Living in India can offer expats a taste of life in an exotic and diverse place. It is a bright and vibrant country with an eclectic mix of different cultures and people.
India is a huge country whose population currently represents a sixth of the world’s total population. However, despite the large numbers of people that are living in India, it is a relatively small country that covers only 2% of the world’s total land. This makes India a very crowded and busy place.
India has many different religious and ethnic groups. The most popular religion is that of Hindu (approx 80%), followed by Muslim (12%), Christian (2%) and other religions such as Sikh, Buddhist and Jain.
India as an expat destination
Whilst historically Indian represented a destination that people moved away from to find their wealth in the west, a reverse trend is slowly emerging and a growing number of people are leaving their home countries to sample expat life in India. At present, there are believed to be between 20,000 and 30,000 expatriates living in India and, whilst this is just a fraction of the 100,000 foreigners in China, the number is increasing on a yearly basis.
India’s expatriate community has a wide range of different people. The region is popular with teachers, artists and spiritualists as well as CEOs and executives of international corporations.
Cost of living in India
The majority of cities in India offer expatriates a very good standard of living for a relatively low cost and the majority of expats live quite affluent lifestyles. The cost of most things, including entertainment, education, housing and food is lower than that in western countries, even within the developed cities such as Mumbai and New Delhi. According to the Mercer cost of living survey in 2012, New Delhi (113) and Mumbai (114) dropped considerably in the list of the most expensive cities in the world in which to live – by 28 and 19 places respectively.
For full and comprehensive details of the cost of living in India, please see our relocation guide. It contains an insider’s view of the living expenses here and covers everything from the price of groceries through to the cost of paying for your child’s education.
The official language of India is Hindi, which is spoken by approximately 30% of the population. English is also prevalent and is the major language of the trade and service sectors. There are an additional 14 other official languages and 37 different languages in total spoken throughout the country and each state has its own language. Hindi is commonly spoken in the upper half of India. However, Southern India, especially the four southern states, have very few Hindi speakers and many more English speakers.
India is a vast country with diverse weather patterns. There are generally two seasons in India; a rainy season and dry season. From October to March, the weather is, on the whole, drier and mild. Monsoons and flooding are common during the rainy season.
India has four different climatic regions:
- Alpine Zone: High altitudes of Himalayas. Different types of climate are experienced in these zones as a result of deviations in the altitude. The weather generally consists of high temperatures and low rainfall.
- Sub Tropical: Northern India. Hot wet summers and cold, dry winters.
- Tropical: Southern India. Very hot and humid.
- Arid: Western India. High temperatures and low rainfall.
Living in India: Expat Job and career opportunities
Finding work in India can represent a significant challenge and those who search for a job after entering the country may find that the salaries offered to them on a local contract are less than desirable. In Indian what is considered to be a good salary will typically be 25% of what professionals would earn in western countries.
A large percentage of expats in India are on assignment with multinational companies but, in recent years, more and more Indian corporations have been importing skills and experience from overseas for mid-level professionals. In both these cases work should be secured prior to entering the country.
Despite the fact that India is recognized as a country that is high-tech and progressive, networking and personal connections remain prominent means of finding suitable job opportunities.
For information pertaining to the visa requirements for working in India please see the individual relocation guide.
Key facts every expat should know about living in India
- If you plan to stay in India for more than 180 consecutive days you will be required to register at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO) within the first 14 days of your arrival. Failure to do so could mean that you lose your Indian visa.
- When living in India you will experience very irregular voltages and frequent power cuts. You need to buy voltage stabilizers for electronic appliances and UPS for your computer.
- The majority of houses and apartments in India do not have ovens although ovens are easily available from large electrical shops.
- You should never accept ripped or damaged bank notes – many places will refuse to accept them. You should always hand the Rupees back if they show the slightest sign of ripping or damage.
- You should only ever use your right hand to eat and shake hands with. The left hand is considered dirty as it is traditionally used for bathroom duties.
- You may see symbols throughout some areas of India that appear to be swastikas. No one is a Nazi, it’s a Hindu/Jain/Buddhist symbol meaning peace.
Indian city guides
Expat Info Desk currently has three city guides available for India:
These exhaustive guides contains everything you need to know about relocating to these Indian cities and will assist you to:
- relocate efficiently and effectively with minimum stress.
- settle in to your new life quickly and easily and find the help and assistance you need, when you need it.
- identify areas to live in that suit your lifestyle and budget.
- find the right places to meet like-minded people.
- find schools that are suitable for your children and their learning needs.
- ensure that your family get the most of their experiences abroad.
- prepare for the new culture in advance and avoid any cultural traps.
- deal with any transition challenges.
- cut through red tape and avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.
Unlike a book, the guides are regularly reviewed and updated in order to ensure that the information is accurate and reliable and because the guides are written by real expats who live and work in India, you can be assured that you are accessing the information that you need as written by people who really are in the know.