Life of an NRI woman living in Seoul, South Korea: Nomita Kavra Gupta

It is never easy to get out of one’s comfort zone. A comfort zone usually begins with our room, our home and also our hometown, our country or even our mindset. But then, if we have to evolve as an individual, getting out of our comfort zone is a must. Our Online Writing Program Student, Anusmita Dutta talks to four different Indian women living in different parts of the globe about their experiences living in a foreign land, which now they call home.

In our second of the international feature stories, Anusmita talks to Nomita Kavra Gupta, who is based out of Seoul in South Korea. This 38-year-old homemaker is a mother of two daughters, is also a baker, writer and a volunteer at the local community service centre. Read more to explore her life of learning and embracing the new in South Korea.

Nomita at the Taiwan International Women's Club -Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs. Photo courtesy: Nomita Kavra

Nomita at the Taiwan International Women’s Club -Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs. Photo courtesy: Nomita Kavra

Text by Anusmita Dutta

Career and family are pivots around which our lives revolve. Women today have become adept at juggling both and it is no longer a choice between career and home for many women. If they want, they can truly have both. Yet, some women chose to make their family their first priority and do so absolutely with no regrets, if the situation demands.

We have Nomita Kavra who did just that when she quit a well-settled career in Mumbai India, to join her husband in Taiwan in 2013. Nomita who holds dual masters in Science and Business Administration from India had a career in project management before family life beckoned. From Taiwan, her husband’s job took the family to Seoul, where the family is currently based.

In her, we see a woman who made her choices in life and is most importantly happy with them.  So how does a woman find this ‘elusive’ balance? Is it always a calk walk? We had a chat with Nomita on life, living and lessons learned while staying in a foreign country.

Being away from home

Was the decision to move to a foreign country challenging, especially because it meant being away from near and dear ones? Nomita is very clear in her thoughts as she puts it “For me, not much. I think it’s about readiness and perspective. I knew I  would see my family once or twice a year, and was ready for it.”

But there must have been challenges aplenty, especially moving into countries where food and language are so different. Nomita smiles and goes down the memory lane as she recollects, “We didn’t understand the language or the signage on the roads, and coming from India, were wary of asking strangers for help. However, Taiwanese are the politest and most helpful people you will find on the face of the earth,”. She recalls, “One morning, I was walking up and down a street, Google maps in hand looking for a tiny street that took me to my destination. A Taiwanese man waiting for a taxi to get to work noticed and stopped me to ask what I was looking for and then walked me to my destination. He spoke negligible English and I would never expect anybody in the morning rush hour to do this for someone voluntarily.”

Taxi drivers and the elderly on the subway were always welcoming with the kindest smile especially to my little children who were four and two years old at the time. That apart, work visa regulation for a spouse in this part of the world is not always favourable, finding a job is not easy, besides the language barrier.”

Indeed, the initial period must have been daunting. Elaborating further, “ On a micro level, there are challenges such as language and food, but you learn to work around them. On a macro level, if you land into a problem you have to depend heavily on experienced people in your community or hire agents as you don’t know the integrities of law and judicial framework, which puts you at a disadvantage sometimes. “

So, what does Nomita think are some of the most common myths about the life of NRI women? “Well, the most common myth is that NRI women are living a good life of luxury and comfort.”

At the Night Market in Seoul. Photo courtesy: Nomita Kavra

At the Night Market in Seoul. Photo courtesy: Nomita Kavra

How local community & volunteer work helps

But let us not mistake Nomita to be one of those women who like to enjoy the archetypal ‘good life’ of an NRI wife of a successful man. If a career helps polish one’s talents and skills, the savvy lady lets us know that one can find different ways to achieve it without being confined to a corporate job. What it needs is a receptive mindset and the ability to spot opportunities. Nomita has converted her passion for bakery into a successful business. She also actively volunteers at the local community service centre besides following her hobbies such as writing and painting. Not to forget, that she is also mother to two beautiful school-going girls.

Was it difficult getting a job as an Indian/ foreigner or starting your venture there? Nomita opines, “Finding jobs in non-English speaking countries is a challenge for any foreigner, but as an Indian and considered a non-native English speaker, the job market shrinks further. The work out for this is to find work you can do remotely, and start your venture. Starting your venture is not very difficult a lot of the regulations are supportive of new ventures; however, the challenge is with keeping it running if you are due to move every few years.”

Sure she has learnt to navigate through daily life with cultural and language barriers but what about the emotional void, if any? Nomita shares her wisdom here when she says she believes in maintaining her equilibrium in her life by seizing every opportunity she can to develop herself, physically and mentally. Nomita says, “ I truly believe a healthy mind lives in a healthy body, so keeping yourself active and fit is most important for emotional stability. In addition, I don’t shy away from socializing opportunities – lessons and workshops, volunteering, tours, women’s groups and school PTAs.”

Moreover, with both her daughters busy in school and husband occupied in achieving milestones in his career, Nomita feels the time is apt for her to do all the things she loves doing. This feeling also stems from the fact that when she was younger she often opted for the conventional choices from a career perspective but today she feels she has the liberty and financial stability to choose what her heart desires. She adds with a chuckle, “ In middle school I had to make a choice between pursuing clay sculpting and computer education and then again in high school I chose between retaining my painting lessons against computer education. Needless to say, I chose IT over arts as it seems like a good long term choice from a career point of view. Now I feel free to do whatever I want. I am making ‘glow-in-the-dark’ painting at a workshop, learning pottery and clay carving, and creating indigo pottery and loving it. I’ve transformed baking which is my therapy into a business and it is very satisfying. As part of a few international and Indian women’s groups, I have met some phenomenal women from diverse backgrounds which is a great learning experience and humbling in so many ways.”

Celebrating life. Photo courtesy: Nomita Kavra

Celebrating life. Photo courtesy: Nomita Kavra

Indeed, there are so many ways to fulfil oneself and a  9-5 corporate job is just one facet of it. Finally, what advice would she give to women who plan to move abroad after marriage or work?  Nomita shares some very useful and practical tips with us.

First and foremost, research where you are going and how life as an NRI will be (e.g. expenses, household help, public transport, garbage disposal, social arrangement). Find people online if you don’t have relatives or friends to ask specific questions. Secondly, set your expectations right, it is a transition and won’t be easy like no other is. Thirdly, be open to experiences and have a positive attitude. Make the best of what you get. Fourth and most important, be you! You’d be surprised how many people will love you because you are different.”

As we wind up our conversation, I cannot but feel that Nomita is one inspiring lady. She is satisfied with her life today because she took the decision to move abroad with an open heart and mind. She took the challenges as hiccups that could be tackled with some understanding and acceptance. Her experience as a project manager came handy when she had to ‘workaround’ tricky situations like finding a fulfilling occupation in an otherwise restricted job market or navigating through daily life with language and cultural barriers. That is what life is about. Accept the challenges and let every experience make you a better version of yourself. Kudos lady!

Anusmita Dutta

Anusmita Dutta

Please Note: All views and opinions are purely of the interviewee. 

Share your story:

If you’re an NRI living in any part of the globe and would like to share your wonderful stories revolving around food, travel and family, we’ll be happy to publish. Send us your original write-ups in MS Word along with 4-5 good pictures to [email protected]

About our writing program student:

Anusmita Dutta
Anusmita Dutta works as the Content Head in GetAConnect.in. She started her career in the e-learning industry but moved on to writing in the print and the web medium as well. She is also a Spoken English Tutor and a children’s storyteller.

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