Phoren country, Desi Dil

Apologies to all my English friends and to my non-Hindi speaking friends who read my blog as I have used a lot of Hindi words and Hindi movie references in this post.

The subtle and not so subtle differences in living in UK and India.


For 37 years of my life I lived in India. I was born in India, raised in India, have visited almost every state in India and have studied in educational Institutions in four different parts of India and also speak 6 different Indian languages. In other words, I am one hundred percent Indian.(and a very patriotic one at that)

Then one fine day, we moved lock stock and barrel (Okay, not barrel. My husband is NOT fat and I am certainly not calling him a barrel) to the UK and it was a great eye-opener for me about how less than 0.9 percent of world’s population lived and how I had to adjust and adapt to their ways , after living life MY way for so very long. You can teach an old dog new tricks, but the dog has to be willing to learn. Most importantly, the dog should not belong to a ‘dhobhi’. (wink) This, I realised, was possible, only if I made certain acute and astute observations on the basic differences between UK and India and only understanding these differences perfectly would make my transition to a foreign land easier, smoother and perhaps richer than Amul butter. The following is what I found.

1. In India, the Sun is a constant presence like the hero in Yash Raj Films who is there is every frame, every shot, every scene—full paisa vasool—but in UK, the sun makes a guest appearance like Subhash Ghai in Hero, and you are filled with excitement and marvel and general satisfaction of having spotted him when he does—the sun, I mean, not Subhash Ghai.

2. When the sun does make an appearance you have to be faster than Akshay Kumar in Khiladi and have to operate that washing machine and put the clothes out to dry before you can say Rajiv hari Om Bhatia ne ki phir hera pheri :-). If you miss to do that, your laundry will pile up for the next seven days and you would be in grave danger of being submerged under it,much like the drunken men being submerged by the charms of Bips in Beedi jallaile, till the sun makes it next appearance.

3. In UK, you actually see four seasons whose pictures you had seen in story books and whose spellings you had memorised when you scored that perfect ten in dictation where you spelt autumn correctly. While in India, I always thought autumn was something English teachers conjured up to test your spellings. In India we see only sun, more sun, mild sun, rain and heavy rains depending of course, which region you inhabit.

4. In UK, even eggs are of three different kinds—those laid by caged hens, those laid by barn hens and those laid by hens which are allowed to roam in the fields breathing fresh air and listening to Mozart. Okay, I lied about Mozart (but everything else is true) :-). The kind of egg each egg is, is actually stamped individually on each and every single egg and each egg has an expiry date as well! The consumer has a choice which egg to buy too!

In India we have two kinds of eggs-- ‘bade ande’ and ‘aaj kal sister, ande chotte ho gaye’. :-)

5. In UK , if one needs a plumber then one has to book an appointment, who if you are lucky would be able to get one after 12 days (as he is on vacation in Spain) and on the appointed day he would arrive on the dot—not a second late—in a huge van (the size of a small home) which has a hundred million tools ranging from pipe cleaning tools to spanners to pipe reseaters and what-have you. He would efficiently analyse and fix the problem and leave you poorer by 80 pounds ( Rupees 6097 only).

In India, I just had to step out of my house and shout for Tapan or Patel or whoever was the Society’s ‘plumber on call’ who would come immediately, without a moment's delay with a wrench and a screwdriver and would fix my problem and would be thrilled with the rupee hundred note (1.31 pounds) I generously ‘tipped’. (as they already get a salary and aren’t supposed to take money from residents)

6.In UK, cars actually wait to let pedestrians cross. This ‘Pehle aap’ game while crossing roads took a bit of getting accustomed to . Especially, since I was so used to Mumbai and Pune where you weave your way through non stop cars at breakneck speed like the guy in the video of Bon jovi’s ‘It’s my life’.

7. In UK, my children ask me in a very British accent (yeah, they have lost their Indian accent completely now) "Mom—are my friends allowed in?" I always answer “Of course they are.” I was surprised to learn that in UK, friends are not always ‘allowed in’.

In India, my house was always full of kids on some days. They did not have to ask. They were welcome. It was also understood that if we were having a meal, whichever friends of the children happened to be present , ate with us. It was the same for my kids when they went to someone’s home too. But in UK things are a little different.

