This is part seven in my new Expat Interview Series, where I interview interesting expats around the world. I’m hoping this series of posts will provide some insight into what it is like to live overseas, and might even encourage a few people to pack their bags and make the move!
Meet the first guy in mt expat interview series, Akshat Dhaon, an Indian expat working as a Technology Consultant in Dublin. Akshat has been living in Dublin’s fair city for more than 2 years and has traveled much of Ireland in his free time. Apart from programming, he enjoys sports, travelling, reading, watching movies, meeting new people and says he is a constantly improving cook!
What made you move abroad in the first place?
I would say it was a mix of career ambition and an innate desire to experience something different. I was starting to get bored in my job as a software engineer. I was making decent money and I liked my job (I still write code) but I needed a change. I had also already lived in a few different cities in India. I wanted to do a really good Masters in Computer Science and I considered US, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and UK before zeroing in on Ireland. Ireland was on my radar because the masters’ programmes here are of 1 year duration and the costs involved were lesser than most other places. Also, the visa and work permit laws were friendlier. We Indians require a visa to go to most countries and a work permit to start working there. As this is not that simple, combining a career move with the desire to move abroad is a good option. I got an offer from UCD and moved to Dublin.
What is the most difficult thing about living so far from home?
You start to miss friends and family and spending important moments with them. I have a huge extended family, most of them in my hometown Lucknow. We get together for key occasions. I have missed most of these over the past 2 years. We have so many festivals in India, Holi and Diwali being the biggest ones. I enjoyed a Holi a lot when I was in school and Diwali is my favourite festival. The way we celebrate these in India (with all the colours and firecrackers respectively) cannot be done in Ireland. I hope to be in India for Diwali in 2016. Also, there is the food. While I am a foodie and enjoy all kinds of food, I do sometimes miss an authentic Indian dish.
How did you make friends when you first arrived?
As I arrived as a Masters’ student, I met many people in college. I lived in a house share and got involved in different activities and sports too. I tried my hand at stuff I had never done before, like mountaineering, mountain biking, surfing and handball. I am part of a few meetup groups. I enjoy meeting people and chatting with them. It gives me an insight into their culture and their view on life. I also like to share my culture and beliefs with them.
What do you love the most about being an expat?
Being an expat makes you appreciate the things you liked more than ever, things back home that you never missed previously. Ironically it can bring you closer to home and people back there. They start checking on you more regularly.
“The thing I like most is how your horizon is broadened. Especially in a place like Dublin, you tend to experience diverse cultures all around you. Then there is that sense of freedom.”
I find that people don’t tend to judge you that quickly in a different country. You can be more uninhibited in the things you enjoy doing (or trying out things you haven’t done before). You also learn to be more responsible as you are on your own.
Has anything funny happened to you in Dublin due to cultural differences?
I was bemused by the word ‘craic’ the first time I heard it as I mistook it for ‘crack’. As ‘crack’ already has multiple meanings, my confusion at that time won’t be too hard to imagine! Then I find it funny how people tend to add a “How are you” every time they come across you. In the beginning, I used to feel obliged to reply to that question. I soon realised that one is not always expected to reply. It’ll be considered rude in India if someone asks you a question and you don’t reply to it. Another thing would be the use of toilet paper.
“In India, you’ll always find a tap and a container beneath it (to hold water) in a loo. My folks back home are still not sure how I manage without that!”
How do you cope when things are going badly?
I am quite a positive person. I haven’t got anything easily in life. So, when things go bad, I try to see them as a learning curve and try to remain upbeat. I would divert my attention to the good bits rather than get weighed down by the things going wrong. I believe that everything comes in phases. Let the bad ones pass and make most of the good ones.
Do you think you travel a lot more now because you live overseas?
I definitely travel a lot more now and my love of exploring new places has grown once I found how much I enjoy it. It also helps when you meet like-minded people who enjoy their travels. I have now been to most of the major places in Ireland.
What are your future plans?
I don’t plan too much in life, I take things as they come. A few years down the line, you may find me settled in Dublin or having moved to a different country. But I am sure that I would like to travel a lot more. I have been to the US for a couple of days and have lived in Oman when I was a kid. Now I am in Ireland. There are so many places to visit, I feel that the world has opened up for me.
If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
Go for it. You need to be sure what you want to do and enjoy your work. This way you’ll be good at what you do and won’t find it that hard to find a job. Moving abroad may seem a risk in the beginning but, trust me, it would be a risk worth taking. Some years down the line, when you remember that day when you made this decision and you recall all the experiences you have been through because of it, you won’t regret it.