NRI Q&A and Advice: As a US citizen living in India, should I apply to college in the US for undergraduation or post graduation?

Recent NRI Q&A from online forums answered by our Editor:

As a US citizen living in India, should I apply to college in the US for undergraduation or post graduation?

For a bachelors degree, it really depends:

  • Have you got admission at a top-ranked Indian institution or college – IIT or a top liberal-arts college (like St Stephens, BHU, AMU)? If yes, the answer is obvious
  • What is your financial situation? Fee at a top-tier school/university can be really high. (link – The Priciest Ivy League College Will Cost You $63,000 a Year) Can you (or your folks) afford to pay hundreds of thousands $$s in tuition, boarding and other expenses?
  • Your personal aspiration? Ask yourself.

For a Masters degree, the world is your oyster. Follow your passion!


What are the pros and cons of raising kids in America for Indian American parents?

My wife and I moved to India this summer with our 7 year old , primarily to be closer to my aging parents. Our son spent over six years – through first grade – in the US, and we had been making annual trips to India.

So, here is a bit of musing on raising “Indian American” kids in India (flip this for a response to the question)

  1. America is a melting pot and people from literally all corners of the world continue to migrate and call it home.
    • While immigrants bring their distinct cultural identity along, they are expected to be “American first.” It is expected that we think and act like an American, albeit a brown American.
    • Kids growing up in India acquire mannerisms, accent and usage of English distinct to South-Asia (nothing wrong in this)
  2. India is changing, and cities in urban India are loosing the distinct cultural identities. Why do I say this?
    • Kids are as comfortable talking about the latest American sitcoms (or cartoons) as they are about Desi episodes. My son loves Kris and Bal Hanuman as much as he loves the escapades of Oggy and the cockroaches
    • This “westernization” continues through childhood and by High school, kids (whose parents can afford to) begin finalizing plans to “go abroad” for higher-education
  1. Most public schools focus on academics and little else. The daily grind of commuting to work and school in India leaves little time for other activities like learning music or art.
    • Taking the child to a music class or Bal Vihar in an hour-long Uber/Ola ride after he gets back home at 4 or 5 PM is neither practical nor fun for the parent or child
    • Parents in India have to invest a lot more effort to ensure some “cultural induction” for the kids. One can argue this is similar to the additional effort parents in the US put to take their kids to Violin Class (or a Gujarati class) an hour across town every week.
  2. “Indian Values” This is perhaps the most overrated issue constantly discussed by Desi parents in the west.
    • The fact is that the values and mores many of us grew up with in India in the seventies, eighties have changed.
    • Indian Millennials are as “globalized” or “westernized” as their peers in America or England.
    • Middle class in urban India is struggling with some of the same challenges we see in the west – Youngsters moving in to live together, promiscuous relations etc.

So, what do I think of all this? My son enjoyed his time in the US. Although he sometimes misses his old school, he has begun to enjoy his new school; making, new friends, learning new languages like Hindi, Kannada, and Tamil are a big plus.

Q&A: Why don’t Indians wear deodorant?

Here is an interesting question on an online forum and my response

Why don’t Indians wear deodorant?This is obviously a generalization, but I’ve noticed that most Indians in the US don’t wear deodorant. Why is this?

Indians don’t wear deodorant? You must be kidding!

Image source: Deo ads face the axe effect 

Image: Emraan Hashmi Cobraman © (@ehcobraman)

Now, back to the question, With a billion+ people and a growing, affluent middle class, Deodorant market is certainly taking off. FMCG marketers in India dream of getting their Deodorant to be on “Top 5 Best Selling Men’s Deodorant Brands in India

A few reasons some Indians may not be wearing Deodorant

  • They are Swedesi and dont want to consume western brands.
    • These folks may be waiting for a swadesi brand; e.g Baba Ramdev’s pantanjali‎ deodorant
  • Can’t afford Deodorant
    •     Can you really expect those living on minimum wage to spend ₹s on a Deo?
  • Might think that their BO attracts the opposite sex.

NRI Q&A: For returning NRIs of India, is there any way to save the tax on the NRE Savings interest?

Here is a recent online query:

For returning NRIs of India, is there any way to save the tax on the NRE Savings interest?

