Living in India for four years has been a life changing experience for me. I realize now why India is considered the most spiritual country. It has changed me, transformed me, enlightened me, taught me so many life lessons, shown me that I am much stronger than I thought I was and that happiness is not found in things. It’s taught me that even in another corner of the world, I can meet people like myself and be showered with love, despite all the religious and cultural differences.
Here are 7 of the most profound lessons on happiness I’ve learned while living in India:
1. Happiness is not found in things.
I went to India for a one month holiday, carrying just a few sweaters and some cosmetic products. But due to sudden and unplanned circumstances, I decided to stay and live in India. I brought none of my belongings from home with me. I had to start from scratch, from buying new clothes to buying a new laptop to work on. What surprised me the most was that I realized I wasn’t missing my “things” in India… my precious jewelery, books, clothes, bags, and all of my belongings. I left everything behind, and still I could live without it. Nicely. Some things I bought, other things I could live without. The only things I was really missing were those of sentimental value, which had dear memories attached to them.
2. Happiness is not measured by money or high living standards.
Living in India, I saw a lot of poverty. People are living under a few metal pieces put together to provide them with shade, without access to clean water, no electricity, no health care, no fan or money to buy ice to chill their water when the summer heat reaches up to 112 degrees. Not all people are living in slums, there are many who have a job and a decent pay check, a home, food on the table, education, and health care. But overall, the standard of living is much lower than in the Western world. And yet the people are much happier. They have a genuine smile on their face, they sing, they dance, they laugh, and they are kinder. Spirituality, bonding with family, faith, finding joy in the little things… this is what the Indian people find happiness in.
3. The power of gratitude.
It was only after I started living in India and saw all the poverty and poor living conditions that I became aware of how much I used to take for granted. Like having electricity 24 hours a day (almost impossible in India unless you have your own power backup), having access to clean water all day long, food on the table, cold water in summers. In India, people are living without knowing if they will have food on the table each day, a clean toilet, access to clean drinking water, medical care, and each night they sleep without any mosquito repellent. I started feeling grateful for every single thing in my life, including the ice cubes in my drink, because I know now that for some people this is a luxury.
4. A happy marriage is not only tied to love and passion.
One of things that was hardest for me to grasp was the concept of arranged marriages. People do not, as per the rule, fall in love with each other and then get married. Rather, they get introduced and married by their parents and family members. It was difficult for me to imagine this kind of scenario at first, but I accepted it as part of the colorful and different Indian culture. Over time, as I met more Indian couples, I noticed how couples who got married through arranged marriages got along. There is no passion and love at first, but they treat each other with respect and mutual kindness. They are trying hard to make the other person happy, and this seems to be the “secret.” I used to see many couples back in my country, acting rude toward each other, disrespecting each other, saying ugly things to each other, and I realize now that respect, kindness, and doing small things every day to make the other person happy, matters a lot. Even if there is love and passion in a relationship, these other things are essential for happiness in a marriage.
5. Changes in life can be very good.
I was living for two years in a penthouse apartment, but due to frequent aftershock earthquakes in 2015, I decided it was a smart thing to move to a ground floor apartment. Still, I was resistant to it for months, because I thought I would miss the view, the privacy, the parties, and the events. Eventually, I moved into an apartment on the ground floor, which happened to have a swimming pool and a beautiful palm tree garden where I can work under the shades of palm trees. I used to fantasize about having a private swimming pool since I was a little girl, and now I’m literally living my dream. So often we feel huge resistance to change, but then change brings us something so much better than we ever expected. We just have to be courageous and take a leap of faith to get out of our comfort zone.
6. Dreams really do come true.
I used to fantasize about living in a hot country, since I don’t like the snow. It was my dream to visit India once in my lifetime, because I loved Bollywood movies ever since I was a child (I used to dress up and dance like my favorite actresses). Today, I’m living in India, in Delhi, where there’s no snowfall, and it feels like summer all year long. I’ve learned that dreams really do come true, even beyond our wildest expectations.
7. True friends are a treasure to be cherished.
After moving to India, for two and half years I didn’t have any friends. At the time, I felt lonely, and although I used to talk to my friends back home in Europe, I was missing having a true friend in India. Then I met Radhika, my now dear friend, with whom I connected deeply. Sometimes we joke that we must have been sisters in past lives, because there’s no explaining how we can be so much alike, while being born and raised on two different continents. I realize now how much I value friendship. True friends are treasures to be cherished. And no matter what corner of the world we are from, we can still meet people with whom we are able to create beautiful, fulfilling, soul relationships.