Just an Another Average Expat's FI Journey

Where are you and where are you going?
Posts: 44
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2018 7:55 am

Re: Just an Another Average Expat's FI Journey

Post by ira_kart » Tue Jun 12, 2018 7:40 am

May Spend % - 18.45%

Started investing in Equity Market - a major step for me personally. For a start, Bought Stocks of well known Companies and Mutual funds both based on 200 DMA in the Indian Market for 3K USD. My mother had a bad experience from the dot com bubble market crash. The compensation from my dad's employer after he passed away in 1999, went into Mutual Funds and it took close to 2006 for us to recover the principal money invested in the Indian Stock Exchange with not much returns. A major transistion for me going forward is to move roughly half or 60-70% of the funds to Equity and this past experience plays a huge barrier in my mind. I want to invest in India since I do not want to invest in markets that are unknown to me and will not have long term access. I will have 20% of my Mutual fund investments exposed to International markets though, but that will be my only exposure to the other national markets. Also the lure of a developing country with a huge population and a democratically elected government (however bad they may turn out to be, like the current one) attracting the huge companies of the West trying to capitalise on its market is something I do not want to miss. The simple thought of 6k index value from 2006 when we exited to the current 34k index makes me feel sad about a lost opportunity for the family, but coming from a conservative mindset who have always had investments in gold and Term deposits, seeing the market crash of 2000 felt like a big jolt and waited for 2006 to exit the market how much ever we have invested. Unfortunately, I bought into Mutual Funds which are brokered and so has a higher brokerage. Fingers burned but lesson learnt. Tried buying directly from AMCs but being away from India there is only so much that can be done online, so had to suspend any further transactions.

Recently heard from mom about my sister bringing up conversations on selling off one of our properties since its proving to be quite difficult to manage remotely. I have been the only one in the family to fight everyone from selling it over the past 20 years, but did it purely for nostalgic reasons. Over the period of time, its value has increased substantially for what my dad bought it some 30+ years ago for 1k USD to today's value somewhere in the ballpark of 150K USD to 212K USD.

Reviewing the possible options I have about inheriting it from my mom, I want to settle in that place for a couple of reasons - objectively evaluating
removing the nostalgic/ emotional reasons- since its a tier II city- lesser cost of living, lesser traffic & population and so lesser pollution, Still some
greenery left in every backyard and finally the plot is pretty pretty big close to 3k sqft where the current old house (foundation put up in '74) occupies only 900 sqft, so the remaining area is all just garden with a few coconut/mango/teak trees and bare soil which I can use for growing food. FOr buying out my sister's share, going by market rate, I will have to shell out close to 74K USD (conservative estimates) which makes a huge dent in my NW. So not sure if I should be going that way. If we sell it, my NW is going to increase by the same value(again by conservative estimates) but I am not sure if I want to venture this way since buying a property in India is always considered a highly complicated task and equated to marrying someone (Indian way) :P

Also if I am bringing down the current structure (already have leaky concrete roofs and moist walls due to the substandard materials used in '74), replacing it with a new double storey house (estimate the cost to be around 70k USD), I can expect a steady monthly income by renting it out. Also it will provide me with a place to stay if I want to live there in addition to bringing in some rent. I know I should not mix up emotions/sentiments with assets, but Indians always have had an emotional attachment to properties they buy unlike the US where they are tossed around if they does nt work.

I have not travelled anywhere since coming to Poland and I have plans to wrap up my assignment here by December. Before moving to India, I am planning to see the Northern lights (tentatively chosen Inari, Finland for visiting) in December. Cities do not interest me much and I am yet to come out of the mental barrier that travelling is possible without a personal car.

Posts: 44
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2018 7:55 am

Re: Just an Another Average Expat's FI Journey

Post by ira_kart » Wed Jun 13, 2018 3:54 pm

Continuing with more interesting observations after 5 months of living in Poland

I am observing this a lot. My colleagues are just too close to each other while at a work break/ having conversations in the pantry/kitchenette/ office cubicle space, invading "private/personal space", some men are way too close to female colleagues and the ladies are fine with it. Indians will be physically close in public spaces to the point that American tourists believe close friends are gays, but after being in US, I find the colleagues here are just way too close here. I distance myself from others while in a conversation to feel more comfortable. Younger folks understand it and maintain their proximity while some from older generation try to come closer to feel that both of us are in conversation to the point that I feel cornered :) and no where to escape. When one of my Indian managers visited me in the States last year, he kept on nearing me while in conversation subconsciously while, I moved away to feel comfortable. Only when I shared this with him, he consciously made sure he wasn't too close to me. But after I moved to India, I did not move away from others in public places/buses. I believe my mind made it up that "this is India and people will be physically closer to each other and there is no way you can escape the physical proximity". After I moved to Poland, may be due to the Caucasian population, my mind subconsciously believes Poles to be like Americans and tries to maintain my personal space as well as give them theirs. I do not know if any of this is true, but I am just theorising these from my own obervations.

