to what masalas to stock in the kitchen! Some of those friendships clicked and have grown to be real, solid relationships. Two years ago, we moved to San Francisco and I had to start the process of building friendships all over again. I’ve met people through my day job and through the usual friends-of-friends route. It’s probably going to take a long, long time to consolidate my core group but I’m grateful to have found some amazing new friends. So yes, the new support system is underway!

Priyanka: I was lucky enough to walk in to a social situation I could easily adapt to. The women I met nearly a decade and a half ago are today some of my closest friends. I also reconnected with some of my friends who had moved away and had somewhat drifted apart. Getting to know them again was fantastic! I also quickly realized that when you meet someone you hit it off with, make it a point to stay in touch with them or at least see if there’s a friendship to be had there. Making friends as adults is hard and it will serve us all well to remember the other person is no different from us, and it’s just as hard for them. It wasn’t all easy but I let things take their time and it all eventually fell in to place. Big shoutout to a very supportive husband who let me rave, rant and whine when I wanted to and helped me snap out of my funk when I most certainly needed to.

Payal: College wasn’t so hard as I had a class-mate from high-school also attending the same college as mine. That made the first semester a whole lot easier. When I first moved to Dallas after graduation, I decided to get a roommate. Best decision ever! Our social circle pretty much grew from us two meeting new people (including Priyanka) from the day we roomed together and this was almost 15 years ago. Till date, she and I still hang out if not every weekend, every two or so. I don’t even think I can ever think about moving out of Dallas because of the strong social circle here. My inner friend circle is family. We’ve gone through ups and downs together.

 

Via Payal’s Instagram

Where is home and how often do you go back?
Shradha:
Home is Calcutta and I’ve been lucky to go back to visit every six months or so.

Priyanka: My parents finally settled in Hyderabad about 16 years ago and that’s been home. I go back every year, haven’t missed a single one yet. And am lucky enough to spend about 2 months each year there.

Payal: Home for me is now Dallas, oddly. I have lived here more than I have lived in any other country. But, when we do travel towards India, I visit Dubai and then Bangalore and Bhubaneshwar. My husband and I joke how we always need a vacation from our India vacation because of how much we have to squeeze in with our limited time off.

What are the first 5 things you do back home?
Shradha:
Can I talk about the first 5 things I eat instead! Here are the first five things: Give a million kisses to my nephew; eat homemade kathi rolls; call my closest friends; fix an at-home massage and then get down to business — plan my trip’s worth of meals!

Priyanka: Drink filter coffee. (It’s not the same anywhere else.) Plan breakfast, then lunch, then dinner, the following day’s breakfast… You get the drift. Begin texting friends- there are people to see, places to go! Umm and finally, make sure wi-fi is working as it should. (It probably is the first thing I do but shhh!)

Payal: There is this funny ritual I would have when I was eating non-veg. I WOULD HAVE to make a pit-stop at Kentucky fried Chicken in Dubai at least once during my trip. 😛 Now, I just get my Indian-Chinese fix as much as I can. Browse and Hoard up on desi clothes. Most of my friends are here so it’s mostly catch up on family while there.

 

Via Shradha’s Instagram

Some coping tips for our recently relocated readers?
Shradha:
I think the first step is to acknowledge the fact that you will need to cope. Everyone has different mechanisms, for me it was a daily call with my girls. I felt the need to be in constant touch with my old life. As time goes on, your dependency will reduce; you will make new friends and have a new routine. There might come a time when you and your old friends might not be able to relate to each other. Work through that if those relationships are important to you. If not, maybe it’s time to cut that cord.

