What are some reasons to explain why Indians get depressed when they go abroad to settle?

Answer by Shikhar Agarwal:

Thanks Anon for the A2A.

Calm down! Chillax! If Indians settled abroad were depressed, Western countries would have got low rankings in the Happiness Index and the Silicon Valley would have been perhaps the most depressed region in the world!

The question assumes that the Indians who go abroad become depressed, and then asks for the reasons. Well, you would be glad to know that the assumption itself is false. I am working in the Silicon Valley and none of the people that I have met are depressed. Sure they miss home, but this is a part of their lives and not a factor for getting depressed.

Some of the reasons that I can think of that might lead to depression are:

1. When reality doesn't meet expectations

Many of my friends came to California thinking about this:

But what they got was this:

Most of the people that come here have had a glimpse of West through Hollywood movies and media, none of which represents the day-to-day reality. When people come here, they think of partying all nights, booze flowing like rivers et al. Their first tryst with reality is when they have to have to assemble their own bed and table from IKEA. And when they go to work, its Indian and Chinese accent everywhere.
The gist of this point is that people build false expectations and then get disappointed, sometimes so badly that they start hating the place. And then everyday becomes an ordeal. They feel a burden in everything they do.

My advice: form real expectations. Even if you get disappointed, remember this place has a lot to offer in terms of studies and work opportunities, you can earn a lot, party hard, go and visit dream places and so on. So try to blend with the reality. Happiness would follow.

2. When one doesn't have a social group

Forming a social group is a major challenge. Most of the people have pre-formed social circles – their undergrad group, grad group, internship group, family group and so on. If you are coming for a grad school or work and don't have any of these, you would find it very difficult to be a part of one. This gets harder if you are shy or introvert. This leads to isolation and ultimately depression.

My advice: Don't feel isolated. If you are in a university, there are many groups that you can join like dance, sports, etc depending on your interests. There are also meetups (check: Meetup) that you can attend. There are many Indian communities that you can join in the area. You don't have to be an extrovert to attend these. I volunteer for Asha Stanford and and Hindu Yuva – because these interest me. And I have a great social group in the Valley.

3. Smart peers and competitive work environment

As I said, life in West is not just crazy parties. There are really smart people working in a very competitive environment. The Capitalist economy, overnight rise and fall of established companies and startups, etc leads to high expectations from the employees. You might think that here it's just 9-5 fixed hours job and then you can relax all other time. Well it is if you are as smart and efficient as expected or probably you are in a very big company with lots of employees so the work per employee reduces. Smarter peers might lead you to lose your self confidence and think that you are dumb, which again might lead to depression.

My advice: You are not dumb – you have come so far! Working among smart people is the best and the easiest way to make yourself smart too. Go beyond 9-5, maybe work for sometime in the weekends to reach their expectations. Slowly you would increase your knowledge and efficiency and feel comfortable with your peers. Then resume your schedule of 9-5.

4. When one is missing home

Sometimes people miss home too much. This leads to indifinite sadness which leads leads to depression.

My advice: Use video conferencing like Skype, Hangouts, etc. Gift your parents an iPad and a wifi connection . If you are still missing home to an extent that you are having a depression, go home. What's the point of earning or living in a way that you are virtually dead?


In general, people are pretty happy here. Me and my friends go hiking in the weekends. Then most of the year I am busy (in my free time) with Asha organizing events like Stanford Holi, Dandiya, etc. And then I write on Quora. There is so much to do! You just have to blend in.

So for your friend, if he is an introvert – no problem. Tell him to just attend the meetings of some group or organization – he doesn't have to speak! Words would flow automatically once he is comfortable. Or he can try to meet people from his region in India – sometimes when you are new in a foreign country, it is easier to mingle with them. As far his geek nature goes, well, tell him that he would meet his gurus here.


Source of images: (None are mine)
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