Living in India?
Housing, Education and Leisure in India
If You Build It, They Will Come
Most expats in India live in big cities, such as Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, or New Delhi. Due to growing demand, there are now special housing complexes aimed at expats in many places.
These are usually gated communities consisting of modern, luxurious buildings with their own gardens and playgrounds for children. They are often serviced by a plethora of domestic staff and provide a safe and convenient environment for expats. On the downside, interaction with Indian society remains very limited, and it may feel like hotel accommodation rather than a real “home”.
Quite a few expat families thus opt for individual accommodation in high-class neighborhoods. While this might prove more time consuming and nerve-wrecking at first, the rewards in terms of value for money and contact with local residents often more than make up for the initial concerns. Individual family houses in India vary in style and quality. You will find bungalow-style one-story buildings as well as more luxurious villas.
Rent or Buy?
There is, of course, the question of whether to buy or rent property. There are some restrictions regarding foreigners purchasing and owning property in India. Expats must meet the residency requirement of 183 days per financial year in order to legally buy property. You cannot buy property on a tourist visa, either. Apart from that, however, the process is rather straightforward.
It is nevertheless strongly recommended to enlist the services of a legal advisor. Properties for rent or for sale can be found by contacting local estate agents, checking the classified sections in local and regional newspapers, or in online directories such as India Properties or PropertyWala.
A Struggling State School System
In 2009, the Indian Government published The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. As the name suggests, the law stipulates that all children from the age of 6 to 14 have a right to free schooling. However, despite recent improvements, the education system is still struggling to meet the needs of a big and diverse nation.
The government launched several attempts at making elementary education more accessible for formerly disadvantaged groups, e.g. women, the rural population, or members of certain castes. However, infrastructure and funding problems still prevail in the state school sector, and many schools are lacking teachers and essential facilities.
Private and International Schools
The private school sector, although relatively small, is becoming increasingly popular. Many expat families with young children opt for small Indian private schools or nurseries within easy reach rather than sending their children to one of the big international schools.
For older children, international schools offering the International Baccalaureate or other internationally recognized qualifications might be the better option. Most international schools in India can be found on the internet, for example, via the International Baccalaureate Organization which boasts 100 member schools all over India.
India: Fun for the Whole Family
Family life occupies an important place in Indian society. Although migration and urbanization have contributed to dispersing the traditional extended family, expats in India will find that social activities including the whole family are more common than in many Western countries.
Thus, while taking your children with you to India might seem like a daunting prospect, it could turn out to be less of a challenge than expected. In fact, your children are likely to play an essential part in establishing relations with other Indian families.
Time Flies When You’re Having Fun
There are plenty of activities to engage in, with or without your children. A visit to one of the many famous temples is always educational, whether you are on your own or accompanied by your spouse and children. Many English-language bookshops in big towns offer reading groups and other activities for kids, while their parents can enjoy a cup of tea in the reading corner.
And what better time is there to take up yoga or Bollywood dancing than during your stay in India! There are plenty of courses on offer both for adults and children. Last but not least, joining a local expat club or network is the best way to establish first contacts, make new friends, and exchange advice on expat living in India.
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