Priyanka: Make peace with the fact that you have moved and that it’s not going to be picture-perfect right away, not for a while. Know that the life you left behind is not going to stay frozen in time for you to claim as and when you choose to. Once you get all that out of the way, you can get a move on. Get in to a routine, it helps. Put yourself out there. Know that for a while at least you’ll have to work harder, both at making friends and keeping the ones you left behind. Yes, friendships should be organic, natural and effortless but till they are, it takes work. Like any relationship. You’ll just have to roll up your sleeves and be adult about it. 🙂 Talk, whatsapp, facetime, go on a social media overdrive. Take all the time you need and before you know it, you’ll have found your own place. And finally, know that you could be doing everything right but the angst just won’t go away. Don’t be hard on yourself. It gets better, I promise. At the end of the day, remember you are in a new country, take it all in. Explore!

Payal: I came here as a student so my experience is different than Priyanka and Shradha’s so let me give you the college student perspective as well. Reach out to the Indian Student Association of your College/University and volunteer with them or participate in their activities. Nowadays with social media especially Facebook, there are plenty of groups that one can join. You may not instantly feel like you sync with everyone in such groups but after a while you tend to find like minded people that you somehow connect with. There are also portals that cater to the South Asian population. I found my first roommate through that and look where it led.

What’s your homesick survival kit?
Shradha:
Facetime sessions, Vogue India, comfort Indian meal, old family albums and a Hindi movie on Netflix. Sometimes one of these is enough and sometimes I need it all!

Priyanka: Being busy. When I am feeling particularly homesick I make it a point to have plans. Surround myself with friends, catch a movie, grab some drinks, try out a new restaurant, all of it helps!

Payal: The thing I dread the most once I reach home is laundry and that first grocery run. Don’t know which one I hate more. Once, I’ve dealt with these two items, it’s easy to move on. We do somehow also end up with our first meal at home being Rice, Daal and Aloo Bharta (that’s an Oriya dish). Well, I eat the Aloo, my hubby stays away from it.

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29 Comments

  1. This comes at an amazing time! I’m moving to the US in the next 3 days and yes aloo bharta and potol is something I’ll have to fix for myself routinely. Even though being away from “home”… Which is wherever your parents are is a feeling I’m used to, not having a job and moving to another country is not the same thing. Good on you guys for having adapted really well! Cheers! 🙂

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    • Welcome!!
      Some starter tips for you:
      Start driving in US asap. Keep yourself busy with learning new skill. Enjoy the variety of cuisine world has to offer. Make travel plans.
      Do meet-ups. Make friends wisely. No Cribbing and soak in all the fun and learning new life has to offer.
      Have a safe trip. All the best!!

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    • It’s definitely a big adjustment M but you will feel settled before you know it 🙂 Just a heads up, if you have been working for a while, it will tough getting used to the idea of so much time on hand but try and enjoy the break 🙂

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  2. It was great getting to know you all better and your different experiences. I could totally understand since I moved to US, both as a student once, had to go back to India after graduating and come back as a bride. I can’t wait for you all to do more ‘girl talks’. I hope the next one is related to clothes and fashion you saw growing up.

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  3. A very refreshing read especially for me – another desi who moved to the US in 2010 – finding a job in this visa market,not letting go of it even if you want a break – again due to visa issues, finding friends,making an effort to keep in touch with them and finding ways to socialise is all part of the game. I guess after being a mom it got a little easier with socialising otherwise my weekends were spent lazing on my bed. I have started to call this place my home though as mentioned by you guys i miss the food,family,the help and the amazing way the service industry works in India. Thank you for this and I wish we had this article sooner…ah well,better late than never 🙂

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  4. Hello P, P & S,
    I teared up while reading this because i can relate to most of it. Can’t agree more on ‘Yes, friendships should be organic, natural and effortless but till they are, it takes work.’. In my city, there is an already established group, everybody has their close set of friends. Yes, I do talk with them and have a length conversation but have never made it to the inner circle after 3 years of trying. I think i have become desperate now. It is getting better.. hopes and smiles 🙂