8.Mostly what hit me initially, when I first moved is the absolute quietness in this place. Everything is so silent. Everything is so orderly. Everything is so clean.Stepping out on to a street in UK and stepping out on a street in India is mostly the same as a difference between a song and dance sequence in a Karan Johar film and a scene in ‘Pather panchali’ by Satyajit Ray. :-)

9. The English language has no equivalent for the ‘th’ sound in Hindi (which is found in words like bolti) and consequently my name is always pronounced ‘pretty’ which I have learnt to ignore. But what I still haven’t got used to is my son’s and daughter’s friends calling me by first name. “Hi Pretty” said a lad who was already taller than me, at school (where I was helping out with a film making project) who is my son’s classmate and I looked over my shoulder before I realised he was addressing me.

In India, it was always “Hello Preeti aunty”. Here in UK, my English friends tell me that they find it very irritating to be called ‘Aunty’ because “I am not your aunt” and they have specifically told my children to call them by their first names, which of course we have no problems following and have adapted very easily too.

10.The best and really good part about living in UK is the libraries. They are outstanding, amazing, marvellous and nothing like I have ever seen in India.(and I have been a member of a library ever since I could read, so that is a LOT of libraries). One can borrow FIFTEEN books at a time which means between four of us, we can borrow SIXTY and that too free! Besides books, there are latest DVDs, Games CDs for Wii, X-box etc and also thousands of latest and old audio CDS, television series DVDs and so much more. For me this is like PARADISE.

I think I'll survive.
Life in UK isn't so bad too. :-)


  1. Lucky i am the first one to comment :)

    Nice post.

    Yeah ,received your reply ... i am busy until this month end ..due to huge work pressure( software release )... Will reply soon.

  2. lo ji...already sum 1 has commented....i loved the KJo and Satyajit Ray vala post...btw..have you people shifted there permanently???...

  3. wow - very good observations Pretty ;)

    I am amazed at the libraries here in US as well - but its all the tax money (income tax as well as community development tax if u own a home) that's going in to provide these facilities so I'm glad its being spent well.

    There are many such things that I have observed here in US, and will write up a post about it early next year, when I complete my decade in US!

    I love how well you are adjusting, and taking things positively. Why I mention it is because I find many Indians who move to US and don't stop complaining about the issues even 5 yrs after living here...they just dont want to adjust, and the choice to migrate was what more than half of them made themselves!

  4. Yes, very interesting observations.
    Especially about the way children are supposed to behave.
    Quite amusing that the kids are the quickest to adapt to changes, given the fact that they need to alter their behaviour the most.
    Of course you are doing Preeti well too . Already earning commission in Pounds and stuff like that :).
    Would love to hear more stories about the contrasts in the two societies.

  5. oh.i so identify with this post...many of the thoughts are exactly what i went through...actually it felt so much like what if i would have written about it..;-)

  6. Nice post!! It does take a bit getting used to. I think am in a phase where am not sure where I belong. Feel like am in trisanku swargam.

  7. I loved this post, wonderful analogies Preeti Auntie :P

    As for libraries, they were my favorite things as well when we moved...we actually can borrow up to 30 books here per person...well no one can read that much in 3 weeks but it's nice to know we still can. hehe

    All in all, a very nice post to describe the cultural differences between humara India and the UK.

  8. Most of this is exactly what I would say about India vs US. Well, the four seasons part applies only to the Northern States here, and the bit about being quiet is certainly not true for places like New York City, but the others are quite true all over.

    And the bookstores and libraries feel like paradise to me too :)

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. I totally agree with the tall lad..:).Why, you Are Pretty..PS..!!

    And I donno abt in US they have different terminologies too like gas station for petrol bunk,bell pepper for capsicum,eggplant for brinjal etc etc..Initially I used to get am like 'yeah whatever..'..hehee!!


  11. Phew! won't believe this, but I've been practising pronouncing your name with the correct 'th' at the end !..true! and i'm bound to say it wrong when I see you!

