Moving to bustling New Delhi provides plenty of opportunities for expats. The low cost of living, rich history and fascinating culture, as well as a growing economy, are major drawcards. But, as is the case with any expat destination, Delhi has its downsides too. Expats need to consider their safety, cultural differences and the opportunities for children if they want to make an informed decision on moving to Delhi.
Here are some of the main pros and cons to bear in mind when considering a move to the Indian capital.
Lifestyle in Delhi
+ PRO: Rich history and culture
Each year, thousands of tourists come to Delhi to experience the city’s rich culture and history. Expats living in Delhi are surrounded by beautiful architecture and an eclectic mix of cultures. There is so much to discover in Delhi, that new arrivals won’t know where to start.
+ PRO: Low cost of living
Expats who relocate to Delhi will find that the cost of living is generally much lower than in many other parts of the world. On a typical expat compensation package, it's possible to live well in Delhi, as accommodation, utility and food costs are relatively low. The availability of affordable domestic staff also gives expats the option of freeing up some time to spend with family or enjoy everything Delhi has to offer.
- CON: Pollution is hazardous
According to the World Health Organization, Delhi is one of the world’s most polluted cities. A noticeable smog descends on the city whenever there is a significant drop in wind and temperature. Being outdoors isn’t pleasant with such high levels of pollution and many people report experiencing respiratory issues as a result.
- CON: Food hygiene standards and ‘Delhi Belly’
A rich cuisine is one of India’s many assets and it’s no secret that the locals love spicy food. That said, local Indian food is something that expats have to get used to. Hygiene standards aren’t always up to scratch and it's common for new arrivals to experience bouts of gastric discomfort, or 'Delhi Belly'. But if expats avoid drinking tap water and build up their tolerances for local food they should be able to find ways of enjoying Indian cuisine without getting ill. In case an expat does get sick, there is a host of excellent private medical and healthcare facilities available.
Culture shock in Delhi
+ PRO: English is widely spoken
English is taught to a high standard in most schools in India. So, especially in a more cosmopolitan city like Delhi, expats shouldn’t face much of a language barrier. Most people in Delhi can communicate fairly well in English.
- CON: Patriarchal society
Despite the progress made in recent years with regards to the rights of women, India remains a highly patriarchal society. Although Delhi may be more progressive than rural parts of India, things remain difficult for women, and they often have to contend with sexism in various areas of everyday life, such as catcalling in the street.
- CON: Local attitudes to personal space
While expats living in Delhi generally find locals to be friendly and eager to help, some have reported that locals' behaviour can become a little intrusive. Requests from locals to be photographed alongside expats can become annoying. Constant questions about one’s personal life can often make new arrivals feel quite uncomfortable.
Getting around in Delhi
+ PRO: Public transport is improving rapidly
Delhi is surprisingly well connected in terms of public transport. The continually developing metro network makes it easy to get from one place to another. Buses can be slow, but they cover areas that aren’t yet serviced by the metro lines. Taxis and rickshaws are also a good alternative and aren’t particularly expensive either.
- CON: Traffic is a nightmare and local driving behaviour can be dangerous
Traffic in Delhi, especially during rush hour, is terrible. So getting around on the road can often be slow and stressful. Local road users can also be quite aggressive so new arrivals often opt not to get behind the wheel.
Kids and family in Delhi
- CON: Expensive schooling options
While private schools in Delhi are a viable option for expat students because the language of instruction is English, spaces are limited and fees are high. International schools are the most popular option for expat families, but fees are even more expensive here. Many of these schools also have long waiting lists in place.
- CON: Delhi isn’t the most family-friendly city
While Delhi might offer great career progression opportunities for young professionals and good business opportunities for entrepreneurs, it isn’t the best place to raise a family. There is a lack of child-friendly facilities, air pollution is a concern for most parents, and there are plenty of safety issues to bear in mind when relocating to Delhi with kids.
Working in Delhi
+ PRO: Dynamic economy
India as a whole has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. As the capital, New Delhi is establishing its commercial presence at a rapid rate. Many global business enterprises have seen the potential of the city’s growing economy and skilled workforce and decided to locate operations here.
- CON: Poor work-life balance
To get ahead in the workplace in Delhi, people are expected to put in a lot of overtime. The average workweek is around 48 hours, but most locals put in extra hours to impress their superiors and improve their chances of career progression. This work culture may be somewhat different from what Western expats are accustomed to.
►Prospective expats may get answers to some of their many queries on our Frequently Asked Questions about Delhi page
"There are cultural and religious factors in Delhi, like a woman will find it easier to travel if she wears a shawl over her shoulders in public." Get insights into local culture in Delhi by reading Gabriel's interview.
"It is dirty, noisy and smelly at times but it has something majestic to it." Learn about the highs and lows of expat life in Delhi in Doris' expat experience.
Are you an expat living in Delhi?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Delhi. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
Cigna Global can tailor an international health insurance plan to perfectly fit the needs of you and your family. With 86 million customers in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.
Free Moving Quotes
ReloAdvisor is an independent online quote service for international moves. They work with hundreds of qualified international moving and relocation companies to match your individual requirements. Get up to 5 free quotes from moving companies that match your needs.