Strengthening the French connection

Expat zone

Strengthening the French connection

Amelie de Courcel is quite unlike your regular expatriate. She is quite vocal about her affection for Bengaluru but is equally critical about its shortcomings. And she devotes her spare time to raising awareness about the  environment and conducting clean up drives in her area.  

Amelie came to India from France in 2009 to work in microfinance for a year before her masters degree. In 2010, she went to Vishakhapatnam to attend a friend’s wedding. It was there that she was introduced to Anmoldeep Singh Kalsi, a friend’s flatmate.

“I returned to Paris to complete my studies in between but we kept in touch and had a long-distance relationship. I came back to India in 2013 to work in market research and international trade but at that time he was posted in Delhi. Then he got a transfer to Bengaluru to join me and we got married in 2014.”

 Amelie had no qualms about fitting into the culture here. “Honestly, I didn’t think I’d get such good friends here    someone nearby who speaks kannada, tamil, telugu or malayalam who offers help,” she says. She also appreciates the startup environment.
“The people are qualified and the market is huge, so you keep getting new apps, new restaurants, new brands coming up all the time,” she adds.

Adjusting to India was never a problem for this confident lady but there were some things that came as a bit of a culture shock.

“My first manager wanted me to move in just down the street from his place ‘because you’re a girl, so in case something happens I’m nearby,’ recounts Amelie. “He meant well, of course, but it was so patronising I couldn’t take it, and he couldn’t take it when I declined the offer, so he found it appropriate to call me in a room filled with the heads of departments to convince me. I was a bit shocked, but still explained to them that as an adult citizen I was deciding for myself where I would live. I eventually got my way but it was quite the challenge,” she says.

Asked about the things she misses and Amelie has a ready answer.

    “I miss being able to walk everywhere without getting constantly honked at, and trying not to fall in a pothole or trip on a cable, get hit by a car/bike/bus or inhale the insane fumes that come out of them. Trying to walk here is like taking an obstacle course. Also, I miss cheese so much. Real cheese, paneer is not cheese,” she exclaims.

Her weekend plans come as somewhat of a surprise. “Between weekend drinks and nightouts, I spend my Saturdays with the five co-founders of the environment-centered trust we formed over a year ago whose initial goal was to save the lakes from sewage dumping and encroachment. From there, we soon started raising awareness across resident associations on waste management and composting. We implemented the plastic ban in our area by educating shop keepers and restaurant owners on what alternatives they had. We also go to schools to teach kids about waste management, reducing use of plastic and the impact it has on the environment.”

But amidst all this, she still finds time to enjoy the things she likes.

    “I love the full-body massage at ‘Atmasparsh’. I love exploring food joints too. ‘Milano Ice Cream’ in Indiranagar serves the best ice cream and espressos in town while ‘Tandoori Taal’ has fresh north indian meals. In fact, I love most breweries and pubs here. When I get the chance, I like to go on weekend bike trips with my husband too.”

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