Just moved to India? Here’s the ‘Up Guide’ to surviving in India

By Chetan Kumar|20th Jun 2016
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[If you are considering moving to India, also read my earlier post India Calling? A few things to keep in mind for your BIG move back.]

Namaste India!

You’re back to the homeland and it feels both exciting and daunting at the same time. This piece talks about some common settling-in questions and experiential advice on navigating the wonder that is India!



  • Housing: All major metros have plenty of modern housing communities that have good amenities, power, security, etc. You’ll get enough advice from local colleagues to make a short list and pick one (ideally, close to work).
  • Domestic help: Ah! The real pleasures of moving to India are the people to help with all your chores. Right? Not always. With rising demand for domestic help, nannies, cooks and cleaners, this can be more pain than pleasure. No doubt, it’s still affordable and you can certainly get lucky and find amazing help. But, inherent in the demand-supply equation and the fact that it’s an unorganised industry means you will often NOT get what you bargained for. I suggest a 75-120 rule; accept 75 percent of service for 120 percent of market pay. Just be happy that 24 days of the month someone is doing the dishes, serving your meals, or cleaning your house. On the other days, try a startup; from home services to meals, there is one for everything!
  • Transport: Your apartment/villa community maybe called Malibu or Park Avenue, but outside those gates it’s still India! Traffic is a big part of the daily grind and dealing with bad drivers, poor roads, road rage, and accidents is something you must find your peace with. I suggest using Uber or Ola as it further reduces the pain of parking, car damage, and driver AWOL days. Cities like Bengaluru and Delhi NCR have a great metro as well! If you’re comfortable, auto-rickshaws are handy for short trips.
  • Cost of living: There is wide range of choice with hyper-consumerism and modern retail for almost everything from food to clothes. For the rest, use your overseas trips. Not everything in India is cheap anymore. A quick snapshot of a few expenses (Bengaluru):

Spend category                                            Rupees (’000) (per month)

3BHK apartment in modern community with amenities           45–75 (based on location)

Domestic help (full time)                                  9–15

Personal driver                                         12–16

Groceries (family of four)                                 12–18

30Mbps broadband                                      1.2–1.6

Playschool                                              8–12

Other expenses                                   Rupees (’000)

Lunch for two at a mid-range café                        0.8–1.5

Dinner for two at high-end bar/restaurant (with alcohol)     4–7

2 movie tickets                                        0.7–1.6

Black Label whiskey (1 litre)                               6

Hits: Cheap haircuts, variety of food, domestic help, festivals.

Misses: Service standards, dust and cleanliness, queues, law and order.

Finally, while cash is still king in India, digital payments have grown significantly to allow for easier cashless transaction at least in major cities and towns.

The ‘Up Guide’ to survival

You’ll come full circle when you find yourself sitting at a Government office for a drivers license, gas connection or the like, reminding you of your days growing up. Some things never change! But many have and with increasing technology both in Government and private services alike, daily life is certainly getting better. In Bengaluru, you can even pay your traffic violations online!

Be prepared to face some inefficiency, delays and promises broken and make contingency plans for non-negotiables. Here’s my ‘Up Guide’ to surviving in India:

Follow up

Get used to the ‘F-word’. Follow-up. Getting things done in India just needs persistence, patience, and constant FOLLOW-UP. If you’re the fastidious kinds, you might have to do a meditation course before getting to India. Probably explains why we have so much religion, meditation, and faith in India; because without it’s hard to explain some things here!

Back up

Make contingency plans for anything you can’t live without! I have two broadband connections, two providers for any essential service, and DIY tools for odd jobs at home.

Give up

Sacrifice the battles for the war! You can’t change culture, literacy or manners overnight, don’t make it an ego issue or a principle to teach, fix or report everything for your own peace of mind! Pick your battles.

Take up

Where you do wish to make a difference, or uphold your principles, for example, corruption or littering, by all means stand up for it! Many returning Indians/Foreign nationals have been crusaders for change and that in the long-term is what we can bring back to the eco-system.

A tip on planning: Plan the big stuff; let the little stuff just fall into place. Over-planning in some areas is a waste in India since there are too many moving parts. Deliveries, dry cleaning, repairs are all subject to the whims of the workers and the vagaries of nature! Don’t fret these; just accept some delays or missteps.

Life in India can certainly seem overwhelming on days and a breeze on others and once you’re doing your routines, it will seem just like anywhere else. What makes India unique is its range of diversity, perspectives, religions, and even chaos. There’s a lot to like here and a lot to be changed, but one thing is for certain, there’s never a dull moment here! Good luck.

(This is just a perspective, please share yours!)      

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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