Grenoble – an Indian’s view

Bhargav Prasanna Swaminathan in Grenoble

Bhargav Prasanna Swaminathan has come to Grenoble from India to do a Master’s in engineering. He shares his first impressions of life in the Captial of the Alps from an Indian perspective.

So I arrived in Grenoble three weeks ago after a 15-hour flight from India followed by a bus ride from Lyon. These three weeks have been spent running from pillar to post to get an OFII Vignette on my passport, registering at my école, visiting places, buying stuff to get settled and meeting a lot of new people. I guess I’ve fared quite well; I wasn’t sure if I would, after coming so far away from home.

Where I come from, Grenoble wouldn’t qualify as a City. In my country, which happens to be the second most populated in the world (we’ll replace China at the top very soon), there are, according to 2011 statistics, at least 85 agglomerations bigger than Grenoble. But I guess that’s where we draw a line.

Grenoble, so small compared to cities back home, still has everything!

My daily commute is on a wonderful public transport system much better than anything back home, where one can get a seat on a bus or a tram any time of the day; good luck finding seats in India when it’s rush hour. I have a feeling Tag (the company which runs the network) doesn’t make enough money from this at all. There’s hardly anyone on a given bus and maybe 30-40 people on a given tram. Maybe someone can tell me if Tag does make a profit?

I visit this huge mall (aptly named Grand Place) whenever I get a chance. I think this is a place where one can buy everything under the sun except people. This is also the only place in Grenoble (so far) other than La Gare, where I’ve seen more than 200 people at once!

I’ve been to nice tourist attractions: The hike to La Bastille was fun, the museums are wonderful and on a sunny day, the mountains around the city make it look serene.

I have also observed that there are a good number of important and much needed establishments such as movie halls, supermarkets, sports facilities, hospitals and libraries. Don’t even get me started on universities and écoles.

So to sum up all the good things, it looks like someone took a huge model city, a city that has everything, and just shrunk it in size. I have come to realize that everything one needs is available within a five kilometer radius in Grenoble!

I only have two complaints about this place. The weather is inclement and ever-changing. In a three day period, it’s a balmy 28 degrees celcius on day one, followed by an 18 degree drop to 10 degrees on day two, and then it’s back to the high twenties on day three (almost as if day two never existed!). The people here, though friendly, seem to be unwilling to help a poor soul with a less than average knowledge of French. Even the seemingly helpful turn around and walk away when asked, “Parlez-vous Anglais?”

Some of my friends say it is a blessing in disguise. When one has no other option but to communicate in French, one tends to pick it up faster. Boon or bane, this small yet cosmopolitan city is going to be my home for the next two years, and I will hopefully earn a Master’s degree in engineering while I’m here. Oh and I hope to become fluent in French too! That way, I feel I can connect even more with the locals and discover something new every day.

I had an option to go to Munich for my Master’s. But I chose Grenoble and I’m happy I did that. This city suits my laid-back attitude better and could very well become my second home in the near future.

More later!

8 thoughts on “Grenoble – an Indian’s view”

  1. Hello Bhargav,

    Very nice article! I stay in Grenoble from 3 years now and I would like to meet you! How can I get in touch with you?



  2. good one! typical Indian experience wrt the non crowdedness of the city! Learning French takes time, esp if you are not taking intensive lessons and have tonnes of other stuff to do for your regular courses. But stick to it and you’ll learn enough to get by! As for asking for help/directions etc, asking young people works for me most of the time, whatever country I am in, not just in France. They are more friendly and open to foreigners. I usually didn’t bother trying to talk to the older folks (either they really don’t know English or it’s too much uncomfortable for them to even try to help or they just don’t care); now that I can speak some French, it’s different of course.
    Enjoy the good stuff…Bonne chance!

  3. Hey Bhargav,

    Don’t worry too much about the inclement weather. Big variations in temperature do happen sometimes in spring (April-June) and early autumn (September) but generally these are the nicest times of the year – sunny days but temperatures in the mid-20s. Not too hot or too cold, as it can be in the summers and winters, respectively, depending on what you are used to (I’m british!).


  4. Bonjour Bhargav and bienvenue à Grenoble!

    I’m American from a small city (not even a cinema!) and have been here since 2004. It’s always nice to get a different view of Grenoble–someone’s who has just arrived and who comes from a place that is very different from Grenoble (and at the opposite extreme of the place I come from!)

    I also complain about the temperature, but just because it’s so cold here in winter! THe good thing about that though is that you can enjoy real winter sports. You can even get to the ski resorts by bus and for a decent price I think. If you don’t ski, try snowshoeing at Chamrousse or Autrans. It’s less risky and just as fun!

    I hope you enjoy your stay in Grenoble and good luck with your Masters degree!

  5. Hello B, Been meaning to read your article since Sep. I love the upbeat style of your article and your interesting initial observations. Hope life is continuing to prove interesting and fun, and that the weather is still a point of discussion!! Looking forward to your next instalment, Helen

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