“I was scared when I came to Germany because I left my parents and India for the first time in my life. But at the same time, I was excited to experience something new.”
Akshatha Mangala Kenche Gowda (27) comes from Chintamani, 75 km (47 mi) away from Bangalore, India, and does her master program in Communications Engineering in Munich now. When she was deputed to go to Germany for the first time in January 2015 for her job at Bosch India, it was not just her first time in Europe, but also her first time in another country at all.
Read in my exclusive interview with her, what living in India means, what Akshatha has experienced so far, what she thinks about Germany and German people and what tips she can give travelers who plan a trip to India.
Living in India compared to Germany
Why did you choose Germany?
From my last job at Bosch in India, I knew that in Germany there are a lot of industries such as Intel, Infineon, and BMW. That sounded like a good opportunity to me and the TUM (= The Entrepreneurial University) in Munich is one of the best universities in Europe. You also don’t have to pay any semester fees for a master in Germany. So that was one more reason why I chose this country.
How did it feel to leave your home country?
I was not ready at first. I did an intercultural program in India and my teacher told me that without German I can’t survive. But when I got delegated to Stuttgart from Bosch India, I could manage it with my lack of German and actually I really liked it there. So when I came again for my master’s degree in October 2016, I had no problem with the situation anymore. And I’m also attending German classes at university right now to improve myself and get along with people here.
What was your first impression of Germany and Germans?
Well, at first I was surprised how clean and organized Germany is. Living in India means a lot of traffic (honking is another thing) and garbage on streets – especially in a few major cities. I hope we can maintain them as clean as it is here in Germany. I also experienced that the Germans are not friendly at first. They need some weeks to open themselves. For example, when I worked for Bosch at Stuttgart it took two months until I could talk with my colleagues in a casual and easy-going way. In an Indian company with even 200 people, everything is more familiar and I know everyone personally. I guess that would be impossible in Germany.
Are there more differences between living in India compared to Germany?
Oh yes! Especially the weather is so different. In Germany, I have to wear long sweaters and a jacket every time, because even during summer time I was freezing. In Bangalore, we usually get between 30-35°C (86-95°F) and also during winter it hardly gets under 20°C (68°F). We also eat not much bread or potatoes. In Germany, you can buy bread everywhere and it will be eaten every time. In India, it’s usual to eat rice and wheat. It is also this thing with the bike streets. While in Germany you find them everywhere, in Indian traffic you would never bike on the road since we don’t have bicycle tracks on all streets like here.
Regarding the Germans, the people are very honest and say their opinion directly no matter if it’s good or bad. Also, Germans are very environment and health conscious. In Bangalore, lots of people work in the IT industry for long hours. Most of the people sadly don’t find enough time to exercise. In Germany, it is also very safe to walk around by night, while in India I wouldn’t recommend going out alone. Especially as a woman, you shouldn’t go out alone, because it can be quite unsafe sometimes. It is sad, but I’m sure that it will change someday.
What do you like about Germany or Germans?
In Germany, people live independently from a very young age. They take own decisions about their education, relationships, career or family. Living in India means people are influenced by their family. Having a close-knit family is always good for an Indian, but sometimes it gets annoying that you must take permission about a lot of things and irrelevant people (like neighbors) try to influence your decisions. There is also this caste system which I absolutely don’t like. I hope that in the near future, India is not based on this kind of system. Germany in this sense is quite good, flexible and more accepting.
Have you learned something here that you would keep up in India?
Indeed, there are two things I would change when living back in India. So when I’m home again, I want to be on time every day. It is something I got used to now and I don’t want to waste time at work anymore and leave when it’s quitting time. I also don’t want to throw waste or wrappings on the streets. It is normal when you live in India, but it should be banned.
If you find a job in Germany, would you stay?
When it is time to raise the family, I would want to go back to India. But for now, I really want to continue working here.
What do you like about India?
I love our festivals. We celebrate every month two or three several events like Diwali, Holi or Ugadi and every time the whole family comes together, which is always nice. Although we have different languages and live in different castes, people stay together. It’s like we are a big family. That’s why divorces are very rarely here, too.
Do you become homesick sometimes?
Sometimes I miss my home, my family and Indian food. But there was a day when I was very depressed about something and cried in the metro. A woman came to me and asked if everything is okay. I felt better because this behavior reminded me of home and my family.
What are your tips for travelers who want to visit India?
Depends on which area you want to go, India can be very hot, food can be spicy and you must be aware that you can use rickshaws (little cars), buses and taxis to get around. But the best way to get from one point to another is by taxi. In India, you will also find more than 20 variations of languages, different food habits, and different clothes – all in just one country. So sometimes it even happens to me that I go to a city 200 km (124 mi) away from home and don’t understand the people there. But no matter where you are, everything is affordable. Whether there are flights, food or clothes: if you want to travel to a country where you want to experience rich cultural diversity, amazing food, picturesque mountains, rivers, plantations, and architecture, go to India!
What is the best travel route in India?
Do the golden triangle! The cities Agra, Jaipur and New Delhi are quite close and offer beautiful architecture and palaces. If you want to do tours to the Himalaya, the best cities are Kashmir and Leh-Ladakh. Tamil Nadu, Varanasi, Hrishikesh are famous for their temples and have the most beautiful ones. If you love hiking, the best city is Shimla that not only has lots of forests, but also great mountains. And if you love beaches, Goa is the place to go.
What you can’t travel without?
Here in Germany, it’s definitely my winter clothes (laugh). But usually, I always carry a book. I love to read when I stay at one place for longer and it is always relaxing to me.
You would love to travel to India or do you even want to live there? Let me know if you have any questions about the country and I’m more than glad to help you out! Also, if you’re interested in Indian food for beginners, read here my Indian food guide with Akshatha. For more inspiration check out my ultimate packing list guide and my post about the best vacation hotspots.