Foreigners living in Delhi live in a city of superlatives: not only is it the most expensive city in India for expats, but unfortunately local residents also face one of the highest crime rates of all Indian metropolises. On the plus side, New Delhi is one of the fastest growing cities in the world and thus has plenty of opportunities in store for those ready to tackle the challenges of life in Delhi and those receptive to the city’s charms.
Part of Delhi’s charm is undoubtedly derived from the city’s multicultural and multi-ethnic flair. Even more so than in other Indian metropolises, the urbanites living in Delhi reflect the country’s population in all its diversity. This is, of course, partly due to New Delhi’s status as India’s national capital and the seat of its central government. There are representatives from all administrative and ethnic groups of this vast country living in Delhi.
As a result, you might be able to hear hundreds of languages on the streets while living in Delhi. The two dominant languages are Hindi and English, but nearly every other Indian language is spoken as well, even if only in one of the smaller communities living in Delhi. Punjabi and Urdu have official second language status in the capital region. Hinduism is the dominant religion, but there is a significant Muslim minority. Smaller Christian, Sikh, and Jain communities, as well as other religious minorities, are also present.
As a foreigner living in Delhi, most people you’ll encounter will be friendly and welcoming towards you. You might attract a bit of attention or curiosity, and people you don’t know very well may ask you all sorts of personal questions about your family — or even pinch your little children’s cheeks for good luck.
However, what in your own culture might seem unusual or a little intrusive is common practice among many people living in Delhi. Personal relationships, the extended family, and the local community are very important aspects of everyday life, and foreigners living in Delhi will do well to play along rather than desperately trying to cling to their old way of life. Refusing to open up to another culture will just make life in Delhi unnecessarily hard.
Indian culture has a lot to offer new residents living in Delhi. After all, you have just moved to one of the oldest cities in the world. Once you find yourself with some free time on your hands, take in Delhi’s three most famous sights: the Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, and the Qutub Complex. Once there you will immediately understand why they have become such tourist attractions. If you are living in Delhi but not working, make the best of your available time by immersing yourself in local life: take yoga classes, attend a Hindi course, learn Indian-style dancing, and definitely take part in your neighbors’ family life if they invite you to do so.
If you’re living in Delhi with your children, you will soon find that they’re an excellent point of contact between you and the people around you. It is common for most local residents to spend their free time with the whole family. Children are welcome almost everywhere, and there are plenty of leisure activities geared at both adults and kids. Many bookshops, for example, have large children’s sections which not only offer a wide selection of books but also regular kids’ activities. And while your child is playing in one corner or listening to a member of staff reading out books, you can have a cup of tea and browse through your own favorite tomes.
Festivals, both religious and cultural, form an important part of street life in Delhi. The colorful and extravagant Hindu festivals certainly dominate the scene, but all the religious minorities living in Delhi celebrate their own festivals as well. Even Christmas markets are part of life in Delhi in winter. Another highlight is the Qutub festival featuring musicians and dancers from all over the country.
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