Thursday, September 30, 2010

More on India, Hindi, and New Delhi

After stressing out about our second post for months and researching all the open positions, finally knowing that we are going to New Delhi is such a relief. Nothing is official though because Paul has yet to be paneled (approved) and we are told that takes months because it’s happening  in transfer-date order and ours is not until May of 2012. Since Paul’s second post is what they call an entry-level directed assignment, his Career Development Officer is confident that he will be paneled.
Quite a few people have asked us if New Delhi was our first choice. The answer is “No”. It was #8 on our list of 20 and here’s why. We have both always found India absolutely fascinating and wanted to go there but were not thrilled about learning Hindi. There were other languages that we were more interested in (French and Portuguese), so we bid the places where those are spoken higher. We were also concerned that Hindi is hard and will take a long time to learn. Plus, we thought it was a one-country language that would have limited utility for Paul’s (and perhaps mine) career down the road. Well, that’s because we were ignorant and/or spotty in our early post research.
We have since learned that Hindi is a Super Critical Needs Language (SCNL), which means that if Paul learns it to level 2/2, he will be eligible for SCNL bonus pay (always nice!) and he'll have to serve in India at least one more time in his career as an FSO (mid-level). I’d like to learn it too because I love languages and because knowing Hindi will give me bonus points, if/when I pass the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) and the Oral Assessment (OA). As a FSO spouse, I am eligible for language training, which could be a class at FSI (if space is available) or online instruction. Rosetta Stone is also available to both of us through State, and luckily, Hindi is one of the languages it offers, so we can start learning it like NOW, although a lot of people in the FS community are not so hot on Rosetta Stone and its method of instruction.
I recently learned something else about Hindi that I didn’t know and I learned it at the school bus stop, of all places. There are two ladies living in our apartment complex that I have gotten to know because they have kids roughly the same age as Nia and we hang out at the bus stop together every day. Ayesha is from Islamabad, Pakistan and Bobby is from New Delhi, India (how cool is that – she’ll be able to help me with Hindi!). At some point, I noticed that they were talking to each other in a language that they both knew. That peaked my curiosity, so I asked them what language that was and they told me that Bobby was speaking Hindi and Ayesha – Urdu. The two languages are so similar that they understand each other perfectly, even though there are a few different words here and there (kinda like Bulgarian and Macedonian).
Who’d have thunk? Well, some of you smart people out there probably knew this but I was completely in the dark. Upon further investigation, I figured out that Hindi and Urdu are basically the same language but Urdu has more of a Persian-Arabic-Turkic influence, while Hindi, more of a Sanskrit influence, hence the word variations. They also use different scripts – an adaptation of Devanagari for Hindi and an adaptation of Persian/Arabic for Urdu. Urdu is spoken by most Afghans as well, for geographical, cultural and political reasons. In my research, I also found that Hindi is close to Nepali, which is spoken in Nepal (duh) but also in Bhutan and Myanmar (Burma). Aren’t languages amazing!!!
So, knowing Hindi would open up a lot of opportunities for us in that part of the world, though we are not really interested in serving in Afghanistan-Pakistan at this time. If we had no kids, it’d be a different story but with a 7-year-old and a baby on the way, we just can’t go there. We are not interested in unaccompanied tours there at this point either.
But back to India and New Delhi. As I said earlier, Paul and I have always been intrigued by India, its culture, natural beauty, history, food, amazing shopping, diversity and believe it will be an awesome post for us in so many ways. We can’t wait to explore the country and see the Taj Mahal, Jaipur, Mumbai, Kolkota  as well as all the amazing things in and around New Delhi. Plus, India is doing very well economically right now compared to most of the rest of the world – its GDP is growing by 8%+, according the IMF, so it’s an exciting time to be there. We hear that the American school in Delhi is excellent, so we are thrilled about that. India’s also fairly close to Thailand, China, Singapore and Nepal, which we are hoping to visit while in India.
And while we are impatient to go, the timing seems to be really good for us because we are hoping that by May 2012, our house in FL would have sold, the baby will be 1+ year old (weaned and ready for curries -ha!), and I will be good to go back to work (if I’m lucky, I may even be able to get one of those secretarial jobs at the embassy everyone keeps “raving” about.)
That said, we are well aware that it’s a hardship post (with 20% differential and 5% COLA) and there are aspects of it that will be difficult to get used to such as the extreme poverty, crazy traffic, pushy street peddlers and beggars, overcrowding, pollution, dengue fever/malaria/TB and security issues. We think that with the help of the fairly large embassy community (288 US staff and probably twice as many Indian), we’ll learn to live with those things and enjoy all the wonderful things India and the region have to offer.
I mean, look at this collage - doesn’t it make you want to go there right now?
Is it May 2012 yet!
 Map source:
Image source:


  1. Yep. The collage makes me want to go there for sure. Congratulations! Must be a relief to know where you're going. And it gives the new baby plenty of time.

