In a survey, I asked NRIs who moved to India about regret, not about moving to India, but about how they could have lived a better life as an NRI — “If you were to return back abroad, what would you do differently?”. I’ve compiled a list of these regrets for current NRIs and I hope you can learn from it. 

1. Ex-NRIs Say “I didn’t spend to enjoy!”

Many NRIs aren’t spending money. An Ex-NRI says “(I would) Not be frugal and think too much about money”. NRIs are counting the small spends — some NRIs argue, rather convincingly though, “But small things add up! A coffee here, a dinner there, and before you know it, it’s $1000 a month”. This is where NRIs need to bring in a strategy to help them.

a) Spend on what you love. Love coffee? Buy it. Love getting your nails done? Get them done at a parlour without guilt. Love travelling? Budget for it, get a deal on it, and do it.

b) Spend on living a better life, i.e. spend on convenience. Hire that taxi, when you’re tired. Get that Uber when it’s snowing and you don’t feel like walking. Get food home delivered when the fridge is empty. Get a home cleaner. Get groceries delivered —  there are limited $25 spends that you remember after a few years and this is not going to be one of them, so charge ahead. Don’t look at the price. Just spend it. This is the only way you can live a better, stress free life.

2. “I wish I had saved more”

This sounds contradictory to the previous point. However, hear me out and you will see the difference. Some of the regrets of ex-NRIs is:

  1.  “I didn’t save as much as I could have”
  2. “I wish I had created a strategy for saving more”
  3. Someone mentioned they should have invested in a home in India

Here’s what NRIs can do towards savings money:

a) Budget a certain amount a month to save. I wouldn’t touch that amount unless in case of an emergency.

b) Invest immediately. If the savings account is the only world you know, work towards moving it to an FD or mutual funds or stock purchases.

c) Don’t know how to invest? Take courses to alter your view of money or try the next point.

d) Find a good financial advisor even if you’re in your early 20’s. Don’t use a casual financial advisor friend because the only advice they can really give you is to “max your 401k”. Find a professional. Some fundamentals of money are the same, so even if you have to hire a professional in India, it should be ok. (Email me if you want an intro to a financial advisor. The one I know is fee based)

3. “I wish I travelled more!”

Yes, we NRIs all know what’s standing as a barrier to the Europe backpack travel we all want — saving all vacations for the December India trips and I have spoken about this before here. There is no need to sacrifice your mental health for saving a holiday. Having a bad day? Take off! Some strategies to travel more:

a) Take a random Friday off and book those last-minute-deal flights

b) Take a planned Friday off to fly to a place you’ve never been before and explore. If that’s too boring for you to film it or imagine you’re commenting on Doordarshan to an audience of 200 million (keeps it exciting!).

c) Travel internationally without being daunted by the visa approvals and the short trips. You’ll still remember your Paris trip even if it was for 2 days.

d) Sign up for local airbnb experiences and join city walks. Explore local.

e) No friends for a road trip? Plan a trip as if you had 4 friends with you. Then publish that trip to your Facebook. People love seeing a pre-planned trip and will join.

4. “I wish I had changed for a better company”

Ex-NRIs feel they stuck through miserable jobs longer than they should have. Now, they regret putting themselves through that crap. The past does seem easier to amend once you’re out of it, but here are some strategies you can use, if you don’t like your foreign job.

a) “I should have had a side job”. Try something else that can get you an income.

b) Focus on uplifting your career. Work towards getting a degree or up-skilling.

c) Better company: “I wish I moved to a company that invests in their employees”. They stuck around too long in a company that doesn’t appreciate them, so force yourself to change if you don’t like your job.

d) Be willing to get out of your comfort zone. Be ok with making big changes for a better job- like move cities if needed. Don’t be stuck in one location.

5. “I wish I built a Community while I was abroad”

We’re all aware of the loneliness that comes with living away from family. There are some regrets from ex-NRIs, on combating loneliness.

1. “I wish I had built a community”, or a social circle. 

2. A bunch of people mentioned they could have learnt more about local culture.

3. Some of them didn’t appreciate India at that time. Now they feel they should have appreciated what they have — both Indian and foreign cultures, and appreciate the difference instead of expecting things to change.

Building a community is not easy, else someone would have cracked that code. How do you do this though?

a) Focusing on specialised clubs (photography, hiking etc) to meet people and make friends may be a better way to find like minded people than ‘you’re single, I am single, let’s wash off this loneliness together’.

b) Call friends home for parties — I used to have an Aug 15 Independence Day party at my place every year.

c) Call friends and their friends for a workshop at home — teach hanuman chalisa, or do a painting party.

d) Find a larger goal than yourself and work towards it.

6. “I wish I had been stronger” — Changing mindsets

Ex-NRIs felt a range of feelings over their older mindset. Some of them are:

a) “I wish I had lived better!” Topmost of all the regrets was to live better, or live life fully. How? I will elaborate more below, but some of it is covered in point 1 for spending.

b) Not feel inferior as an indian/Be more self confident: A lot of Indians compare themselves to other foreigners and feel less than, and this would be great to change

c) Make changes to ease some pains, for example move to HK or Singapore to be closer to home

How does one live better? Much of this is about getting out of the constant mind mode of feeling like you’re in the lack. Lack of money ( I can’t afford this coffee) , lack of a partner (poor me I’m single), lack of support (nobody helped me make this Ikea cupboard). Move into an abundance mindset and make changes to support yourself. Such as “I am grateful for the money I have”, “ I am going to find my partner very soon” and pay for setting up that Ikea cupboard. There are many pains that money can mitigate.

7. “I wish I had learnt more about visa”

Many NRIs felt regret they left their visa situation in the hands of their employers. Large companies have visa teams that take care of your visa process and you don’t have to look much into the technicalities of it.

Here’s what ex NRIs are advising

a) “I wish I learnt more about visas”. Learn about your current visa, restrictions and freedoms you have under it.

b) Learn about different types of visas and if you can transfer eg H1B -> L1

c) Learn about visas of different countries and see what would happen should you ever have to (even if never) move there

d) “I wish I had learnt more about taxes”. Learn more about taxes even if you’re using the help of a consultant or tax software.

Don’t be that NRI who is wasting a part of their life.  Live an optimal NRI life going forward. This is the page for helping you with it– Apply the ones pertinent to your life. Much love!

I’m Nupur and I help NRI’s live better lives, by getting them clarity on if they should move to India or not. 

Take next survey on NRI dating and marriage here