By Sudhir Sehgal
We moved to Australia in 2015 and since then we have been through our own interesting journey of settling DOWN UNDER.
I must admit largely it has been positive, it had a few shades of struggle but we managed!
We came out of India for our reasons; however, recently I have seen lots of Indians wishing to go back to India that too permanently after spending a substantial number of years here.
India is our homeland or shall I say motherland, where we are born, especially for those, like me, who have taken Australian Citizenship and now for sake of loyalty – Australia is my homeland.
Our family is there, and we miss the food and festivals. But different people may have different reasons to go back – from taking care of their parents to starting a new business.
In this article, I am sharing the experiences of a particular set of people who have done well financially but are not able to adjust to the culture, not able to find the right Mates (as they say in Australia; right friends) with whom they can spend their last years and since we are taking the example of some people who are only 40+ age bracket. It is also about some mistakes which unknowingly happened and how we can fix them if we want to stay here.
When we start from India and we have a family, along with our parents we also have a mammoth task to convince our spouse and kids, as they are going to handle the cultural changes; struggle to adjust to schools and office, live without domestic help and miss all the support they enjoy while being in India.
If I may add, the day to day saas-bahu (mother-in-law and daughter-in-law) and sasur-damad (father-in-law and son-in-law) nokjhok (mild altercations) strengthen our relations!
Once we are here, we definitely have initial settlement time and once we start earning life, of course, becomes busier for all of us.
Now, we are settled, as some of my friends told me, there is always a bit of uncomfortableness – mixing up with local friends to even keeping in touch with our family back in India is a bit hard.
However, there is always a fear of losing, or should I put it as say missing buying expensive products like a BMW car to have multiple investments in houses to secure our future in this expensive country, and we end up getting disconnected from society and having a smaller circle of close friends.
In my opinion, we tend to be the following:
- Focused more on the money with the assumption that working long hours will give you lots of money. Even though Australia is one of those best work-life-balance countries which does not force anyone to work after 5 pm and over the weekends (and the weekend starts on Friday afternoons here). Even if you are in business you do not operate after 5 pm and if you do you can still manage your shits to take-offs;
- Have a bit of (false) ego that we are earning more than everyone else in India or even Australian friends;
- Ignore smiling to anyone who tried to greet us (and be our friend) which eventually end up as having least friends;
- Tag ourselves ALWAYS BUSY: usually, this is a social stigma – if you are not busy, you are earning less or less important. Lesser social gatherings lead to lesser and weaker relations;
- Avoid keeping in touch with our friends and family in India – timing, their expectations, and busyness are common excuses for these;
- Do not participate in local politics and sports – maybe we do not understand those but we put less effort to bridge the gaps;
- Reduce our visits to India – kids holidays, world vs India travel, environmental challenges in India – there are various reasons and excuses;
- Limit ourselves to friends who are from our local area in India or speak the same language. This is a very common issue and the main reason for this is usually (as I have been told) food and drink preferences. While we consider eating or drinking a few things a SIN (since we are more religious and think from the heart), for local Australians it is just tastes or choice; and
- Distance ourselves from our friends on small little arguments for the sake of peace. We do not have such luxury of choice with our brother and sister back in India so our patience levels are much higher.
Reasons can be many, a single article can’t justify focusing on issues and finding relevant solutions. But if you are planning to move back to India we need to consider some of the following points too:
- Your family especially the kids will have to adjust to the new environment again. And it’s going to be tougher this time as no they have 2 places/environments to compare. Study pressure and the competition level are much tougher in India;
- Your friends and family have adjusted to their life without you and moved on with a new circle of friends. They will have to make new space to introduce you to their existing circle;
- You will compare everything in India to things in Australia (unwillingly); and
- You will have to adjust to new work culture – this time your boss will ask you to work long hours at the same salary.
I am sure, no doubt, India will always welcome us with open arms and a warm heart. We will also have many benefits: top of the list are – domestic help, cheaper house prices, and affordability. But, if you want to continue staying in Australia with a better old age (in my opinion the very idea of old age is a relative thing), we can try a few things and have a happy and extended circle of friends both in India and Australia.
So, my advice, if you are still planning to go back to India, is:
- Take breaks. No one should work for 7 days (and 18 hours) – we need to plan well. This will help your kids a lot in their future of work-life balance. Give them habit of taking breaks as well.
- Smile and make honest friends who you can speak to, have arguments, and laugh at each other
- Have friends across counties, food habits, and cultural backgrounds – we can’t generalize people, there are good people every where who wish to mingle with you, understand your way of living, and expand their horizons. I have local (born here, never been to any other country) friends who come to the place to eat parantha and rice with hand and have biryani with wine.
- Invite your family and friends from India to Australia, so you can spend time with them and they can see new things
- (if you can afford it) Spend 1-2-3 months in India every year and see that world as well.
- Read Local newspapers and be part of local discussions. We can change a lot here, we can’t change anything back in India by putting social media comments as we are not on the ground. If we are going to stay here we need to solve local problems for our old age and kids.
- Before you take any drastic step – always evaluate how your kids will adjust there, they may not say anything but it’s going to be hard for them.
These are some of my personal thoughts and experiences of some of my friends. If we talk more we will have stronger relations and friends in future.
Contributing Author: Sudhir Sehgal’s overseas journey started in 1999 when he got his first job in Singapore. As a Singapore permanent resident, Sudhir spent seven years there and then moved to India to expand the publishing business that he started in Singapore along with his elder brother and with the support of the local government body – MDA. After travelling to many countries, Sudhir (and his wife) decided to settle Down Under as they took Australian permanent residency in 2015. Apart from his children’s book publishing business, Sudhir has also operated five seafood restaurants in Sydney which he lost during COVID19 and is now in the process of rebuilding businesses. Currently, Sudhir is working as Scrum Master for a major telecom company and has an inherent desire to be a published author. He actively writes about local issues on social media platforms.
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