Indian businesswoman Vandana Singh opened up about what it was like to move to Northern Ireland over a decade ago.
The woman behind Netra Brow Studio in Belfast, Vandana or Vandy as her clients call her, is a well-known face in the beauty industry.
Vandana, 40, first came to Northern Ireland in 2009 to join her husband Praveen Kumar, 41, who had previously moved to Belfast.
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“I am from Lucknow, a town about eight hours by train from delhi, where my husband and his family are from,” Vandana told Belfast Live.
“Growing up in India, my dad was in the military so it was a very disciplined childhood and he was posted to different places every three years. That meant my schooling was a bit different as we moved from one place to place.
“There are also 28 different languages in India and every state has its own so every step of our moves I had to learn this new language too which was very difficult. So every three years it would be a new school, a new language and new children and teachers to know,” she added.
Before moving here, Vandana taught English literature in her native India at a state army school, but when she arrived in Northern Ireland she decided to follow a completely different path.
“My husband and I had an arranged marriage and we have been married for 13 years. I came to Northern Ireland in 2009 to join Praveen, who had already been there for six years at that time.
“It was always my dream to move somewhere like the UK or the US, so when I got my plane ticket to come here, I couldn’t believe it. Since childhood, I I had always told people that I would move abroad, so that wish came true and maybe that was always my destiny.”
Reflecting on her first impressions of life here, Vandana said her main problem was the accent and, of course, the weather.
“It was quite easy to adapt to life in Northern Ireland. The only problem I had was the accent and the way people can sometimes speak very quickly, but I got used to it over time. years,” she recalls.
“When I first arrived it was in August so the weather was great and everything was so beautiful and colorful.
“But once winter came and the temperatures dropped, it was a bit of a shock to me and it can still get me down sometimes!”
Once she settled into her new married life and a new country, Vandana set her sights on a new career path in the beauty industry.
“I joined House of Fraser at the start of my beauty journey and had to be sent to London to train in eyebrow shaping. I worked there for two years before opening my own business,” said she declared.
This new business, Netra Brow Studio, opened in the Connswat er shopping center in 2012, offering eyebrow waxing and tinting, eyelash treatments, henna tattoos and massages.
Another outlet followed a year later in the Park Centre.
After suffering a number of miscarriages in her quest to start a family, Vandana returned to India for IVF and remained there for over a year throughout her treatment and pregnancy.
The couple now live in Carryduff as the proud parents of four-year-old Aditya.
“My husband had to stay in Northern Ireland all this time to take care of business so I went through it all on my own. I didn’t mind as I was so happy to finally have my baby,” she said.
Despite a brief move to England in recent years, Vandana says Northern Ireland is now home to him and his family.
“People here have always been so lovely and welcoming. I have built great personal and professional relationships with my clients over the past 13 years,” she said.
“The Indian community also grew during this time and I was one of the founders of the Belfast Asian Women’s Academy (BAWA), a group of women from across Asia who call the city home.
“I really love my new home in Northern Ireland and look forward to many more years in business here too.”
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