If you are considering joining the ranks of the British expat community in India, you might have started drafting a pros and cons list. After all, moving 7,000km away from good old Britain is a big step.
Be reassured, 32,000 Britons have already made the jump and left the cold grey winters of the UK to spend the year under the tropical skies of India.
But the weather is not the only thing that attracted so many professionals to the country of Thump Up Cola and Bollywood.
As India has grown to be the 3rd economic power in the world, after China and the UK, high-stakes companies have settled in the country and are willing to pay top Sterling for skilled candidates coming from the UK. Technology, banking, marketing and engineering are only some of the industries that are continually looking for new talents.
One of the top reason and benefits that expats living in India put forward is the money. The cost of living in India remains very low by Western standards; most expats can live very comfortably even in the city centre of the metropolis of Mumbai and New Delhi.
Travelling is also a good reason to be moving to India. Situated in between Europe and the rest of Asia, living in India means that you can catch a direct flight to London from either Mumbai or Dehli, same goes for most European cities as well as Hong-Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Bali or Seoul.
A masala chai and chilli is a typical snack for Indians. The spices of the tea and the kick of the chilli will surely wake you up. ( by Meanest Indian)
One more reason would be food. Indian food means endless curries, samosas, tandoori and naan bread. That in itself should be reason enough for you to decide to move to Bharata, which is another name for India.
So let’s review in more details the benefits of living in India.
Well, this saying would probably not be very accurate as India still have many royal families, and though these have even less political power than our beloved Lizzy, there are indeed just as well off as our Queen.
That being said, if you have been transferred from the UK or were hired by one of the big companies, you will almost certainly receive a London kind of salary, maybe more.
According to the recently published HSBC’s 2017 Expat Explorer Survey, using responses from 27,000 foreign workers in 159 countries, expats in Bombay (the Indian name for Mumbai) grossed an average of £170,693 a year which is much higher than the global average of recorded by the same survey The global average wage among expats sits at £78,524
In comparison, expats in San Fransico, where most American tech companies are based, earned an average of £162,882.
The average salary in London (for British residents) is around £35,000, so India is already looking more interesting.
To continue the comparison, let’s look at the cost of living.
Renting a 3-bedroom flat in London’s zone 1 or 2 cost on average around £3000 a month. The equivalent in Mumbai, the most expensive city in India, would cost you about £1200. Though some luxurious flats designed explicitly for expats can reach up to £15,000 a month, these are usually paid thanks to the generous allowance that employers typically grant to higher manager positions.
The road in Indian cities can be chaotic, to say the least, with vendors, scooters, rickshaws all fighting to get through.
Utility costs, which can sometimes make a significant difference on your disposable income, are also way cheaper in India. Those utilities (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage and Internet) set the average the Londoner £175 back every month, but in Mumbai, they would amount to a mere £45.
That being said, even though Mumbai benefits from the best electric grid in India, the city is still prone to the occasional power cut so better get a power stabiliser for all expensive electronics.
Food is also way cheaper in India, and eating out is the norm rather than the exception for expats there. Let talk about food then.
Learn to speak Hindi before moving to India.
Probably one of the best aspects of living in India, food is everywhere, and it’s bloody delicious.
Street food vendors, eateries and restaurants are literally on every street corner. Foodies, be prepared to up your weekly gym session if you want to stay slim.
While walking down the busy, crowded, terribly noisy streets of Mumbai, you probably won’t go more than five minutes without seeing a chai-walla (walla means “guy” in Hindi). These chaps are selling some delicious hot milk tea (chai in Hindi means tea, so when ordering one saying “Chai tea” will show your chai-walla that you’re a tourist, instead just say “Krpaya ek chaay” meaning “One tea please”).
Vada Pao is a typical street food dish of Mumbai and is the Indian equivalent of the British chip butty. (by Rajesh India)
Mumbai is renowned for its street food culture and there more than anywhere else in India, locals tend to eat out at all times of the day. While walking along Chowpatty beach, overlooking Back Bay, savouring some Bhel Puri is the way to go. Or head to the hype neighbourhood of Colaba for some Egg Spicy Masala at the Olympia Coffee House or some delicious and perfectly grilled tandoori at Bademiya.
