By Suchita S.

I was catching up with a friend of mine, Stephanie, a journalist, who’s made her way to Delhi from Australia. In our conversation about life, work, love and whatever else, I asked her – ‘Why India?’ It took a bit for her to respond, and then she pensively said – ‘I want to figure this country out. I want to understand it better.’ Statements like this often have me posing questions to myself, the most obvious being- what else is there to learn about this city? Sure, I know its streets and sounds, but there are parts of Delhi that people like me, who’ve been born and brought up here, are totally disconnected with. Speaking with friends from all corners of the world who’ve found a home in Delhi is a gentle reminder of how you can never know enough – about any person, any place… anything. In moments like these, it helps to look at this city I call home through the eyes of people who are working towards making it their home – all of  a sudden, the things that I consider mundane sound more exciting, and I discover a facet of Delhi I’ve been oblivious to. I tell myself ‘Think like a local, act like a tourist.’

What’s astounding to see is how expats have found a way to bring parcels of their culture to our city. The French- bistros, cafes, stores et. all have found a foothold here, and festivals at Spanish, German and Italian embassies and cultural centres are a ticket to a whole other part of the world. I caught up with 5 expats in Delhi, and they were asked- What’s Delhi to you, and how has your experience and understanding of how the city has changed over the past few months/years of living here? How have you found a way to bring & find a bit of your own culture to Delhi?

Here’s what they had to say |

Cameron, MusicianAustralian

Three years ago, Delhi was a place I knew nothing about. I moved here with my family to make a new home, and I had no idea what was in store for us.

Since then I’ve been swallowed up by an ocean of people, been shaken by how insignificant I am, awestruck by a vibrancy of living and along the way, discovered who I am and the music I need to make.

I made a little cave in South Delhi full of musical instruments, guitar pedals, coffee cups and curiosities, and I slowly began to write music. It was a lonely process, one in which I found my singing voice. I was inspired by my new inner circle of Delhi friends, who showed me anything is possible in this city, you just have to know where to find it! {Special thank you to Nitin Bal Chauhan & Stuti Sud from Bhootsavaar and Augustine Shimray from Featherheads}.

I found ways in Delhi to build my own world around me. Either on a large scale, helping put on the super fun Bhootsavaar Fashion Night parties, or on a micro scale, with my friends gathered around my espresso machine. I really love making coffee. Indian coffee beans are amazing, and if you take time to make a cup of coffee properly {and this involves playing the right music while pouring!} then you can make the world a better place, even if it’s only inside your kitchen!

I’ve now put the finishing touches on my songs and my first music video. We shot it in an old studio in Noida and had fun with coloured Holi powder! I can’t wait to share it with my fellow Dilli-wallahs! Teek hai, challo!

Christina, Founder,, American 

I have been in Delhi since September 2010… I moved here for a ten month AIF William J. Clinton Fellowship. In that first year I remember running around the city so much – exploring and discovering this new place. Now, Delhi for me is a relatively normal life. I suppose that happens with moving to any place, especially one so extravagantly far from home. In the beginning you discover, and then it settles into the usual routine of work, family, friends, home. Thankfully, my work keeps me exploring.

On bringing my own culture here: Part of bringing the culture here is bringing holiday traditions here. Every year, we have a tradition of a Christmas celebration with near and dear friends, where we exchange silly gifts, share amazing food, deck the halls and enjoy all the festivities. My mother used to make this gorgeous Christmas cranberry cordial that takes a month from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve to mix and to bring out this beautiful bright crimson color. She ships me the cranberries for it every November – a new tradition bridging both places, I suppose.

We do the same thing with July 4th. It is extremely important to keep these traditions alive, in whatever form they take.

On the more flippant consumer side, I consider being in Starbucks basically the equivalent of being on American soil. It was never something I sought out at home but now enjoy it to absolutely no end.

Sarah, Co-Founder of Safomasi, British

When I came to live in Delhi nearly 3 and a half years ago, it wasn’t that big an adjustment, as I’d lived here for a few years as a child in the 90’s. I found being back in the city exciting – yet comfortingly familiar. I loved rediscovering parts of the Delhi that I’d known back then, though of course it had changed massively since I had left in 1997. It’s changed a lot in the past few years too – take Hauz Khas village for example. And whilst that development arguably happened too quickly, without enough planning, it’s great that the city is opening up, with more places to go and a more interesting scene.

It’s not an easy city to live in. There’s the extreme temperatures, the unrelenting traffic, the daily fight with auto drivers, and so on… I think in some ways Delhi hardens you, and makes you stronger. You have to assert yourself to get by. You learn to not be surprised by anything. And to try and deal with things that happen with patience and humour, whilst remembering that it’s the unexpected things that make you love Delhi, even though they also make you crazy!

I’ve found that the main place for my own culture is at home. My boyfriend is Indian and I’ve introduced him to all the British TV shows! We {Safomasi} have brought a bit of my Christmas culture to Delhi too – with our range of stockings and decorations. They celebrate a more globally representative Christmas than the usual products that feature snowmen and snowflakes, and instead mix influences from around the world, to appeal to those celebrating Christmas who have found another city, another country, become their home.

Alecca Carrano, Greek-Lebanese, Designer & Founder of Alecca Carrano {Shahpur Jat}

Delhi is home for me – my kids grew up here and consider India their home. As harsh as it is to live here and hostile sometimes, we still love it. Although in the past couple of months,our family has been split between here and Europe, and we, my 3rd daughter and I, are finding it really hard to hang on. We miss the rest of the family now.

Ideally, I would turn Delhi into a 6 months a year affair… if I can manage my business that way. I have started a new food business called Sophie’s Gourmet. This venture has been very exciting and rather easy for me. I am applying my family’s recipes and people seem to really be enjoying it. In fashion, I design 2 collections a year that I sell throughout India, and export a little. Unfortunately I cannot participate in the Delhi Fashion week as a foreigner, but I’m waiting for this to change.

Dr. Waiel Awwad, Syrian, Journalist

When I first landed at the Delhi airport, it wasn’t anything like it is now. I was the first to disembark, and hot wind slammed my face, which gave me a sense of Delhi’s weather, and how I would have to survive the heat!

It was a journey started in my early years trying to explore this part of the world and pursue my studies, which was challenging and tough by all accounts. Despite that, I enjoyed it and struggled like any young lad, who made up his mind and accepted the choice to study in India with broken English and a different cultural background. I was quick to adapt to it, and found people here to be as warm as the weather, and helpful. I had to leave to Chandigarh for a special English course, but I was determined that the capital remains my final destination. Here I am, and here I’ve been for the past 3 decades.

I’ve travelled extensively on the roads of Delhi by bus, on bike and later by car, and visited most of the markets, auditoriums and Cinema halls, trying to see the latest Hindi films, exploring new places for eateries and five stars hotels, which were a salvation for expats to meet and dine.

I am witness to the development and growth of Delhi over the years and I never regret having made India my destination. I worked for the poor in their areas and have covered many interesting stories and documentaries over the years. The circuit of my friends kept on increasing with the years. It’s hard to leave the city even when I travel to my hometown, Syria, to spend my holidays with my family, and I would come back fast to India in spite of the attempts and incentives that could keep me in Syria. They’re abundant, but somehow I’ve resisted. My children have been born here; most people would prefer their kids born in a foreign land to gain an international nationality, which has never been my aim.

People now see Delhi as much more developed. Today, there are many places to visit and find entertainment. I would sum up my living in Delhi by saying- It is the city that will make you cry when you land, when it rains, and when it’s hot…. and you will cry also when you leave it.

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