Heard from some colleagues that there are no strict boundaries on topics to talk btw acquaintances/ colleagues here. I do not know how far this is true and I do not want to burn my fingers/ break my nose when talking with others and going this route. Some of my colleagues have had casual conversations on some topics which will surely be considered as off-topic/not in line in the US btw colleagues and I was taken aback to hear them talk that way. I am yet to get out of the mould that I have developed in US: maintain strict boundaries while talking to others, maintain as well as provide enough private space for others near you.

Key holes in the doors are closer to frame edges: The key holes and the door knobs are just way too close to the door and frame edges and not much space for my large hands to wriggle with the door knob. And the knobs are just sawed off with sharp edges which is not a good thing for my finger joints. In the initial days, I injured the same spots on my fingers again and again only to get adapted nowadays.

Axis of open/closure of the windows are two instead of just one: I have never this seen in India and in US. Either they were in vertical or horizontal axis. I just do not understand how carpenters do this here. Just sheer brilliance :). The hinges on the sides can work both ways. So the windows can open both - sideways as axis for more full fledged ventilation or open only at the top with the bottom frame (horizontal) axis coming into play with lesser ventilation compared to the previous case. In my initial encounters, I actually complained that the window is broken to the apartment owner (silly and foolish me) only to be let known that's how they operate. Gross embarassment :P

I am yearning for Sunshine- missing it badly. Many days turn out to be dark/ grey and appears May is the most beautiful month of the year in terms of sunshine here. I miss the sunshine that brilliantly wakes up the sleepy eyes in the morning when going to work/school in India/ California/Detroit (in the summers) with so much of light. But at the same time, I love the cool weather(17-20 C) through out the summer here in Poland. Is there a paradise on Earth where both of this happens? Also since it is way too much North above the Tropic of Cancer, first rays of Sunlight comes up so much early in the morning, like around 3:45 am(who in the world wakes up at that hour for the Sun to show). Waking up at 5 am is nt a problem here for me with sunshine bright and nice through the window on days when we are lucky. Everyone cherishes the Sun light and I have never seen people so much ecstatic about it amongst the places I have visited like it is here. Its a irony that, While in India, I used to hate the year round very hot weather due to unbearable high temperature combined with high humidity. No wonder, British termed South Indian plains as one of the most fertile they have ever seen for its year round food production regions and escaped to the "hill-stations" for hill/ mountain top vacation spots to have a Britain like weather and to escape the hot summer months.

Fish is not considered to be meat and can be consumed on specific Roman Catholic occasions (Fridays? if am correct) when land based animal meat is not to be consumed. I initially found it to be insane and little supersitious, but coming from India, I can relate to this kind of religious supersitions. Heard that a black cat crossing our path when we exit our home is a bad omen here. We have the same supersition but applies to cats of all colors. I believe this got diluted(from black colored to cats of all colors) by the time it came to India from Europe :P Again another one - if date 13th and day Friday happens to fall on the same day, nothing good and new should be started here? India has a long list of good and bad days and time for religious reasons :P

Heard from a colleague, that 20/15 years back, meat will be consumed once/twice a week in his household. But now, for every second meal, he is eating meat based food. When prodded about the need, he plainly said he needs proteins and so he does not have any other option. He also felt he does not find enough veggies to cook his entire day meals only with veggies. I hinted about chickpeas for proteins, not sure how far he will follow up. At the end I have come to realise, in life, it is only when someone becomes interested in something, they will start looking up. No amount of influence can bring a change in someone.

Right of way in office - I have felt this missing after I moved away from CA. Since I worked with Big Oil in CA, there was always so much of emphasis/ stress on safety while walking even on the office corridors. So everyone will be super cautious about other's movements. In Michigan, not the case, but still acceptable to feel like being in the US. Not anymore while in Poland. Everyone appears to be trampling on other's right of way while walking. I get just too much frustated some times.

Stall Shower and Statistical Averages of population - I am a tall Indian per Indian Demographical(?) Statistics Institute since the average Indian men is around 5'11'' or so and I am 6' tall. So the seats in the public transport buses and trains will be tailored for the average people where when I get to sit while travelling in India, my knees will always hit either the back of the seat infront of me or the passenger in front of me. While in US, my chances of using public transport became nil and used personal car heavily. I read in an article somewhere that 1 average American male is equal to 1.75 average Indian male in physical appearance, so the conclusion of that article is that we, Indians will always feel the American facilities much larger than what we/our bodies require/need, example a car seat/leg room which will be designed for the average American and which will be too much space for us. May be the evolution of the Americans made them more bigger(?!) Same applies for the bath tubs and stall showers. In Poland, I find no bath tubs(may be a European thing?) and only stall showers and they are awfully inadequate for my long arms :) (I could not bend over while bathing to apply soap on my knees, really?). While at a lunch break, I shared this with a colleague and she defended that many Poles are taller too and I felt at a loss not to argue with her anymore.

