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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Expat Life in India Is Unsafe & Chaotic but Financially Comfortable

Expats in India see a purpose in their work and are happy with their financial situation, but the low quality of life and difficulties dealing with the bureaucracy take their toll.

India comes 36th out of 53 destinations in the Expat Insider 2023 survey. For the tenth year in a row, it is one of the worst-rated destinations in the Quality of Life Index (52nd). It also lands among the bottom 10 in the Expat Essentials Index (44th), which is mainly due to expats’ low satisfaction with Digital Life (45th) and Admin Topics (50th). While the country only does somewhat better in the Working Abroad Index (33rd), it lands in a solid 22nd place in the Ease of Settling In Index. In the Personal Finance Index, India even ranks 9th. Overall, 73% of expats are happy with their life in India, about the same as the global average (72%).  

Little Interest in the Environment  

For the tenth time in a row, India lands in the bottom 10 of the Quality of Life Index (52nd), only ahead of Kuwait (53rd). The country even comes last in the Environment & Climate Subcategory (53rd). Expats are very unhappy with the air quality (73% unhappy vs. 17% globally) and the urban environment, such as green spaces or noise levels (67% unhappy vs. 16% globally). Additionally, 55% agree that the government does not support policies to protect the environment, more than three times the global average (17%).  

“The pollution is unpleasant; I often use a face mask when outside. Also, the sensory overload of the city being very loud and very smelly gets to me occasionally.” – Finnish expat 

Unsafe & Chaotic 

It does not look much better for India in the Travel & Transit Subcategory (52nd). One out of two respondents (50%) rates the infrastructure for cars negatively (vs. 13% globally), and 49% find it hard and unsafe to get around on foot and/or bicycle (vs. 13% globally). Close to one in five (19%) even find it extremely unsafe, compared to 4% globally.  

Safety is not only an issue in terms of traffic: just 73% of expats feel generally safe in India, compared to 83% globally. And while 49% of expats worldwide consider their personal safety in their respective host countries very good, only 31% of expats in India feel this way. Additionally, 37% state that they cannot openly express themselves and their opinions (vs. 15% globally). Overall, India ranks 48th in the Safety & Security Subcategory.  

A Purposeful Career  

Ranking 33rd in the Working Abroad Index, India makes it into the top 10 for two factors: personal career opportunities (10th) and expats seeing a purpose in their work (8th). In fact, not a single expat (0%) does not see a purpose in what they do (vs. 8% globally). Maybe this has something to do with their fields of work: an above-average number of expats in India work in education (19% vs. 11% globally), as well as coaching & consulting (9% vs. 3% globally) — but also in transportation & logistics (9% vs. 4% globally). It might also help that 72% feel paid fairly for their work (vs. 62% globally). 

More than Enough to Lead a Comfortable Life 

In general, money is no problem for expats in India: 72% are happy with their financial situation (vs. 58% globally), 34% even completely so (vs. 21% globally). “I earn more than I would back home. I can afford things that back home would be luxuries,” shares an expat from Finland. In fact, 61% of expats feel that their disposable household income is more than enough to lead a comfortable life, compared to 44% globally. Overall, India ranks 9th in the Personal Finance Index.  

Tough to Deal with the Bureaucracy  

The affordability of housing is one of the rare highlights in the Expat Essentials Index (44th): 50% of expats find housing affordable, compared to 38% globally. However, India lands in the bottom 10 for both the Digital Life (45th) and the Admin Topics (50th) Subcategories. Close to two in five (36%) rate the availability of government services online negatively (vs. 21% globally), and 69% find it hard to deal with the local bureaucracy (vs. 38% globally). India ranks 51st for the latter factor, only ahead of Italy (52nd) and South Africa (53rd). 

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