  12. Great Post Di,
    Being adressed as Pretty,I guess its cool.;P
    I hate it when I have to spell my name, like we are "eh" for a and here they say "aiii" for a ..

  13. Hi

  14. Nice post pretty aunty ;).loll...dont u miss the indian warmth n the nosey neighbors? :) some things there r good, n like all things...there r 2 sides to a coin...heina? Enjoy ur stay there!!( forever??)

  15. that was very nice pretty post after a long gap :) This is totally your style! Adopting to different lifestyle whether you go from india to abroad and from abroad to india is equally challenging.

  16. I can definitely relate to this post!
    I have stayed on and off in Japan for about 6 years but every time I go back there the cultural difference always hit me hard!! I once paid the electrician more money to install my second hand A/C than I spent on buying it 

  17. man o parents had been to the uk for a couple of months and i could not for a minute believe bout the eggs and different types of methods.......mozart?? man, wonder what would happen if the desi chicks(the feathered kind!!) start listenin to bollywood tunes.......har har...!!

    anyways on a serious note, i just love readin ur stuff.......this is the second ive read, the first being your book.....and aunt preeti, im not sure u remember u???

  18. nice post... this was so sweet description of differences... I am shocked to know about the different types of eggs..and expiry date...does it means that if we dont eat it then Chicken will pop out.. :))

  19. astute observations, preeti...

    i would love to observe an autumn and the fall colors which my sis so raves about....

    i understand about the libraries..the first thing i do when i go to any new place is enquire about the libraries and was so very pleasantly surprised to see that Singapore had so many huge public libraries. luckily i've found a quite decent one here in dubai.

  20. Like the climax of any bollywood blockbuster, your post's ending was the 'bindaas-est' part. Leave me in a city which has such awesome libraries and I'l survive too. Happily perhaps :)

  21. Wow Libraries sound like dream come true....

    The first name bit is a tad weird...

    A hilarious post, really loved it.

  22. If people have to mispronounce ur name then I'm sure u r relieved that it is mispronounced this way:-)).

    Even Open book had written a post complaining abt the plumbers & the internet guys in UK;-))

    ‘aaj kal sister, ande chotte ho gaye’. :-)
    LOL the dialogue is hilarious but oh so, so true...even in Dubai we have choices - but unlike urs its small eggs, big eggs, brown eggs and quail eggs & oh all with expiry dates & priced according to size;-D

    Enjoyed the post Preethi...keep 'em coming!!!!

  23. Loved your post even though I don't know Hindi. Point No. 10 seems like enough of a reason to love a country :D ...I am so glad you like living in the UK as I have heard quite a lot of negative stuff of late. Not at all what Blyton, Potter, Wordsworth or Dahl had me envision :D

  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. Nice post.... the Hindi movies sequence was great... we get to understand things better!!

  26. At times I wonder how would I manage when put in a complete alien city.

    One thing I have seen is how quickly kids adapt to almost any change in their routine. They find so many things amusing and a change from the same old everyday stuff.

  27. nice post PS..informative with a dose of humor!

    Living out of india has made me rethink about some of our habits n culture..which in turn has made me embrace some of our practices more strongly while doing away with certain other practices. It is a great experience.

    i love the 4 seasons too..n the fact that i have to buy almost 4(or can compromise with 3) sets of clothes for each season.

    n ya the library, is one awesome feature in the US too. Imagine, the library of which im a member...a person can borrow 50 books at a time!!!

  28. I m one among those who always dreamt of staying in uk.Hope so that my dream come true.nice post.

  29. Too Good analogy!!
    Well, about Hindi words usage here, Oye tension naku, Unko bhi aa jayegi na Hindi is bahaane :D hehe

  30. The difference you stated is between India and anywhere else in the world. The same is true if you come to US. The best part I have liked in US and now I understand in UK is the library system. We should build something similar in India... Here there is no limit to the number of books you can borrow. So, it all depends on how much a person can handle..
    Enjoy your stay.

  31. awesome post:) loved reading it. Yeah we have the 4 seasons here too in Midwest US..But 3 short seasons and 1 long winter!

