No work in the US? Move to India

When Andrew Dana Hudson found himself unemployed (along with most of his graduating class) even after sending out 500+ resumes, he decided that sponging off his parents in St Louis wasn't much of a plan. So he flew to India, where he traded his English proofreading skills with a local newspaper for room and board, and he lives modestly but well on about $10/week.
Two years earlier, I had spent a semester abroad in the Nepali-speaking regions of northeastern India, learning the language and culture through a fantastic study-abroad program at Pitzer College. In India, I met Pema Wangchuk, editor and publisher of Sikkim NOW, the most popular local English-language daily newspaper in the state of Sikkim. A couple months into my job hunt, I sent Pema an e-mail asking if he knew anyone who might be interested in hiring a young, enthusiastic American college graduate. "We'd be quite keen to have you here," he wrote back...

My arrangement with NOW is informal. I help out doing a little photography, a little feature writing, and a lot of copy editing. Native-level English proficiency is a rare skill in much of the developing world. I take garbled press releases from local nongovernmental organizations and government departments, and equally garbled correspondent reports from remote districts of the state, and fix the punctuation, syntax, usage, and spelling to turn them into real news stories.

I also write feature pieces for our `Sunday edition, interviewing NGO's about their projects and local experts about social trends. I'm learning a lot about reporting, writing, and running a small newspaper, not to mention life and politics in northeast India and Asia in general. I suspect I am getting more intimate and comprehensive journalism experience here than I would in almost any internship, temp position, or entry-level job that I could have found back in the States.

In exchange for my work, Pema found me a flat to stay in and arranged for my meals. The cost of living here is so cheap that, with my room and board taken care of, I can live comfortably on around $10 a week. If I were back in the United States, even with the most austere lifestyle, I would be costing my family far more than that by just eating their groceries, running their utilities, and burning their gas.

What I Did When I Couldn't Find a Job (via Beyond the Beyond)


  1. makes one really wonder why the difference in cost is as high as it is. And no, i dont think its because of some variant of “big government”.

    1. Barry Commoner said in The Closing Circle that people in sub/urban industrial societies don’t consume much more per capita of food and fiber than others. What they do consume more of is the stuff it takes to “manufacture” food (and the rest), and ship it to cities. And for people in the US, a considerable amount of metal and energy is spent simply getting to and from work — not doing anything productive, mind you — just “commuting.” Somehow, they’ve convinced themselves that this arrangement is more “efficient.”

      1. suburbia i can understand as inefficient, but urban life? Sure, shipping costs add something to food, but with the concentrated living of urban life, one can ship more to a large group of people in one go.

        the problem with suburbia is that its a halfnhalf of sorts. One ship goods to a nearby place, and then ship the people in from around the area.

        But that do still not account for the sometimes insane exchange values of the various currencies around the globe, resulting in people starving one place that would feed a whole family somewhere else.

    2. I believe the reason would be – the cost that goes into the infrastructure. In the US, for example, all the costs that went into building world-class streets and buildings, social safety net etc. are distributed into everything.
      In India, there is NO social safety net. Very little world class infrastructure – only in select cities. I think that would be part of the explanation.

  2. I agree with Andrew, it’s a huge experience to leave to work in India. I’ve spent 2 years there, working in an advertising agency. The pay wasn’t great, converted in Euros, but eventually I had a great lifestyle compared to what I would have had in France (I’m french, by the way).

    And more than this, it just feels wonderful when you know that almost every day while you’re there you’re gonna learn something knew. There’s a whole culture to discover, as rich if not more than my old Europe one.

    Every week-end was just awesome, even if I spent it just roaming around the streets of Delhi.

    Now I’ve been back to France for 4 months. Because of my experience, it’s been much easier to find a job here and I had several job proposals in other countries (French Canada and Germany. Unfortunately, they came after I said yes to my new job in Paris). Because of my experience, i have a much better salary than what I could have expected if I had stayed in France all that time. And because of the “internationalness”, I’m working on international projects, which is just what I wanted but couldn’t hope for before I went, whether I already had the skills or not.

