THE PRO’S AND CON’S OF BEING AN EXPAT IN INDIA
When I was 27 I was a Biology teacher in a small town near Melbourne, Australia. One day I was talking to the librarian about international teaching, and she told me that you can get a teaching job in India. She explained the perks like being paid to teach, flights, living expenses, medical insurance etc. I thought ‘wow sign me up, what a great opportunity to save some money, travel and have an amazing adventure!’
A couple of months later I attended a recruitment fair, and was offered a job immediately in Bangalore. So I packed my bags and dove into the magical world of being an expat in India.
Welcome to India
From the first few weeks of living in Bangalore, I just loved it.
India is a feast for the eyes, nose, taste buds and most definitely ears! I remember noticing the bright colours of the sari’s and salwar’s many women were wearing, as well as how many men had a moustache.
India is VERY loud. There is constant honking of car, bus, auto rickshaw, motorbike and lorry horns. It is actually encouraged, with most lorries and truck being painted with “Horn please, OK”.
The smells… One smell that reminds me of India is jasmine flowers. Many women wear jasmine in their hair and it reminds me of being adorned with a garland of them as I came off the plane when I first arrived. I am always transported back to that first night when I smell jasmine flowers. There's also strong smelling food, such as curry dinners, and of course more offensive smells like pollution or public urination.
Living in India for 6 years changed my life completely. I truly had so many positive experiences, but of course there is always a negative side which I think is also important to discuss. I am beyond excited to give you:
The Pro’s and Con’s of Being an Expat in India
It's Mind Opening
Being an expat in India helped me not only gain a better understanding of a country and unique culture, but it opened my eyes to my own self-understanding.
This is my own most significant Pro for living in India.
I thought of myself as a fairly open minded person before I came to India. However, I’m embarrassed to say that I thought everyone would listen to Bollywood music and have less knowledge of the “Western” world than me. Boy was I wrong. Many of the most well read, well educated, open minded people I know are from India. They are far more knowledgeable about history, literature, science, geography and even topics I thought I would be safe on, such as 80s rock music.
I found myself at a Michael Jackson themed party a few months after I moved to Bangalore, and often went to Karaoke at pubs where all the music was western. Fellow expat Sharell Cook seems to have had a similar experience to me. She embraced everything Indian and enjoyed her time there, although she offers a very realistic perspective to the challenges of India in this article.
At least in my experience! I met my husband in India (he’s Indian) and before that dated a few Indian guys. I never had any trouble meeting anyone, but of course I had to be social. One tip is to just say yes when you are invited to a party, dinner at someone’s house etc. India was the place that helped me find the love of my life.
Meeting Open-hearted Welcoming People
Indian people will welcome you into their home with open arms. My most striking example of this was after a couple of weeks of living in Bangalore when I was taken for a tour of a local village. I was invited into the home of a family in the village even though they didn’t speak any English and had never met me. They insisted on giving me cold drinks and having me sit down in their home.
I've always wondered what would my reaction have been if I had seen people of another nationality standing out front of my house looking around? I’m ashamed to say that if I’m honest with myself I doubt I would have invited them in…
Another example is when I moved into a new apartment. My neighbor brought me food every day and we ended up becoming great friends. She was able to help me with where to get my hair done, shops close by, getting a maid etc.
Attending Weddings and Parties
If you are open to meeting a lot of new people there are many opportunities to do so in India! Weddings are HUGE (my own wedding was small for India at 350 people), and an invitation commonly means you can invite your family and close friends. I found myself regularly attending a wedding, even when I hadn’t met the bride and groom. India always has some form of party or social function going on.
Religious and Cultural Immersion
India is extremely diverse in terms of food, culture, religion, clothes etc. Each state has its own language and dress and even regions within states have different styles of food and customs. Just some of the religions and ethnic groups found in India are: Muslim, Sikh, Catholic, Christian, Persian, and Anglo-Indian. After 6 years in India I still have so much to learn but have had many unforgettable experiences. I went to Eid celebrations each year, learning about Hindu Puja and doing Puja for my car, took part in Anglo-Indian Catholic Easter celebrations, the Kerala Onam (harvest) celebration, and the Hindu Holi celebration where you throw water and colour on each other.
The Indian Food
Indian food is amazing!! Before I moved to India I thought I loved Indian food, but I soon realized I had hardly tried anything!
Every region has a different style of food, which made for a never-ending culinary adventure! Some of my favorites are pandhi curry, the seafood and chicken ghee of Mangalore, and the coffee and breakfast dishes of South India. Even after living in India for 6 years, I’ve yet to try so many of the amazing dishes.
Some of these next ‘pros' are the perks that come with being a working expat in India. Being relocated by a company means these added luxuries become quite affordable.