  32. aah that was fun! :)

  33. Interesting post :) Many of the everyday things we just take for granted na- like the sun shining. Once we loose it we realize the importance..

  34. wow!
    amazing and interesting post..

    nice observations too!

    and yep libraries sound amazing
    wish india mein bhi aise libraries hoti...

  35. :)

    I totally loved the metaphor's and in some cases the simile's too :D

    Like everybody said, I really appreciate the way you've adapted into the new place and ambience - oh there is definitely an effort I’m sure, but reading it makes it sound so easy to us :p

    So please, preeti please, tell us how you do all this? :p (sorry, was just trying to be corny ;))

  36. dear priti,

    very nice writeup. it was worth a long wait :) yess, there are many special things about our India -

    * cows, dogs and many other animals roaming fearless on the streets
    * relationships with grocerywalas,plumbers,dhobis,dudhwalas,domestic help and many more which sometimes last for generations :)
    * friends coming in any time and sharing space, food, traveling with families. no formalities yaar!
    * calling everyne with respect, though we may not respect them all and always!
    * loud noises on festivals, on streets & public places. we own each and every inch of our land!

    but however it is, it is the best place to live and enjoy life, what do you say?

  37. I can't imagine Atul and Purvi in their British Accent! Wow :D When they come back to India, they will speak Hindi with a twang ;-)

    The first thing that struck me when I went abroad was that the neighborhood was nothing less than "Bhoot bangle"!It is that quiet! I was just not used to so much quiet after a life here full of honking cars, yelling neighbors, doorbells, and noisy children playing!

    And yes that it's so cold! Their summers would still be winters to us!! India sure is hot!

    And yea they really have traffic sense! It was shocking to see cars stop to let me cross! Oh jeez! Not used to so much izzat!!

    Oh you'll do just fine there and once you get back, for a month atleast you'd be comparing and complaining ;-) :P

  38. I really enjoyed reading this!
    Have fun! :D

  39. Hilarious, very nice post to read and laugh along..

  40. My roomate recently moved to the UK and he made almost all the observations that you highlighted here.

    Would love to know more.

  41. Anonymous2:04 AM

    Funny and informative. :) UK is one country I am definitely going to visit/hopefully live in at some point of my life.

    For all the reasons you listed and since I'm a HUGE Football Fan - Liverpool FC to be precise.

    But seriously, Libraries where you can rent 15 books comes is all the temptation I need. :)

  42. Hi pretty

    i am jealous of the wonderful books u can get to read there

    does it snow in UK during winter?

    now i know y they say ' to make hay while sun shines'

    plumber earns 6ooo??!! keep one job ready for me in UK if i dont manage to find one here.

  43. I guess... I can replace UK by US and say still all of them are valid :)

    Whn I landed 3 years back I was clueless but yeah evrything has chnaged, I'm more comfortable with the local things. More you understand the local rules of the game you will make yourself comfy and also others.. Thats been my experience.

    But defntly there are few small but tough things like... When you go to a sandwhich place you look clueless whn they ask you what dressing you want "Ranch, Chipotle, mayonise.." All sounds like grek and latin..but you survive...

  44. Hey ! I can so relate to this. I grew up in the middle east, and I kinda had a reverse culture shock when i came to India !

  45. Great comparisions! Preeti!

  46. Preeti

    absolutely amazing write up.

  47. Preeti

    absolutely amazing write up.

  48. Really enjoyed reading this one :)

  49. hey that was an amazing post... wonderful to c such funny and stunning differences... My bro who has been in UK for the past 3 yrs just cannot wait to go back to India. He is now here in Kuwait and is dying to either get bac to UK or he wants India and have been telling all of us to move that side... somehow its hard for me to adjust to suddenly being called by my name by the younger generation... many who used to call me deedi and chechi are now calling me by the name and i just sit and wonder is it me they r addressing... Its wonderful to know about the libraries... i am willing to relocate just for that :)

  50. Seems like a great place to be for almost everything except the weather!

  51. Anonymous2:21 PM

    hey pretty :-)

    it was hilarious...all comparison were so funny splly yashraj films :-)

    Good to know abt library there...wish india could also have such libs here :-)