    So everything turned out well, except for the fact that now, I’m pretty bored by my every day life which isn’t as exciting as it was just four month ago. No crazy ride to work, with a driver thinking that taking the other side’s lane to overpass everyone is quite ok. No more super spicy food and interesting intestinal discoveries (namely, white poop), no more endless haggling for just anything, and no more “Spicy chicken sushi night” with my friend Sunayna.

    So the downside to it (if you can call it that), is that I know I won’t be able to stay too long in Paris. I’ll have to go somewehere else, again with a different culture, otherwise I’ll just feel that I’m wasting my time staying here.

    1. >>I had several job proposals in other countries (French Canada and Germany

      Whoops. Canada is the country, Quebec is the province.

  3. Sigh. How long will it be before Indians start complaining about foreigners stealing their jobs?

    1. Never, I live in Mumbai, and Varanasi and believe that it will never happen.There are plenty of opportunity in India here. Thanks with regards.

  4. I suspect this would not work as well for those lacking a Y chromosome.

  5. Leaving a “luxurius” fenced life is easy all around the world. That is if you don’t care about fences.
    Having said that, living in First World is highly overrated. Exploitation is a human trait, not a regional one.

  6. The irony is that his only valuable skill is that he speaks English as his native language (and he didn’t get this from college).

    An Indian college graduate with the same level of knowledge of the English language would probably have a lot of other marketable skills and would never even dream of working “with an informal arrangement,” basically for food and lodging. He’d be starting his career, in India or outside the country, in a better payed position with an adequate compensation.

    This story is nice but in truth all his valuable college education just made of young Andrew a glorified unpaid intern. In a foreign country, it’s true, but still without any real prospective, and, probably, stealing the job to some young Indian man or woman who has no first-world-grade savings to help him/her.

    (I just used the “stealing-the-job” argument. I feel strange.)

    1. When you have to post the same vitriol about someone who is doing something creative about their employment on both boards, it says more about you than it does about them.

      Obviously, you need to let us all know that studying humanities is not the path you would take. Fine. We don’t care. Some of us care for more than money.

      1. When you have to post the same vitriol about someone who is doing something creative about their employment on both boards, it says more about you than it does about them.

        I posted there because I didn’t like the condescending tone of a previous post about “technocrats” and “mad computer and science skills”. Then I slightly revised my comments to make them more clearly freestanding and reposted here. Maybe you noticed, this is a different discussion with different people.

        Sorry if I hurt your delicate sensibility.

        Obviously, you need to let us all know that studying humanities is not the path you would take. Fine. We don’t care. Some of us care for more than money.

        I like humanities. When I was a teenager I decided to attend a secondary school (the Italian Liceo Classico, you can look it up in Wikipedia) because it would’ve allowed me to study Ancient Greek, Latin and philosophy, even if it syllabus included practically no post-1860 maths and gave me just the basic notions of physics, biology and chemistry.

        Then I choose an Engineering school because I liked “hard sciences” too. Judging from my friends’ experiences I could have made more money if I had chosen Communications studies, marketing or Economics, but you know, I like what I learned, I like my work as sysadmin/network administrator and, yes, some of us care for more than money.

        My “problem” with this story is not this guy’s choice of schools or education, it’s what he’s doing in India. He leveraged his “free” knowledge of the English language to get the equivalent of an unpaid intern position who should’ve been otherwise covered by a qualified professional with adequate compensation (he himself admits that that native-level English proficiency is a rare skill). It beats its parents’ couch but pretty much everything would’ve been better than that.

    2. I’m an Indian living in India, and I think the argument of stealing jobs is stupid. It is perfectly ok for qualified foreigners to come here and work. It helps pull down the barriers and brings the world together apart from help grow business and economy. India and China has plenty of jobs for Americans and Europeans even without college degree; it is just that they have to think beyond their home town.

    1. My thoughts exactly! Sure, working for near-nothing in a far off land with no cost of living sounds fun…but you have to be pretty privileged to be able to do this type of thing (I guess you could throw ethics aside and lie about your employment status if you had student loans).

  7. The (quite sizeable) community of young American/British/Canadian people living in Prague, earning their living by teaching English were looked down upon by the ‘real’ expats.
    And deservedly so!

    And whenever I hear 500!!!! resumes sent out, all I can say is: Write a dozen proper ones, idiot!

