An ancient country rich in culture and diversity, expats moving to India will discover it's a veritable feast for the senses if they’re willing to step out of their comfort zone.
Living in India as an expat
Few places compare in scale to the world’s second-most populous country, and the sheer size and sensory richness can be overwhelming. There is great pride in diversity here, and local culture is strong, although Westerners are likely to experience some culture shock as customs in India are often vastly different from Western norms.
Still, one major benefit of moving to the subcontinent is that communicating with locals is generally easy. English is widely spoken and is frequently the language of business in India.
The largest employing sectors in India are textiles and agriculture, but most opportunities for skilled expats come from areas such as IT, financial services, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications. Expats living and working in the country shouldn’t struggle to meet their basic needs. The quality of public services such as healthcare varies between regions, but expats who can afford it prefer using the private sector.
After applying for visas, the biggest challenge expats are likely to face is finding suitable housing. There is a high demand for good quality accommodation, and expats should seek their employer's assistance, or else enlist the services of a reputable state agent.
Cost of living in India
Living costs won't bother those expats who earn in a foreign currency. Even expats who earn local currency but work in skilled roles will live very comfortably. That said, new arrivals are often uncomfortable with the remarkable wealth gap visible on the streets of teeming cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi and Bengaluru. Despite record growth for more than two decades, India has one of the world’s starkest wealth gaps.
Expat families and children
India is often overlooked as an expat family destination, but in reality the country is a wonderful place to raise a family. Though public schools lack funding, most expats send their children to one of the many excellent private or international schools available in every major city. Travelling around India and experiencing the country's many breathtaking sights, smells and tastes are also great family activities, while it is also ideally located to explore further east.
Climate in India
India's vast terrain makes for a variety of climatic conditions. Two climatic subtypes prevail across India: a tropical monsoon climate, particularly in the south which has high humidity, and a tropical climate bringing both wet and dry periods. The southern regions experience their mildest temperatures between January and September, while in the northeast the months from March to August are more bearable.
Overall, India provides a welcome mixture of high-quality living, adventure and cultural exploration, making it an expat destination with much to offer.
Population: Over 1.4 billion
Capital city: New Delhi
Largest city: Mumbai
Neighbouring countries: India shares borders with China, Bhutan and Nepal to the northeast, Pakistan to the west, Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. India is also bound by a vast coastline, stretching from the Arabian Sea in the southwest to the Indian Ocean in the south, and finally to the Bay of Bengal to the southeast.
Geography: India is a large and geographically diverse country. The northern areas of India are largely defined by the Himalayan mountain range while the Deccan Plateau occupies the western and southern part of the country.
Political system: Federal parliamentary constitutional republic
Major religion: Hinduism
Main languages: Hindi and English. There are an estimated 447 native languages spoken among smaller minorities.
Money: The official currency is the Indian Rupee (INR). This was divided into 100 paise, though these denominations are no longer legal tender. It's relatively easy for expats to set up a local bank account and ATMs are easy to find.
Tipping: Standard 5 to 10 percent
Time: GMT +5.5
Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. Most plugs have two (Type C plugs) or three (Type D plugs) round pins.
International dialling code: +91
Emergency contacts: 112
Internet domain: .in
Transport and driving: The standard of public transport in India is highly varied, but networks are extensive. Driving is on the left-hand side of the road.
►Start planning the move to India and check out info on applying for visas
"The people here are very accepting. I find if you are polite, say good morning and smile, you will get a great response. Locals love expats – we spend money so we get great service and there is always someone there to help if you need it." Learn more about Adria's expat experience in Chennai in her interview with Expat Arrivals.
"Comparing Delhi to London is like comparing day to night, I think part of enjoying life somewhere different is not to compare it to anything." Lisa provides some great insights into everyday life in India in her expat interview.
Are you an expat living in India?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to India. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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