Also I found no kitchenette in the hotel I stayed for the initial days on moving here(again a European thing?). I found it totally strange since even the most under rated hotel in the US I have used still had a basic kitchen.

Just an observation and not to be demean/rude with the Polish language - I am perplexed at how Polish language in its written form came to use "z" and "c" so much excessively that it becomes insane for someone who knows only English. May be if I learn Polish, I will understand the nuances and the differences between them, but for now, it just baffles me whenever I see any Polish word. And George in EN becomes Jerzy in Polish and the pronounciation is totally different on the other side of the spectrum from what is written. Again, If I understand how to read and pronounce Polish, I will surely have a different take on this whole subject.

Again another observation on the language and words - many names usually end with "a" or "ska" particularly those with feminine in nature(?). And the same name being used for both masculine and feminine genders with minor changes at the end. And same names being used for so many people. Well, there are only so many names that can be used from religious texts :) It used to be like this in 80's India. I used to have 3 others in my 8th grade with my same first name.

use of mouth refreshner/ perfume/deo - not much use among the locals except with those who returned from GB after the Brexit. I use all three due to the fact that Indians have evolved to be hairy human beings due to the tropical climate :P.

use of 24 hour time format when denoting time - I have not seen 24 hour time format being used widely in India or in US in public casual conversations. I have seen its use in public facilities like railway stations in India, but in Poland, noted it being used on a couple of instances in the bakery/street conversations. Not sure if its just because of me being a foreigner, this format is being used with me to make things clear, or just a general rule instead of using am/pm or just specifying the time with the implicit understanding of whether its AM/PM.

Rudeness or Straight-forwardness in English communication from some Germans- I understand when we translate German sentences to English, they will sound to be rude as it is in English but myself, being a non native to English language, I make sure my English communication is polite and not rude. Being close to Germany, I get to work with more Germans now than earlier and while many older folks are kind and polite in their emails and communication, the younger ones appear to be rude and mean even for the most basic communication. I believe it has to do with getting "matured at work" or it may be the case with one off individuals, but I find it to be so hard to work with these individuals. Or I get to accept that Germans are straight forward in their communications and do not beat around the bush, but if this is the case, why is that only some people are so harsh and some others are kind and polite is a question to ponder.

One moment which I will never forget- last year, while at a work meeting in US, when breaking for lunch, everyone suggested a nearby "Far Eastern" restaurant. The colleague who came from Germany immediately intercepted that he has a flight to catch that evening and does not want to smell bad in travel by eating that food from the Far East. I was shell shocked as every one else in that room to hear it "damn straight" and I was looking at the meeting host who is an American of German ancestry and she had a miserable look not knowing how to manage that situation. With some hesitation and smile, she responded that it will be ok to eat food at that place and moved on. Why can't we be more sensitive/kind towards others even before uttering a single word? How will someone from that Far Eastern nation felt if he/she was in that room? Some hard thoughts to digest.

Insects in the environment - For some quite strange reason, I could not see any insects during my stay in US wherever I went - on the streets, National Parks (very minimal or not at all even on trails), homes, roads, highways. I have been to many National Parks in the US both on West and East Coasts, but for some odd reason, could not find any insects/flies. Has it been made so much sterile only for human beings to live there? In India, being a tropical country, we will find a lot of insects climbing/ swarming/ flying across anywhere we go. Unfortunately with urbanisation, we lost a lot of birds from city homes. Personally our family lost a large family of house sparrows when the old building was brought down for contruction of a new one. Poland happens to be like India where I see a lot of buzzing activity on the streets. Looks like a lively place for all to live.

Less use of Black color on clothing in Poland compared to most of the times black color used for office wear in US. And many women & men prefer pure white shirts or light colored tops. Even the Polish flag has pure white color as one of its two colors, so that may be the inspiration :)

None of Poles wear atheltic clothing while on the street (part of the European culture to wear what the occasion demands?) while I have seen many folks wearing gym wear while in Target/grocery stores in the US. Even a Nike running cap get a lot of stares here on the street. But on the other hand, I have seen some interns wear running pants to office on Fridays which baffles me everytime I see it. Also many men wear bright/"Barcelona" red/ turqoise blue colored pants which are a total no no for a formal office wear.

This is a very small observation - I have observed the doors of most offices/restaurants/ public building automatically close after someone uses them in US. Thats not how it works in Poland. The hydralic hinge at the top is not present on most doors and I have left the doors of a couple of restaurants open after entering in and the waitress will rush in to close it embarassing me :( heavy snowfall during the initial months and got weird stares which I later understood why.

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