Tall, Blonde, Female: What It’s Like Living In Bangalore, India For An Expat
Anyone who has ever lived abroad or traveled outside your home country knows that sometimes it is simply impossible to avoid standing out. India is not the first foreign country I have lived in. I was born in L.A. and raised in Southern California … and over the past 19 years – as an adult – I have lived in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a summer, in Barcelona, Spain (well, Sitges to be exact) off and on for 18 years and I am now living in Bangalore, India. Those are all pretty diverse locations, right? So trust me when I say that I stand out more in Bangalore than I have anywhere else I have lived. This is actually a really interesting thing to experience on a day-to-day basis.
Now don’t misunderstand me, I knew that I was moving to India and what that meant. And I am certainly not complaining. But I didn’t expect to feel quite as “alien” as I really do so much of the time. First off, everyone stares. EVERYONE. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable in the sense that I feel unsafe, but it is an odd thing to have really zero possibility to blend in. Here in India, for the most part, I am a gigantic blonde alien! Haha Of course, a friendly alien but still…. haha
Let’s start with my size. I literally TOWER over roughly 60% of the people here in India. That is a huge chunk of the population!! Close your eyes and imagine that for one second. Then there is another 20% of people who I am simply taller than but not by as much. And the other 20% are men (and a few women) who inherited the tall gene and are actually – thankfully – taller than me. Where I work we have about 160ish employees in our HQ in Bangalore. If I had to guess, I think there are maybe 15 guys that are taller than me. There is also one, maybe two, women my height which is fantastic. This is the opposite experience I had in northern European countries like Holland or Sweden, where I actually felt VERY SHORT there. It’s a very interesting thing to be this much taller than most men. And in my opinion, they don’t care in the least. I love the macho, macho Indian men for that. Of course, I could be wrong but I don’t think so.
Now on to my hair. In Bangalore, the women all have amazingly lustrous, long, gorgeous thick heads of dark hair. I am so jealous and wish my hair was even half as thick and stunning as these women but I was born with very fine, very thin blonde hair that stayed very blonde until my late 20s or early 30s when I stopped spending so much time in the sun, so now I add highlights to it at the salon. It was easy to stay almost white blonde as a girl in L.A. because I was constantly playing outside, or hanging out at the beach or at the river with my Dad who had a boat and loved camping. Then as a teen in SoCal we spent so much time at our friends’ pools (one year my hair even turned green from the chlorine, haha! Now that did suck!!). Then I owned a couple of Jeep Wranglers in Cali, moved to beach towns in Mexico and Spain… anyway, you get the picture. I am blonde I think that if I had dark hair I would blend in a lot better here, regardless of my facial features and skin.
And last but not least my skin sets me apart. I vividly remember how I was trying to tan myself before my first day of work because I was SO white. And I sometimes joke that I am almost Smurf-like …so white that I am blue because you can see all of my veins. But it is really interesting for me because I really LIKE to be tan and I am finding it impossible to actually get tan here in Bangalore. First, there are no UV tanning salons here, or at least I haven’t found one. In the U.S. and Europe there are tanning salons in every town. You strip down naked, go into a booth that has UV bulbs, select some music so you’re not bored, turn on the built-in fan to combat the heat, hit the START button and in just 5-10 minutes you have “safely” tanned just a bit. I would even be happy to find tanning creams but still no joy. And of course there is the “old school” laying out but for the first time in my life I don’t live by the ocean or sea. And I can’t layout by the pool here at the flat yet because I only have bikinis and was told that I should not lay out in a bikini here (NOT because it is prohibited but because I might feel uncomfortable with people staring, which is a fair observation). So what do I do? Haha. This is really a funny dilemma, and obviously not a really important one but I would still like to get tan for summer.
To be fair, there are indeed BENEFITS to being a tall, blonde foreigner here in Bangalore and I don’t want to finish the post without honestly recognizing the benefits to ME. First, although I find this VERY unfair and incorrect, when I walk into a shop someone comes up to attend to me immediately, even walking away from other people already inside. I do try to say I will wait my turn but the shop keepers rarely listen. Second, last night I realized when I went out socially for the first time to the amazing Skyye Bar in UB City, (an amazing bar and killer venue on top of a tall commercial building and almost completely open air, with amazing décor and a VERY rockin’ DJ – DJ Yon). This was my first experience “out” and I actually had a significant number of men trying to make my acquaintance and pay me compliments. This should make being single much more fun in India. In Spain that never happened so this is nice twist of fate. I’m looking forward to finding more and more benefits of my alien status as time goes on
XOXO from Bangalore
© Angela Carson, Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore blog and photos, 2011