Full-Time Maid & Cook
Hiring help around the house in India is very affordable. A maid will sweep, mop, dust, do your washing and all of your cooking if you wish, every single day. This may seem like a lot of cleaning, but India is quite dusty, so to keep your house spick and span (especially if you have kids) it is good to have a full time maid. You can get someone full-time for around $150-$200 a month. You can also get a part-time maid, or just someone to cook meals for a lot less (around $60 a month).
You won't have to spend any time on the chores that keep you busy every day in a western country. All of your spare time is leisure or social time, instead of keeping house.
I personally drove my own car when I lived in India, as I love driving. If you're not too comfortable with maneuvering Indian roads you can hire a driver. A full-time driver is around $300 a month.
I had a gardener who came every day just to keep the leaves swept up and clean up after my dog, which only cost me $10 a month.
A Sparkling Clean Car
Most apartment buildings have a security guard that can double as a helper. When you move into your apartment, he will likely come to your house and offer to clean your car for you every day. I paid my guy $10 a month to clean the outside of the car every day, and once a week for the inside.
Hiring a tradesman to do jobs around the house, such as change a light bulb, repair tap washers, install your home theatre etc, is very affordable. It will likely cost around $5-$10 for an hour or two of work including materials.
Home Delivery For Everything
Basically every store delivers. You can get your groceries delivered, food from your favorite restaurant, even home and personal goods. I’ve even had my security guard pick up things from nearby shops for a little tip. Ubereats is also available all over the place.
Cheap Fast Internet & TV
At the time of writing you can get 100 MBPS fibre optic internet with a download limit of 400GB in Bangalore for 1159 Rupees a month! (Which is under $20 USD) I also had every channel available for around $150 a year.
Tax Free Salary?
A lot of western countries have a very attractive tax treaty with India. For the first two years that you live there you don’t have to pay tax, so you get to enjoy your entire salary tax free.
Great Expat Benefits
Utilities: As part of most expat contracts your utility bills will be paid for you. If it’s not included, it's still cheap. Electricity is about $25 a month in a two bedroom apartment.
New Apartment in gated community: Expats will be helped to find an apartment or house (depending on your position, salary etc) in a very safe gated community with a swimming pool, gym, and beautiful gardens. Some expats, for example IT or bank executives will have very nice houses e.g. 3 stories with a lift etc. Teachers accommodation will be more basic but very nice.
Flights home every year: You and your family members will have flights to your home country included in your package if you work in an international school or as an expat in a large company.
Global Medical Insurance: Medical Insurance will be included in your contract which is great for peace of mind. Rest assured that India has some excellent hospitals.
Easy Escape to 5-Star Hotels
If it all gets too much, there are always a number of 5-star hotels around to lap up some comforts of home.
Most hotels and nice restaurants in the city have “brunch” on Sunday which includes a huge buffet spread, sparkling wine, cocktails, often activities for kids and use of the hotel pool for around $60 a head ($30 or less for children).
The most apparent sound in the city is the honking of vehicles. It is incessant.Basically drivers use the horn to say ‘hello I’m here behind/beside you'. Over time I became used to it, but it was very overwhelming when I first moved there. Another sound you will come across is music from temples when various festivals are on. They will blare music extremely loudly at all hours of the day and night.
A lot of people complain about the dirt in India. The streets are dusty, so if you wear flip flops while walking around you will get dirty feet for sure. There is a lot of rubbish in some areas but in general it is collected regularly. There is a some litter around in parks and gardens but generally there are large beautiful gardens where you can relax and go for nice walks. It really depends on the area you are living in or visiting.
Drivers are very “rash” as they call it in India. People weave all over the road and often have small scrapes and bumps into each other. Fortunately, the traffic moves quite slowly a lot of the time so usually there is little damage in any accidents.
People Don't Say “No”
It is part of the Indian culture to never say no, even when they should. If you ask your tailor, “has my sari blouse been finished?” they will say: “I have started the job, I’m almost finished, I’m working on it”, but they will never say “No, it’s not done”. This goes for everything, even asking for directions. If the person doesn’t know how to get to where you are asking about, they will tell you wrong directions, just so they don’t have to say no. My most hilarious example of this is when I asked where the restaurant was in a mall. Clearly the shop assistant didn’t understand what I was asking so they said Out of Stock madam. It can be very frustrating to never get a straight answer when you want to know when or if something can be done.
Full Disclosure- I absolutely loved living in India, so it was very easy for me to find many positives and I have to wrack my brain to think of negatives. The negatives on this list really didn’t affect my day to day life too much. If you want to live in India, it helps if you have a fairly “cruisy” personality, time frames are very fluid, things very often don’t go to plan – although somewhat frustrating at times I mostly saw life as a big adventure and was open to learning and taking it in my stride. If you need a lot of structure and planning and get anxious if your day doesn’t go exactly as you had anticipated, then India may not be the best place for you to live.
My advice for anyone considering living in India: Go for it!
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Originally published: https://www.traveloffpath.com