'I have been able to grow'

Expat zone

'I have been able to grow'

The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it’ — the essence of a culture, perhaps, lies in this line by Rudyard Kipling. To live in another culture, to soak in its sights and sounds, is not as trivial as it may seem. It is a process of discovery.

It was work that brought Jacob Neu from Atlanta, US to Bangalore seven years ago. To say that he has understood the rhythm of the City would not be a hyperbole. When
Jacob, who now works as Head of Tax, KPMG Global Services, looks back, a whole gamut of experiences unravel. “I’ve been here for seven years. My first visit to India was in 2005 and I was here only for three months. But I enjoyed my stay. People, who worked with me were great and so I came again for three months. And then I asked whether I could stay back,” he remembers. And so he did! In between, though, he also worked in Munich.

For a Westerner, India can be overwhelming. There are umpteen perceptions about it.
Jacob, though, discovered the City in his own way. “I had studied about world’s religions in college and I had read about Bhagwad Gita and Hinduism,” he says. But there was something that astounded him. “I had expected the country to be completely vegetarian. I thought I had to starve. I was surprised that I could find non-vegetarian food here,” he adds.

Jacob, also remembers how in 2004, he had read about people sleeping on the roofs in Delhi fearing a ‘monkey’ man. But that didn’t deter him. “I just packed my bags and came. Ready to take on an adventure,” he says.

Life in Bangalore is a long way from Atlanta, Georgia. “Atlanta,” he says, “is not a big city necessarily. In summer, it’s very hot and humid and in winter, you have snowfall. Ask him if he misses home and he says, “not really too much. I always wanted to work
overseas.”

Indeed, he has taken every experience in his stride. “I’m pretty good communicating with people whether I understand their language or not. I like non-verbal communication. I can understand what is spoken, looking at facial expressions. Somehow I can manage,” he adds.

That apart, he does know little bit of Kannada (swalpa, swalpa) and a bit of Hindi. “The English spoken here is more of British English. In the US, if people want to ask something, they would say ‘I have a question’. Here, people say ‘I have a doubt’. And that sounds like an existential crisis,” he informs. However, Jacob has become accustomed to these kinds of statements.

Last year, Jacob got married to Vannary, who is from Cambodia. “We met through my sister in Georgia. It was a bit of an arranged marriage. I flew to Cambodia and met the whole family last December. She has a big family back home,” he says.

Vannary is also relishing the colour and character of the City. The food she says is something similar to that of home. “I like Bangalore and I love the curry because that’s what we have in Cambodia too. I know how to prepare it,” she says. Vannary admits she also has a fetish for seafood. “I love fish,” she laughs. She does have her outings too. “I’ve some friends from America here and they call me for dinner,” she says.

Spice is what works for Jacob. “I like spicy food. My favourite food is Mexican, which is spicy,” he says. “But I don’t necessarily eat Indian food. Curries don’t go well with me. I stick to kebabs,” he informs. For Jacob and Vannary, there is definitely no place like home. “I am a homely person, I don’t go out too much,” he adds.

“Earlier, I used to take the public transport. I’ve actually driven an auto after befriending an auto driver. People wouldn’t believe that I did,” he laughs.

These experiences, though, are just the tip of the iceberg. “I’m a visitor here and I take it as an educational opportunity. People here have been good and I love the weather, it’s on top of my list. I also love the freedom that I have with my job. I’ve been able to grow and have an impact. And that’s what has kept me here,” he says.

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