  52. Hi Preeti,
    Very interesting compilation. UK is a pretty interesting and sometimes dull, depends on the mood as well as sometimes we might think we are missing some fun on what happens in India. For example, while I was in Bombay, there was a party going in my neighbours home. I was a newcomer to that apartment and my neighbouring family was that of a big Sikh. We had a pretty decent music system with a hi definition Bose speakers which can rock the world. When his music system failed, he just barged into our home and asked my roomie(who knows him), whether he would feel bad, if he used our music system for a couple of hours and just unplugged it, while I was just staring him with an open mouth. Such things happen probably only in India. After that incident, whenever any get-to-gether was happening, in our apartments, it was our music system which made the introduction and we were the "sound" engineers :-)
    Good time spent after some pretty heavy work load. Loved reading it.

  53. Nandagopan: Did U mind him borowing ? :)

    Rashworld: thanks :)

    Enigma, Thinker, Sandhya: Thank you :)

    Hayley: Yeah--summers are good though.

    Vinoo: Thnaks :)

    Mistress of Art, CM Chap: i guess any country takes a while to get used to.

    Anamika: I really don't have time, but thanks for asking.

    Aparna: Yes I am told it snows. I have not yet completed an year here so I'd be able to tell when I experience it :)

    Elmariachi: i hope you do get a chance to.

    Rohan: Noted :)

    Sue,Shubhika: Thanks :)

    Tranquility: i am coming to India in december :)

    Loud and proud family: For me, anywhere where my family is, is home :) Also if I can connect to a few close friends I'd be happy even in antartica ..I am like that :)

    Sparkling: :-) Do what? :P (trying to be cornier) :D

    Comitted to life, Dhanya, Shruti, Pooja: Thanks :)

    Joy, Shunty: thank you :)

  54. Jyotiajay: I really hope you do.

    Pavi: Nice! :)

    Aathira: i am sure you will do fine :) everyone adapts, kids even faster :)

    Rohit, Shades of grey, reflections: Thank you!! :)

    Prats: i used to find find 20 year olds calling me aunty abominable! I didnt mind the children friends though:) Now I kinda like first name :)

    Meira:same pinch :)

    Suma, Chirpy paro: Thanks :)

    Ruch: I didnt know Japan was so expensive too.

    Srivats: thanks :)

    Chandni: Not forever please! :)

    Chirpyparo: depends on whether it is fertilised or not :P :)

    Siddarth: Hi Sid :)

    Swathy: Yeah--i really dont mind.

    Niall: You ALWAYS get it right :)

    Geetha: Thank you :)

    Bhavya: Yeah--places with great libraries are always superb :)

    Only one, Laksh:Thank you :)

    Mathew: yes--i remember a few of your posts.

    Brown Phantom: :) Request noted :)

    Shachi:Thanks :) Will look forward to your post

    Deepti: Only you got that one :) :D I also laughed while writing it :)

    Guru:Thanks :)

    Dear all--so many comments on this post!! I have indeed tried my best to reply to every one individually. please don't be offended just in case I missed your name/comment..just let me know and I will make amends! :) I have been really caught up with my course and was not well too. All fit and fine now.

    Thank you for the over whelming response!

  55. Hope you're doing better now Preeti - you missed me, but it's ok :)

    Looking forward to another one of your posts very soon!

  56. Oops sorry, I didn't see, you did not miss me after apologizes.

  57. Well, as a matter of fact I was 'mad' at my roomie when my neighbour took my 'beloved' Bose. But then, it was an icebreaker to know him and his wonderful family. Last night I called him and told him that it is 'Idly' calling. I used to be called 'Idly' as that was my preferred breakfast and maybe from South India and the name stuck. He told that his daughter is getting engaged and would get married by Jan next year and he wanted us back as "sound" engineers during the wedding :-)
    I am happy that your writing in a way triggered me to 'connect' after a long time. I am thrilled and looking forward to meet them.

  58. yep libraries are the coolest thing abroad ...I miss them here badly( I have stayed in the US for 2 years and library is the one I miss the most here..)


Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate your leaving a comment! Okay--I appreciate your leaving a comment if you have something nice to say ;-)