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Living in India

More than 1.3 billion people are currently living in India, among them many expatriates. Are you about to join their ranks? Get info on this multi-faceted country on InterNations! Our guide with tips on housing, schooling, and cultural challenges will ease your transition into expat life in India.
Celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, with your new neighbors.

At a Glance:

  • While life in one of India’s big cities can take some getting used to, on the whole, Indians are very welcoming and friendly.

  • Choose between renting or buying property in India, though make sure to enlist the help of a well-recommended estate agent and an independent lawyer.

  • More and more schools in India are privately funded and, as well as international schools, are a great option for expat kids. 

 

Most expats living in India enjoy the colorful unconventionality that their new home has brought to their daily routines. Some defining aspects of Indian society are its cultural, religious, and linguistic pluralism and its traditional caste system. The latter is a strict system of social stratification which still occasionally imposes virtually impermeable hierarchies on the population.

People living in India’s rural areas make up around 67% of the populace. However, India has witnessed an increase in its urban population over recent years, as the proportion of Indians living in rural areas slowly, yet steadily, decreases. This trend goes hand in hand with the growing numbers of well-educated, middle-class residents in India’s metropolises and the large amount of young people moving to cities. India is a youthful country — over 65% of the population are under 35.

The rise in the number of skilled workers has contributed to the country's position as an emerging force on the global market, which continues to attract foreign interest. Multinational companies interested in tapping the Indian market increasingly send their employees out on assignments, giving expat life in India a boost and diversifying the cities.

Making the Most of a New Culture

Starting a new life in India is immensely exciting, but it is certainly not without the inevitable pits and downfalls expats face in many countries across the world. To start with the positive aspects: India can be extremely rewarding for those who embrace its challenges.

If you are coming from a Western country, life in India is likely to be more chaotic and louder than what you’re used to. However, clinging to old habits from back home during your expat life will prove futile and only get in your way. It is best to accept some things as they are and learn to appreciate the different facets the country has to offer.

In general, most people are friendly and welcoming to strangers who are trying to adapt to the way of life in India. It is not unusual for foreigners and their families to be invited round their neighbors’ or colleagues’ houses for dinner.

Despite the growing number of foreigners visiting or living in India, Europeans and North Americans can attract a lot of attention in rural areas in particular. There, tourists and expats are often asked for permission to have their photographs taken by the local population, being made to feel like a tourist attraction themselves. India is a hugely unequal country and many Indians live in abject poverty: don’t be surprised if you are personally approached by beggars.

Expat Women in India: Guard Up, Head Down

There are some unpleasant peculiarities in Indian society, which especially expat women might come across during their time in India. A social phenomenon commonly referred to as “Eve teasing” in some Asian countries has taken on threatening forms and is a cause for great concern.

“Eve teasing” euphemistically describes a form of sexual bullying or public harassment which has increasingly begun to affect women living in India. It can comprise of relatively harmless incidents like rude staring and offensive comments, but it can go as far as indecent exposure, groping, slapping, and worse. The infamous 2012 case involving the gang rape and murder of a young New Delhi woman put the issue in the international spotlight. Since then many, equally horrifying cases have made headlines around the world.

Expats may find that having a non-Indian appearance can attract extra attention and should take care during evenings, night-time, and when using public transport. If possible, travel in twos or larger groups and try to find a local friend or guide who will accompany you on walks, sightseeing trips, or shopping. Taxis are the advisable mode of transport for women, unless you are completely sure of your route and will be traveling with other people.

Although sexual harassment, bullying, and sometimes assault of women is relatively common in India, it is by no means considered socially acceptable. If you feel threatened or uncomfortable, the government provides a toll-free women’s emergency helpline across the whole of India with the number 181 and encourages women to come forward. Alternatives include other women’s sexual violence helplines in New Delhi, 1092 and 1091, or the standard (all over India) police number: 100. The police forces in India are more determined than ever to crack down on sexual crimes against women.

Challenges for Urbanites

Another challenge to life in India will be the high levels of noise, air pollution, and overpopulation in India’s big cities. The high level of inequality and visible poverty of the population are not easy to come to terms with for many foreigners. Many expats report being uncomfortable at the number and persistency of beggars who approached them, particularly in Mumbai.

Getting around in India’s metropolises can be a challenge in itself. Mostly because buses, rickshaws, and taxis are everywhere, constant congestion and poor road conditions do their bit to make every journey last much longer than expected.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Jonathan Brown

"The great events organized by InterNations helped me get to know Delhi expats from all over the world."

Sophie Poirier

"When I moved from Canada to Delhi, InterNations helped me connect with fellow Americans and feel more at home."

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