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Expat coaches help foreigners beat Delhi blues

Dhyan Summers gets a steady stream of visitors at her Nizamuddin East residence every day -- people who are not her friends or relatives, but fellow expats finding it difficult to adapt to life in Delhi.

delhi Updated: May 05, 2013 00:44 IST
Manoj Sharma

Dhyan Summers gets a steady stream of visitors at her Nizamuddin East residence every day -- people who are not her friends or relatives, but fellow expats finding it difficult to adapt to life in Delhi.

Summers, an expat coach, in turn helps them fight the blues of living the life of a foreigner in the Capital. The shift from the west to the east, which involves dealing with a lot of cultural differences, is something that causes a lot of distress in some expatriates.

“Not all expats who come to India are aware of the realities of life in Delhi. They are not ready for problems such as heat, dust, poverty or those of dealing with office and domestic staff. I help them adapt by familiarising them with the Indian way of life and work,” says Summers, who runs the Expat Counseling and Coaching Services.

Summers, a psychotherapist, gets around 80 clients in a month — mostly couples, CEOs, single women and entrepreneurs. What makes the job of a CEO from the west in Delhi stressful, she says, is the difference in work ethics.

“Top executives of multinational companies come here on company postings and are under pressure to deliver. But they then realise that their Indian staffers may not share their approach to work. This often results in stress,” says Summers, who hails from Los Angeles and came to Delhi six years back.

Stress among expatriates changes the dynamics of their marriage too, with the “trailing spouses” feeling terribly lonely and isolated. Most of the wives, who accompany their husbands to Delhi, are generally women who give up their own careers, lose their independence and lifestyle, says Summers.

“This creates strain in their marriage. The couple start blaming each other, and at times there is a complete breakdown of communication. I try to help them communicate, to make them understand each other’s needs and to help them adapt to a new albeit challenging environment,” she says.

Roosmarijn Emmering, another expat coach and a managing partner with Nomad Expat Coaching -- which has operations in New Delhi, Singapore and Amsterdam -- said her clients more or less were the same with similar sets of problems.

“Moving to Asia is a mind-blowing experience. The life, sounds, the cultural differences can, however, sometimes be overwhelming. We help people by making them aware of their thoughts, beliefs, feelings and behaviors, by taking new perspectives of their situation, making them learn them new skills and stimulating them to try new ways of thinking and behaving,” she says.

Interestingly, Nomad Expat Coaching also provides expats in Delhi an interpretation of Indian attitudes and behaviours. An example in point is what Emmering calls “the completely different take on the word ‘no’ in India”.

“It is a cliché, but not without reason. An Indian ‘no’ can be expressed in many ways, but almost never by saying ‘no’. This can make doing business, in whatever context, quite a challenge for expats who are used to hearing ‘Nos’ differently,” she says.

Emmering says being confronted with poverty on a daily basis is quite a stressful experience.

“Beggars who try to cling on to you when you walk the street or when you are inside the car, waiting for the traffic light to change, seeing newborn babies living on the side of a road, deformed or sick people who you cannot help,” she says.

One of Summers’ clients was an single expat woman, who had to travel a lot both within and about the city. “She was getting increasingly concerned about issues of safety, after recent cases of rapes,” she says.

Lebeaun Alex, a French national who came to Delhi in 2005 and set up a travel company, says the only thing that bothers him in Delhi is the pollution and traffic. “There is a lot of pollution in water and air; otherwise I love Delhi,” says Alex, whose’s company launch the first-of-its-kind Delhi survival guide —The Shanti Delhi Guide.