Friday, March 23, 2012

Little Differences that Make a Big Impact

When considering whether or not to move to India most of us think about jobs, independence, food, and living expenses. All of those are major factors that you need to spend a good amount of time thinking about before making the decision to move. But, there are other small things that matter as well. These things shouldn't stop you from moving here but you need to plan and prepare for how to manage them so they won't become a huge problem.

Hard surfaces - Most floors in Indian homes are either concrete (with or without tiles) or marble. There are many advantages to these surfaces like how easy they are to clean as opposed to carpet. The biggest disadvantage though is that they are not feet/knee/leg friendly. Neither concrete nor marble absorb any of the impact from when your foot hits them. That leaves your body to take the shock all by itself. So to manage, you need to learn how to walk with less impact, including when you run up and down stairs. Most of us don't even realize how hard we set our foot down when we're walking. To prevent bone damage, it's crucial to learn how to walk softer. It's not as easy as it sounds but can be done.

Ergonomics - There are virtually no ergonomic items here. In the US just about everything is ergonomically designed to be body friendly. Your office chair, your kitchen knives and even automobiles. That's not the case here in India. Peeling potatoes can become quite a chore when you have to apply all the pressure to the peeler with your thumb without an ergonomic peeler.

Independence - Unlike moving to a new city, your independence will be limited somewhat by your inability to fluently speak the language here (there's 60 of them). You may be further inhibited by not knowing your way around. Not all cities are planned here like cities in the west typically are. Both of these are minor but can feel like a major pain in the neck when you're faced with them.

Weather - You knew that already but, have you considered that in addition to temperature changes that the air and sun feel different here. IMO 125 degrees F here feels like 100 degrees F in the Southeast quarter of the US. The only difference is that here you'll be sweating profusely whereas in the US you would just be sweating a lot. I burn super easy in the sun in the US, here I don't burn at all.

Vitamins - There is a serious problem here with vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition. One of the main concerns is Vitamin D which you must absorb from the sun. It's not added to the milk here like it is in the US. Without enough of it you'll wind up depressed and that only sabotages your efforts to survive here. The good news, vitamins are cheap and easy to find here.

Previous posts I've written on small differences between life in the west vs. India:
The Fatigue of Being Punjabi
Expat Alert! Unexpected Changes When Moving to Another Country

13 comments:

  1. Interesting about the floor thing, coming from Switzerland I'm actually used to hard floors as the standard in appartments is hardwood glued to the concrete floor, wall to wall carpet was a big thing in the 70's and 80's but pretty much died in the 90's so people are pretty used on walking lightly.
    All the others, yup they are things that are impacting life in India. You can find ergonomic kitchen stuff though, they are a bit costly but they do exist in higher end stores, my biggest issue in the kitchen is that despite being 5'6 tall most kitchens are designed for lilliputs and counters are inevitably too low leading to terrible back pain. When I was pregnant all my pregnant buddy on a US based message board complained about not being able to reach the counter without twisting sideway in the late months because of the tummy getting in the way had me actually reaching the counter perfectly because my bump would sit on top of the counter, I still couldn't use the kitchen couter because the baby bump covered the work surface though :)

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  2. Cyn good point about the height of countertops. My husband's house in Kochi was built specifically for his mom, and those countertops come below my hips well below that.. It's difficult to bend down like that, so I found an appreciation for why some Indian ladies cut things while sitting on the floor. I have yet to learn to use the gadget I have seen in South India that is put on the floor with a blade sticking straight up that is used for cutting! I'll find an image of that somewhere.

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  3. Kristy, all good points. Regarding the floor... all these marbles and tiles are quite newer ideas in most Indian homes. Maybe because the economy has gotten better. One of my NRI friends in the US said that she suggested her family NOT to get these kinds of floors but for a different reason. See when marble or tiles gets even a little wet, it's slippery. It takes a different kind of balance (let alone gentle touch) to walk on this floor, especially when wet. She mentioned noticing a higher incidence of falls, bone fractures and general problems from falling after such floors were installed in her family's homes in India.

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  4. It's called "aruva manai" in Tamil. http://www.google.com/imgres?um=1&hl=en&sa=N&biw=1277&bih=551&tbm=isch&tbnid=8TDPKVcgJbRNjM:&imgrefurl=http://live2cook.wordpress.com/2008/06/23/coconut-series-i-the-artful-fruit/&docid=NZSkuE3bpDR5wM&imgurl=http://live2cook.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/turuvamanai.jpg&w=424&h=336&ei=YB1sT8DbNcnQrQeJ0tGkAg&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=329&vpy=284&dur=647&hovh=170&hovw=212&tx=90&ty=206&sig=103807411071521999960&page=1&tbnh=151&tbnw=187&start=0&ndsp=10&ved=1t:429,r:6,s:0

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  5.  Oh yeah the floor gets really dangerous when wet, I nearly fell a couple of time on that damn marble, in my old apartment in Bangalore it was ceramic tiles it was better but these seamless marble floors are a hazard, plus it's better not to have kids playing with marbles and balls on these in the new posh appartment building otherwise the downstairs people will hate it. The building in which I live has a standard laminate fake wood flour in the kid's room it absorb impact noises much better.

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  6.  I saw it, but I'll never get one, I don't like sitting on the ground to cut veggies, plus I have a dog too so not very hygienic and practical, If I have a lot to chop I sit on the sofa and cut stuff on the coffee table. Now I have a maid that cooks the Indian food for DH so I have less back breaking work in the kitchen. I don't like eating the same cuisine everyday, DH doesn't mind it and it preserves better in his tiffin anyway.
    In bangalore my kitchen was big enough that I could drag a chair in the kitchen and sit in front of the counter to do food prepping, counter top height set aside I miss that kitchen, it was nice and big.

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  7. In the US we have a good mix between hardwood, stone tiles and carpet. But, they put things under the floor to absorb the shock and make the floors flexible so it's easier on your body.

    I wish I had access to high end stores. Lol, there's hardly anything here and when stores come they don't last long. I plan on bringing some ergonomic stuff back with me. I miss having a good potato peeler and knives that cut without having to use all my arm strength.

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  8. You're right, marble can be dangerous as well. I can imagine it would be worse with the cheap flip flops everyone runs around in.

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  9. I don't think I've ever seen one of those here. Very interesting. We may have them but I've never paid that much attention while I'm out. I know we don't have one in the house.

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  10.  Or better come for a mini vacation in Mumbai and splurge...it's guaranteed to make you like India much more ;-)

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  11. Kristy, now I understand what 'lies beneath'!!! It's because homes in India are made of concrete. I suppose wood is a better shock absorber. The other difference I find is that in a wood house, we can hear people walking upstairs, lots of creaking at night, easier to hear people in one part of the house than another (if if the house is average size). But in a concrete house, it's not easy to hear people upstairs or even in the next room! There's also more echo in a concrete house. We have learned this by giving conference call on Skype and the people in US ask why they hear an echo.

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  12. I would love to visit Mumbai before I leave here permanently.

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  13. I hear a lot of noise from surrounding houses here and our house is concrete. We can hear the neighbors sometimes, the kids rolling marbles upstairs or even people walking but it happens far less often than in the US.

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