  2. These are my favorite type of posts...when FS families explain their reasoning and teach me new things about the bidding process and countries around the world- thank you! This is so exciting! How great that the Hindi might help you in the FS process, too...(and how silly of me to have forgotten this, as it might be something my husband and I should talk about rather than China!). I'm excited for you!

  3. Sounds like a great post. I've always been intrigued by India too. You guys will have a blast, I'm sure.

  4. Congratulations on your awesome next post! And absolutely, getting into his language training would be GREAT for you, girl! Crossing my fingers for you that there will be space!

  5. Yay for being happy about your assignment! Looking forward to following along your journey to SE Asia....

  6. This week's State Department Blog RoundUp is up- and you're on it!

    Have a great weekend!

  7. I have heard a lot of good things about Delhi. I love those pictures it makes me want to go to India, all those colors plus yummy food.

  8. Hi there,

    Just wanted to tell you that the map of India you've put up with the blog post is NOT the correct map of India. I know you randomly picked it up from the net and expecting you to know about the whole India-Pakistan conflict and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) is taking it too far.

    Once you come to India, you'll know how sensitive we are about this issue. The correct geographical map of India would be one where Kashmir is shown as a part of India.

    I look forward to reading about your stay here. I reckon you'll be in Delhi. It'll take a little adjusting, but you I'm sure you'll take back fond memories.

    Warm regards,

  9. Hi Nitika,

    Thank you for stopping by my blog. I appreciate your input on the map.

    I certainly have a lot to learn about India and did not mean to offend anyone by posting the map. My intention was to be informative. And while I am just starting to learn about India and the region, I am aware of the India-Pakistan conflict and the sensitivities on both sides regarding the issue.

    The map I included in my post is not random. It is from the U.S. State Department. I would have loved to use a map from a credible Indian source but was unable to find one. I tried several Indian websites that I thought would have an updated map including the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C.,,, and several others but had no luck.

    It is possible that the U.S. State Department map is not up-to-date but since I don't have anything better to replace it with, I will leave it as is for now.

    If you (or someone else) send me an India map/link from a credible source, I would be more than happy to edit my post.

    Thanks once again!

  10. I am on assignment here (New Delhi) as a diplomat. I have some American friends at the US Embassy. I think you have a positive mindset and that will be of great help for your new posting. However, you should remember that Delhi is a hardship post for most diplomats. There is nothing easy in living here (weather, illnesses, distances, traffic, pollution, dirt, widespread poverty and an endless etc.) Please, do not take seriously those pieces of advice about "the spirituality of Indians" or that this is a "supercheap country". Those are common places and do not correspond with the reality. Praying in a temple and then not even come closer to anyone who is not of your same caste has nothing to do with spirituality. Speaking Hindi is usually useless (very few among the expats learn it and high-caste Indians consider it a language of the poor). Anyway, contrary to all what I am saying, New Delhi is doable, I just wanted to give you some information about the facts that you will find here since I think that if you have a realistic approach to it you could have a nice time in India. You can read more about other foreigners' impressions on life in Delhi at "". Good luck!

  11. Heya,
    If you wanna learn something about Hindi/Urdu or India,you could drop a mail at I would be more than happy to help you out. To know more about me you may search "Siddharth Rungta" on Facebook.
    I posted this because I enjoy learning and teaching language and I thought I could be of some help to you.

    Warm Regards,

  12. Just letting everyone know that the Department of State updated the map on its website, so I have updated the one in this post as well. Hopefully, this one is accurate.

  13. Make in India उद्घाटन 25 सितम्बर 2014 को हमारे प्रधानमंत्री श्री नरेन्द्र मोदी ध्वारा किया गया था। इस योजना का मुख्य आशय भारत मे व्यापार का विस्तार करना, ओर भारत को विश्व के व्यापार का केंद्र बनाना। जिससे भारत मे नए रोजगार का सृजन हो। Make In India in Hindi


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