  8. I was struggling to find work as a programmer in the early 90’s in Canada. So, I outsourced myself to India.

    I flew to Bangalore, incorporated a company (software companies registered in Bangalore can be 100% foreign owned.). I spent 10 years there doing software consultancy. I was living better, earning more, and had a much higher standard of living that I would have in Canada. I’m back in Canada now for family reasons, but moving to India was the best career move I’d ever made.

  9. I agree with mdh. This works great if your field is going to be journalism, or at least something on an international level. What about something like IT? Great you have a job, and in his case a fairly lowly position.

    It’d be like moving to India to do Cobol programming.

  10. Ah, but does he have papers? An American can visit India as a tourist for a limited time, but doesn’t working require a visa? Or is he getting around that by accepting only room and board?

    It would be kind of ironic if we started to see Americans as illegal immigrants in other countries in search of work.

    1. Americans are staying and working illegally in lots of places. Because the US of A are such tight a**holes when it comes to granting visas to foreigners, a lot of countries return the favour.

      It was quite a big scare for those poor Americans when Czech Republic joined the Schengen treaty (meaning no border controls and no work visas required for EU citizens) and all of a sudden they were facing the very real threat of getting banished from traveling to the whole EU for some years when getting ‘caught’ on an international flight and having their passports checked.

      Reason behind it is that they used to just travel to Germany, get a stamp in their passport and travel back to Czech territory, getting a fresh tourist visa that way.

  11. First of all I think this is cool and brave: Live in the moment, Don’t burden your parents, choose to experience a new culture and learn new things instead of taking the safe route and sacrificing your dreams for security and wealth! More power to ya pal. . .

    Better in many ways than the acceptance of stultifying miserable work to ‘pay the bills’. Stuck in a rut, wallowing in your own mediocrity. . .when one of life’s daily small pleasures is sitting at your screen insulting people who are different and so can feel superior in your own small life.

    I need a vacation. . .

  12. To “rimstalker”

    500 resumes is about right I think. It is still a buyer’s market out there and if you do not fit nearly 100% you are weeded out by keywords.

    Technology jobs (which I can speak to) are insanely specific. Not certified or do not have 25 years experience with Windows Vista? Filtered. Worked more than 3 years in information systems? Filtered. Have/Don’t Have a college degree? Filtered.

    There is a mentality that if something is easy for you than it must be the fault of the other person that they cannot achieve the same result – not that hiring managers, recruiters, or companies are anal retentive jackasses. Or quite possibly intentionally having these keyword loaded sh*tty positions available to prevent employment of citizens (hands over eyes). “We just can’t find anyone.”

    Only thing this strategy guarantees are resumes from a fresh batch of liars.

    The original poster could be living in a job market that is even more restrictive or competing with 100s or 1000s of others vying for that position.

    Just move? Sure. That’s what the author seems to have done in a big way.

    Alternate suggestions would be to go into another field and/or sign up with as many temporary agencies as possible* not attempt to mind read what font the hiring managers want on your resume.

    *But even this won’t guarantee available work…

    1. I have talked to a couple of people responsible for hiring at length and helped various people write job applications.

      Writing a proper job application takes several hours, so NO WAY this guy wrote 500 good applications.

      1. What the hell is a “good” “application?”

        You send out your resume and a somewhat customized cover letter and hope for the best. I always enjoy how a certain layer of bygone person (usually 50+ years) thinks that a genteel and personalized correspondence between applicant and employer can result in a civilized sit-down over cucumber sandwiches. In 2010, resumes and cover letters are parsed by machine and challenge number one is surviving a gamut of mechanized filters, and the mechanized tendencies of HR staff, before ever getting to an actual human who possesses actual discernment.

        Resumes are processed like sausage and going through those resumes is like drinking from a fire hose. That’s today. Not some anachronistic vision of how it OUGHT to be.

      2. Using the internet to ‘click-click-send’ your resume can rack the numbers up to a pretty high level. Low quality? Maybe, but I think it is generally a numbers game and quite a bit of luck to get someone’s attention today. And with certain gatekeepers (in tech mind you) have no idea what the keyword/skills required even mean makes the process that much more aggravating.

        Some places will *only* take resumes through email or websites in their format anyway. After you’ve spent hours crafting your perfectly typed document their parsing program runs and completely screws it up.