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      • Hi Aslesha

        I moved to Australia 17 years ago, I reasonate with you completely. Made friends, drifted apart, moved to US and then came back to Australia and no friends at all. Some days are fine, I call Australia home but I will always miss India ( food, culture, festivals, parents, relatives and friends). Good Luck for future and don’t lose hope. Hope you find some real good friends soon. Love

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  5. After 7 years here in US, this is home!.. came here as a newlywed…So this is where hubby and I started a new life… with WhatsApp n all definitely life is connected to the friends and family back home… but, it requires a lot of effort… somewhere down there, is disconnect.. it’s a very different lifestyle here.. but the jokes, the sense of camaraderie, the culture is the same… being here has exposed to so many different cultures/ cuisines… have travelled a lot.. the friends here are our family… I try to follow the festivals and rituals more diligently here..

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  6. Great to hear more about you…from someone who was in the Middle East from age 7, studied in India for under-grad and moved to the US 22yrs ago for grad school!

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  7. Hi Payal,

    Just curious, where do you get your bengali food craving from (given you are not bengali)?
    Loved this post, made me almost tear up thinking about personally losing the whole sense of “home”.

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  8. My world back home has moved on and this new world doesn’t feel mine yet… sometimes I feel so lost 🙁
    Thanks for sharing !

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  9. Hi! I am from Delhi, and I moved to the US around 16 years back. I worked for a few years but then had to call it quits after my son was born. It was totally my decision because I didn’t want to leave my son at the mercy of nannies. Now, my son is 11 years old and boy! I am glad, I took that decision of being a stay-at-home mom. The kind of connect that he has with me, the Indian culture and all things Indian, especially the food, is truly a treat. At the same time, he revels in all things American, but, thankfully, he has no trace of ambivalence in his character so that people call him ABCD. I totally advocate that post-adulthood friendships require a whole lot of effort and are more inorganic than organic meaning; it is a marriage of convenience, especially in the US. BTW, I am back in the workforce as a freelancer and totally love the flexibility.

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  10. I was reading this very diligently since I was genuinely curious to read about you girls, but the flashing ads on the side made me lose my concentration so much I couldnt finish! Sorry girls, am sure it’s a great post.

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  11. Wow! This is fantastic gives a peek into your lives and many some inspiration. I also have to make a choice to move to the states and its the most difficult choice I’m facing in my life right now.. I think I need therapy 🙁 Maybe need to connect with one of you.. I have been to the States about 20 times both for vacation and twice to study and loved it for vacay but hated when I had to move as a student and came back without completing the course TWICE!! Just couldn’t get along with the weather and food and feeling isolated and like a second class citizen. Now again I must choose between my partner whose moved there or being single for the rest of my life!! (WHY OH WHY must I choose again!?!) I love India for its food mainly like you guys clearly spoke about and I really like the tropical Mumbai weather yeah shocking!! .I actually don’t mind the humidity and sweat Lol compared to the cold an dry weather in DC where my man is currently… also the comforts that it provides like help, cook etc. and social connect…I am so badly stuck in this dilemma its tearing me apart and more importantly my relationship….Help!!! OK! I think that’s too much emotional display for HHC!! :(((

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    • exactly ! Bombay is not just a city its an emotion.. its addictive and has such electric vibe to it.. the diversity and celebration of all cultures is amazing.

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      • well, i meant i cant imaine moving out of my birth city… n here i see women practically moevd continents n belong. True about bombay, but the context here was hometown n not a particular place.

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  12. Having grown up in Chennai most of my life and subsequently moving to Bangalore for my MBA and moving to the Middle East again for work, moving to the USA post-wedding did not sound difficult for the first time. But the feeling that now you are too far-away from home, almost half way across the globe emotionally wore me down, especially with no job! I follow these lovely ladies on Instagram for a while now (Big fan!) and I just happened to see what this blog is about and was able to relate to every word you mentioned! Loved the article and it feels better to know so many people were in my exact shoes and they overcame it all, so beautifully! Keep up the good work, ladies!! <3

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