This is typically interesting. If you keep your money overseas, you can avoid the Indian taxes that is relatively high and hardly 1% of Indians pay taxes. In other words, practically the Government does not want the funds to be brought back to India. Looks weird!!!

Response below:

Evaluating just tax on your interest/savings is very myopic and can lead to poor decisions. Why do I say that?

  • Repatriate or not is a question that requires a lot of thought
    • Interest / dividends income in many western countries is taxable. For instance, if you have an account in the US, UK or Canada, your financial institution will automatically report it to tax authorities, and may also deduct tax (TDS) before you get paid.
    • Interest rates in the west – in $s £s or € – are much less than offered for ₹.
    • Of course other factors like exchange rate fluctuations will have to be taken into account
  • It is not practical – or wise – to evade taxes. Look for holistic strategies to avoid and minimize taxes. Check out Difference Between Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion (with Comparison Chart) – Key Differences
  • Tax planning needs to take a 360 view of your earnings and finances and not just interest
    • Unless you are a professional financier or full-time investor (e.g Warren Buffet), Interest and dividends from investments are going to be one component of your earnings.
  • Tax planning will also have to consider one’s global income considering tax treaties India has with other governments . E.g – US – India tax treaty – IRS.gov

Another key factor to keep in mind: A “returning NRI” will become a (tax) “resident” of India after returning and spending a set period of time in India.

Bottomline: Trawling in Quora and online forums may give you partial answers. If you have sizable income and investments, hire a competent tax adviser.

Viewpoint: Why NRIs are so judgmental about India?

In the past two+ decades, I have lived and worked in a dozen countries across three continents. And during the time, I have frequently visited India.

After making annual trips back to my hometown from my adopted homeland in America, I recently took a conscious decision to spend an extended period of time in Bangalore. My family story is not atypical of that of scores of other NRIs – aging parents unable to manage on their own due to flailing health, yearning for their offspring’s to be around. Rather than contributing to the emerging market of “old age” homes in India by coaxing my parents to spend their sunset years in one such institution, I thought spending quality time with them was more valuable. Thus my wife, son and I find ourselves back in the bedroom in a home where I spent college years.

The fact is that not all NRIs are judgmental about India. So why do NRIs come across as being judgmental, even without meaning to do so?

The key reason is that NRIs have a point of reference. Having experienced better quality of life in the West – enforcement of law and order, zoning in cities, orderly traffic – NRIs may find the chaos of urban India jarring.

    • Population – Over 1.2 billion people, over three times the population of the US lives in in a land “About twice the size of Alaska” More people chasing fewer resources can impose a burden on the society – lesser land to build, more people with more cars driving or roads that can’t expand etc etc.

—  NRIs may subconsciously be comparing the life “back home” with the urban sprawl they encounter during visits to India.

  • Traffic and pollution – This is perhaps a genuine criticism. I learnt to drive a stick-shift car in India years ago and have owned Automatic cars in the west. During my trips back to India, I am comfortable driving on the left-side and just following the traffic at low-speeds. However, the effort involved in trying really hard not to bump into bikes ziz-zagging between cars, navigating between taxis, cabs and autos trying to cut across lanes can be stressful, to say the least.
          — I am learning to navigate through traffic as safely as I can but I wonder if complaining about chaotic roads makes me

    judgmental?

 

  • Utter lack of zoning or enforcement of zoning. Take the example of Bangalore where “residential” and “commercial” areas are clearly mapped in the city plan documented by different government agencies. However, the reality is different in most “residential neighborhoods,” Multi-story flats, office complexes, hostels and shops co-exist, adding to the strain on civic resources – water, sewage, electric and roads.
    — NRIs, who have learnt to respect zoning regulations, and enforcement of civic responsibilities may find it jarring to see neighborhoods they grew up in turn out to be concrete jungles.

Bottomline: India continues to change; some of it is for the good and some not-so good. Check out my blog post (link posted at the bottom)

Read the rest of my musings: Return to India Musings: when a home becomes a golden egg – on Mohan’s blog and musings

NRI Q&A for week of 18th December

Interesting question on an online forum, and the response from our Editor:

However, keep in mind there is no grantee that an H1B application by your *new* employer will eventually be approved by USCIS or the Visa Officers.

I am assuming the question is for deposit into NRO account (where one can deposit Indian currency). Deposit of Rupees saved/earned in India is not permitted in NRE account.