        Isn’t offering constructive criticism, i.e. offering an alternative such as career coaching, resume writing service offered by the college you’ve just graduated from, or free workshops often offered by the state (strongly encouraged or required when you’re on foodstamps or public assistance)a better suggestion than knee jerk calling the person an “idiot” ?

        Sigh. I guess sympathy or empathy for the plight of others is quaint these days.

        1. it actually comes from a Sci-Fi book:

          But yes, after adopting it, thanks to urbandictionary among other things, I am aware that you could attribute a somewhat different meaning to it.

          And that ‘Jurassic’ period is about 6 Months ago for my brother, who got invites for roughly half of the jobs he applied for.

          Then again, I do live in Germany, which might not yet have adopted such automated systems. Some of those companies my brother applied for jobs at however were international and/or fairly large and progressive ones.

      3. I have talked to a couple of people responsible for hiring at length and helped various people write job applications.

        Writing a proper job application takes several hours, so NO WAY this guy wrote 500 good applications.

        While this might have been true back in the late Jurassic period, in most companies, it is a different world now.

      4. Apparently you think that no one is unemployed for months or years, or works full-time hours getting employed. Assuming 2 *properly written taking hours* applications every day — still less than a year.

        But since you’re so brilliant, and can guarantee a job under the right circumstances to anyone who writes a dozen applications properly, do enlighten us.

        After all, it’s in no individual’s interest for others to be unemployed and consuming taxpayer resources, right?

  13. Unfortunately, they came after I said yes to my new job in Paris

    You might want to Google Cisco Fatty.

  14. Can you do this without a college degree? Well, I can’t afford a plane ticket, so nevermind.

  15. The other thing that complicates the issue is that there is a massive parasitic organism known as recruiters and employment agencies who do nothing but solicit resumes through sham job listings and then copy-blast those resumes to potential employers as spam and offer to broker a deal on behalf of their “clients.” In other words, there’s about 90% noise to 10% signal out there. Large, amorphous, unwieldy corporations rely on their mechanized wonder-solutions which someone in IT told them would solve all of their problems, but which they poorly understand. You have to find a way to get past the tech hurdles. Sometimes that’s sending out a shitload of resumes as fast as possible, sometimes it’s making a personal connection by finding a back door to an actual person.

    One thing is for sure… anyone who tells you that there is ONE way to write a resume or ONE way to write a cover letter or ONE way to get an in, you immediately know that person has no idea what they are talking about.

  16. As Joe touched upon, India is as serious about visas as any other country, and stricter than many. Whilst US citizens are in a very privileged position of being able to get ten-year tourist visas, they come with a 180-day maximum stay and 2 months between visits restrictions. India finally got fed up with them being misused, and is tightening up on the visa front.

    Having said that, it is perfectly possible to get an employment visa. You have to apply for this in the country in which you are normally resident; if you visit India to find your job, you will have to leave to apply for the visa. The authorities will have to be satisfied that the job could not be filled by a local resident.

    Do not be under any illusions that it is enough to speak English. Most educated Indians speak English, and very many of them will have been educated in that language. There may still be opportunities in small companies, but voice trainers in call centres (American English and British English are different specialities, of course) are qualified professionals.

    If you are fluent in a language *other* than English, that might get you a lot further.

    If I’m allowed a plug, then it’s for It began as a travel site, and that is its main focus still, but it has expanded to take in topics as diverse as employment, expat matters, experiences of those who married into India, etc, and it has grown its membership to include a high proportion of both resident and non-resident Indians, making it a great culture pot. One of its strengths is the exchange of experiences and information on visas.

    (By the way… I married into India)

  17. Hi everyone, I’m the guy who wrote the original piece. I’m glad to read the discussion this has generated here and at The Chronicle website. Thanks for reading and thanks for all the encouraging words!

    I do want to address a few things, however — questions or criticisms that BB readers have had.

    First, let me say that I’m not rich. Far from it, actually. If I was, I probably would have just stayed in the States or gone on one of those post-college round the world trips that so many tourists I’ve met do. Half the reason I moved to India was because to take some financial pressure off my family, who are struggling.

    However, those of you who mentioned student loans are right: the only reason I’m able to do this is because I don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to pay off. I was fortunate enough to receive a very generous full academic scholarship from my college, and I remain debt free. It might be possible for someone with loans to pay off to do a move like mine, but it would likely depend on the rules of their particular loans and how they can spin it. This isn’t my expertise, but I imagine some could find a semi-sketchy gray area that works for them. Of course, that’s a skill in itself, since half of everything that gets done in places like India occur in that informal gray space that half placates, half avoids the bureaucracy.

    I don’t have a solution to the dilemmas of those with massive student loans. Does anyone? Moving to India and living a middle class life in rupees doesn’t help get those loans paid off, but as has been said, spending months on a futile job hunt doesn’t do much good either.

    Second, I really did send out 500+ resumes. Trust me: I counted. Some of them I sent out quickly with a variety of cover letters I developed for different kinds of jobs. Others applications I spent hours composing from scratch. I’m not sure people understand just how bad the job market has been for young Millennials in America. Chronic unemployment and underemployment are epidemic in the States — especially if the industry you are interested in is imploding like mine.

    I’ve come to believe that responding to online job postings simply doesn’t work in the current environment, for many of the technical reasons highlighted by Trotsky and DarkHumour. In journalism especially it is all about who you know. I happened to know an editor in India.

    It was a pretty soul crushing experience to have this drag on for months, one I plan to avoid going through again at all costs. Unfortunately it is all too common amongst recent graduates, and those that can find work usually end up settling on a job that doesn’t really move them towards their preferred career. I wrote my Chronicle piece to encourage my peers to think outside of the first world box. It might not always pay well, but it is more fun out here.

    Third, while native level English is a skill that can be leveraged into a variety of ways in the developing world (helping NGOs write proper grant applications, for instance), in my case that isn’t the only thing I have going for me. I do have, you know, skills and talents. I can write news, op-eds, feature length profiles or trend pieces, music reviews, whatever. I edit as well, and I’m not bad with a camera. Especially in a remote part of India like Sikkim, there aren’t very many people around with comparable expertise. I review American hip-hop mixtapes for the paper here. I very much doubt that I’m stealing a job from some poor, educated Indian. And if he really has got so many more marketable skills than I do, he is free to try his luck in the States.

    But Willie McBride and others are right that financially my position is pretty stagnant. I’m not going to be saving up for my future kids’ college funds anytime soon. Still, I do usually find to enough money to eat and drink well and splurge on the occasionally piece of (incredibly cheap) tailored clothing.

    But obviously this move isn’t really about the money. It is about gaining unconventional experience that I hope will help me advance my career down the road. Many of my journalism teachers in college my peers and I that the best way to position yourself for a job in media is to master various software and blogging apparatus. Most j-students graduating today end up as assistant editors to gossip blogs or something. Journalists who know how to go anywhere in the world and write compellingly about the people and issues there are much harder to come by in my generation. So that’s the niche I’m shooting for, and if getting there means being a “glorified unpaid intern” in India for a while, so be it. Better that than being an unglorified unpaid intern in America, like so many of my graduating class. Remember: in many industries there is no such thing as an entry-level job anymore.

    And whatever, I’m having fun, learning a lot, enjoying the adventure. Why anyone would feel hostile to that is beyond me.

    Thanks for the comments! I hope this response was helpful. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me on facebook or through my blog,

  18. I’m doing a similar thing in China- moved to Beijing in late 2007 to teach English and still here.
    The cost of living is significantly lower here and the jobs are plentiful.
    Oh- here it’s easier for females- everyone wants a nice American or British lady tutoring their precious 1-child-policy-little-girl and making her accent authentic. but guys can definitely get jobs here too. The guys tend to get more business-English teaching gigs and the girls more kids, but it can go both ways. Some of the best business Eng teachers I know here are women and I know at least 1 guy who is teaching kindergarten.
    The pay is MORE than I’d make in the US and my expenses significantly less.
    In Beijing, there are also loads of other jobs for native English speakers, too- I have friends who do editing work for the Eng-lang papers, movie/film stuff, technical writing, acting, being the liaison for English speaking customers, etc. I’ve also done some science paper editing for scientists here trying to get their papers into Eng-lang journals but keep getting rejections based on their English level.

Comments are closed.