Make living in India simpler with these 4 steps
Make living in India a breeze with these 4 hacks.
Living in India isn’t for the weak or fainthearted. You’ve got to have a lot of courage and strength as an outsider to live here. The traffic is crazy, many cities aren’t even designed intuitively, and just living day to day is a nightmare, forget doing any extracurricular stuff (but people still do). But most successful Indians have found a way around the madness by doing things that’s so steeped in our culture, it’s almost second nature to us now. You can include these very same processes in your life to greatly simplify your stay here and make it as effortless and easy as possible.
Whether you’re here to start a new branch for your company, or have been deputed by one to lead a team for a short-term project, you’ll have to put up with minor and major inconveniences on a day-to-day basis.
Here’s how you can make living in India as smooth and uncomplicated as possible:
Firstly, behave like the locals
There’s many things that are ingrained in our culture. And there are solid reasons for things being that way. We don’t enter our homes with our footwear on. That’s inherently because India is a dusty and dirty place. We don’t move things or pick them up with our feet for exactly the same reason. We pour water in front our houses first thing in the morning, and draw a floral pattern with chalk. These might look traditional or cultural in nature (or even superstitious to the atheists), but there’s a very practical reason for doing them. You see, Indian cities are very chaotic. There aren’t any footpaths. Most areas lack roads even. There’s domestic animals roaming everywhere.
And there’s garbage that’s been strewn all over the place by these very same animals. This is the underlying reason why Indians as a principle consider the feet and legs as unhygienic and dirty. This also happens to be the reason why we take offense to someone sitting cross-legged with the undersides of their feet clearly visible to everyone. Because unlike in the developed world, Indian feet are very dirty. Indulging in anything outdoors means there’s a ton of dust and dirt accumulated on them, regardless of whether you wear shoes or floaters. And especially if you use public transport and tend to move around a lot.
So take off your shoes whenever entering someones house. Don’t sit cross legged in front of elders. Don’t pick up things with your feet, especially if its reading material. And lastly, don’t act assertively in front of elders. They don’t like it and generally take offense to wild and rambunctious behaviour.
Conversely, there are situations where you don’t want to behave like the locals. So do not stay out late, or be seen with someone of the opposite sex. Don’t venture to the ghetto areas of the city. Stick to the more developed and upmarket areas. Follow the well dressed crowd and you’ll be fine wherever you go. It would also be wise to partner up with someone wherever you go, instead of exploring places all on your own.
(please note that none of this is prescriptive in nature. These are mere suggestions, and you are free to do as you please, as long as it keeps with the surroundings of the place)
Live in an apartment
Indian society is extremely conservative, especially the older boomer generation. Youngsters generally don’t have bodily autonomy. And it gets ugly at times when conservatives clash with liberals over petty issues. As a foreigner, you do not want to be caught in the cross fire of such situations. Nor do you want to ignite such tensions. With this in mind, it’s best to live in an apartment where you aren’t sharing much common ground with your neighbours. It’s not that you can’t live in an independent house. Some older generation folk are very warm and affable, regardless of what you wear or who you’re out with. But most will be judgemental and suspicious of you. (just pick up the paper and you’ll find tons of articles where Indians have been moral policed by complete strangers right on the streets just because they were with someone of the opposite sex)
Apartments and gated communities come with an extensive security setup including round the clock watchmen, security cameras, and logging of visitor details. As a foreigner, especially as a woman, living in an apartment is a much safer bet.
Live close to work
The benefit of having a stable company with a confirmed tenure means you can stay as close to work as possible. Unlike us locals, you’re unlikely to switch jobs, and the only change that’ll most likely happen is you completing your project and moving back to the country you came from. Indian traffic is nightmarish in every sense of the word. There are new surprises on the road every single day. Heavy vehicles break down all the time stranding everyone else in mile long jams. And there definitely will be floods and waterlogging on most streets come monsoon.
A political rally here, a protest there, a city or nationwide “bandh”, VIP movement across the city, accidents, road rage. You get the drift. As a common man/woman in Indian traffic, you’re last on the priority list. So you ain’t going nowhere!
People miss their flights, trains, and buses all the time!! And for a multitude of reasons like the ones mentioned above. There’s only so much buffer time one can add to their schedule after all. So pick a flat closest to your office, walk to work, and enjoy the time saved on the commute doing whatever you want!
Get a maid
Call it classist, elitist, or whatever you like. But there’s nothing special about getting a maid in India. In fact, this is exactly how most rich and busy people operate. It’s the system itself! They hire maids, drivers, cleaners, cooks and cleaners, not to act rich and elite, but to outsource and delegate most of the manual work so that they can free up as much time for themselves and dedicate it to their own work.
As a foreigner, you should venture to do the same. Unless you clean dishes or cook for therapy, there’s really no point wasting time engaged in such menial tasks. A whopping majority of an Indian’s life is already wasted in crippling traffic jams. Most of us come home terribly late, only to grab a bite and crash with the anxiety of the tasks for the next day already knocking the door in our heads. There’s barely any time left for friends and family, forget doing household chores. The hustle here is very real!
For most Indian’s, it’s not the physical aspect of household work that is demanding, but the mental part. It’s another item on your to-do list overflowing with a hundred tasks on the official front, and another 100 on the personal front. So this is a hack most Indians just go with, without sparing as much as a thought about the cost or time needed to supervise the activity.
Living in India needn’t be stressful and cumbersome. Follow these simple hacks and have a stress-free enjoyable time while you’re here. For more such hacks, listen to foreigners who have themselves been residing in the country for a considerable period of time and are willing to give their 2 cents on the matter. One such person you can follow is Ivana, a Youtuber from the Netherlands, who’s been living in my city of Bengaluru for a couple of years now. (channel name: TRAVEL VLOG IV)
She discusses everything under the sun about living as a foreigner in India. Do check out her channel here: