Photo: Viraj Rajankar on Unsplash
I have now been in Goa long enough to know that Mojigao is an Israeli restaurant, not a village in North Goa. The other day at a house party in Anjuna, somebody asked me how long I had been here. This is the kind of question you get asked all the time in Goa since everybody is from somewhere else unless of course, they are Goan. “Just under five months,” I answered. “Ah you are one of those, a tourist-resident,” he replied, not unkindly. I nodded, pleased with the term.
There is so much about Goa that I don’t know and I am yet to learn. Every day, I am embracing new experiences and discovering new people. But it has undoubtedly been the best move I made in 2020, the most unforgettable of years.
So if you’re planning a move to the sunshine state soon, here are a few things that you should know. A small disclaimer: these notes are based on my own limited experience and exposure and are not meant to be definitive.
Don’t rely on your old networks
Unlike in other big cities, alumni networks and club memberships are all of limited help here. People in Goa are from everywhere and anywhere, from Nagpur to Nagaland, from Nigeria to Norway. And yet, they are willing to help you make connections if you are a newcomer and if you ask nicely. A friend who had lived here for several years described it as “a place where all the misfits from everywhere else come to fit together.”
But make sure you have the right connectivity
If you don’t have your own transport, getting around can be painful, since it involves protracted negotiations with taxi drivers, anytime you choose to go anywhere. Similarly, internet connectivity can be abysmal, disappearing for hours at a time. Now, for the first time in my life, I have two mobile numbers—one on Airtel and the other on Jio to cover all my bases.
There’s no judgement here
Despite the two degrees of separation syndrome, people don’t get involved in your affairs. You could choose to isolate yourself for three months and not meet anyone. Or you could engage with a different set of friends for dinner at a different restaurant every single night. No expectations or judgements are being formed about who you live with or what you do.
No one is partying ALL the time
Everybody outside of Goa thinks that people here laze around, go to the beach all the time and that it is a 24×7 party. People here work just as hard as anywhere else. Plumbers, electricians and general maintenance men can be haphazard as to their timings (just like anywhere else in India) but once they are on the job, the competence and work ethic is as good as anywhere else.
Remember your manners
I have heard complaints of Goan restaurateurs being unfriendly and Goan landlords being uncooperative. But I have made some good Goan friends here and I do think that it is all in the attitude and whether you treat them with consideration and respect. The average Dilliwallah has a bad rep here. Loud Indian tourists cause peaceful Goans to retreat and withdraw. But if you make a respectful overture and are genuine in your interest and concern, the locals can be very friendly and forthcoming
The sun is always shining in Goa
Everyone here has a positive, optimistic, forward-looking attitude. People here are enormously creative and inventive, whether it comes to creating a new gin or renovating an old villa. The contrast with the depression, doubt and darkness of covid-ridden Delhi could not be starker. While the pandemic is not forgotten here, people have processed it and moved on. I admire the attitude of coping and not letting this wretched disease dominate your mind and spirit.