Don’t forget that India is a vast country, 13 times bigger than the UK. Because of its rich history, during which most of the Indian territory was divided into different empires and kingdoms, a huge variety of cuisine emerged throughout the Indian sub-continent.
To get around Indian cities’ food scene, best to know some Hindi.
When India gained its independence from the crown, more than 70 years ago, the country was divided into more than 600 princely states.
Such a divide translated into a tremendous amount of variation when it came to food. You could be in Goa, enjoying a delicious prawn curry for lunch and drive less than 400km and end up savouring some Bisi Bele Bath (spicy rice and saucy lentil dish) in the Karnataka state where it is incredibly popular.
Aloo tikka is a chickpea dish on top of fried potatoes, with a mixture of sauces, spicy with a lot of flavours, (by Chef Cooke)
Indian cuisine has not only be influenced by the succession of Hindu and Muslim rulers but also by the presence of European merchants. Goa was a Portuguese colony, Pondicherry, Chandannagar and Yanman were French, and most of the rest of India was under direct or indirect British rule for more than three centuries.
Street food and small eateries dominate the food scene in most Indian cities, but this does not mean that higher end gastronomy can’t be found in India.
More and more amazing high-end restaurants are popping out in Mumbai, Delhi or Chennai especially in fancy hotels which cater for wealthy guests.
India is pretty much as big as continental Europe, which means that you will have an almost infinite list of destinations to go on long-weekends or regions to explore during your holidays.
Indian culture is thousands of years old, and it would certainly take you years of travelling and hundreds of thousands of miles journeying to explore everything India has to offer.
if you visit the Southern India states of Goa and Kerala you will probably bump into many other westerners enjoying the states’ beautiful white sand beaches where one can relax by the sea for weeks on end while enjoying the seafood specialities.
If you prefer learning to tanning India can definitely provide more history and heritage than you could digest: visit Agra and ponder before the wonders of the Taj Mahal or head to Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan and get lost in its century-old forts and palaces or visit the many craft shops around the city which specialise in fabric and tapestries making.
Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism, are all religions born on the Indian sub-continent. Each of them featuring many temples all over the country. One of the most beautiful one being the Jagdish Temple located in Udaipur. Spirituality-wise, India is also home to thousands of ashram where one can meditate, practice yoga and learn about the contemplative way of life of Hindu sanyāsī (monks).
The Golden Temple, also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib (“abode of God”) or Darbar Sahib, “exalted holy court”), is a Gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab. It is the holiest Gurdwara and the most important pilgrimage site of Sikhism.
If you more of a thrill hunter and adrenaline junky, head to Rishikesh in the state of Uttarakhand, where you will be able to go down some Grade 4 rapids. Rishikesh is where the holy water of the Ganges emerges from the mountain to form the 2,525 km river. And when it is time to relax, the city is also home to many yoga retreats attracting schools of foreigners.
If you are more of an “on-land-adventure” kind of person, India is also one of the best trekking spots in the world. Hike along the Frozen Zanskar River in the Ladakh region and climb up 3390 meters or attempt to conquer the highest mount of India by climbing the Stok Kangri summit, located in the Himalayans and standing proudly at 6121 meters.
India also shares a border with Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Buthan, China and Myanmar making it an ideal base to be travelling the Himalayan mountains and to visit the rest of Asia. Singapore is only 5h or so from Mumbai and Colombo in Sri Lanka is less than 4 hours away from the capital city of New Delhi.
To sum things up, if you like eating out, travelling while having a decent amount of disposable income to indulge both India is for you.
Start to learn Hindi now and become fluent quickly after arriving in India.
You won’t have to cut on your quality of living, but you will have to face the populous Indian metropolis, the constant noise of the traffic and the air pollution that goes with it. A certain amount of adaptation is often necessary, but if you really embrace your Indian adventure, neither the monsoon nor the touting rickshaw drivers will take away the pleasure you will get from exploring Indian cities and towns.