15 Things to Know Before You Move to India as an Expat 1

Taj Mahal

Prep yourself for an experience that is India. Here are the top 15 things you must know before you move to mitigate culture shocks and of course, easier navigation of your day at work or home in any city in this country. Lexagent helps you understand India with some practical do’s & don’ts before you take on the expat status.

  1. FRRO is first on the list

For any plans to stay in India for more than 180 consecutive days, make sure you read up well on requirement to register at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO) within the first 14 days of your arrival. Failure to do so could lead up to losing your Indian visa and poetical waste of time, running around regulatory office. Some cities have online services and best to have your company support you with it.

  1. Best to cover up! 

Showing skin in India is considered disrespectful. While India is slowly changing, stay covered especially if you are out and about on the roads. A good way to know what to wear is by watching others around you. A wise tip to follow if you dislike unwanted attention or wouldn’t like to be stared at. The flip side: experiment with colors, patterns in cottons, muls and wear them as dresses, long skirts or more. Indian tailors come in handy.

  1. Stash the cash

May not be a bad idea to invest in slightly fatter wallet – Of course expat salaries are higher, but a lot of India likes cash and carry, especially for smaller buys at local neighborhood stores. Yes, India is at the cusp of going digital, for all the right reasons, the love for crisp currency notes still persists.

  1. Local Vocal

Corporate India’s first language is English – Remember, our East India Company connection! But it helps if you get basic of native language, ikn sticky situations, and if nothing else you score bonus points for trying. Hindi works in most part of Northern India, while a little of Marathi in Mumbai/Pune doesn’t hurt. Gujarati in Modi’s home state or any Tamil, Telegu or Malayalam in any of the southern states. The support staff at home and office may still struggle with fluent English; hence a local lingo glossary can be very handy. What may start with being entertainment for natives may become one of your biggest strengths whist get familiar with the spoken word and sometimes the unspoken.

  1. B for Bathroom

Because you need to go, when you need to go, no matter what you call it. Except, it’s good to know that in India, its more often called, “ bathroom” rather its western counterparts oft referred to as “washroom” or “ restroom”. Of course, “round the corner” and “bio break” may not ring a bell and have your bladder bursting – Be warned!

  1. Dustin Beware 

Steve Mccury’s India portraits are stunning. Award winning, to say the least. And what makes them so is the unique quality of sunlight and the dust that his filters capture. Yes, dust. But in real life, dust can be your biggest enemy, while coming from a super sanitized western world. Because we like our windows open to sight, sounds and smells. And and with them comes ample dust that will sit on your Berlutti shoes and Zegna suit.

  1. Social security synonym

While many from the US rattle their social security number faster than their spouse’s birthdate – India is just about getting used to the concept. Its equivalent, called “Aadhar Card” is gaining momentum, backed by the current government. Making it a legit document, and in certain case, imperative for getting a local bank account and even a long term phone connection.

  1.  Power up!

There is a god for everything in India – Including power supply. But when they get upset, electricity can play truant, ranging from few seconds to an entire day, in case of a heavy monsoon downpour. Irregular voltages and frequent power cuts can be the order of the day in smaller cities, and investment in stabilizers for electronic appliances and UPS for your computer is precious.

  1. Home office or Office Home

The life of the average white collar worker in India is a lot different. Personal and professional lines are blurred. First, when you interview for a position, you are asked about your marital status and family history–a strict no-no here in the US. Once you’re in, you’ll find that the entire staff eats lunch together every day. Managers closely monitor hourly activity, interpersonal interactions, and the personal lives of employees. There are even ‘Office Moms’ responsible for staff health and well-being.

  1. Love thy neighbor

Universal truth is most applicable here in India. From babysitting your kids in an emergency to being last minute go to spot before the ice cubes are about to run out at your house party, good rapport with the families you share a common wall with is a worthy investment. And yes, Indian makes for great neighbors, albeit slightly nosy.

  1. And also love your delivery boy

Your best friend may ditch you but your corner store delivery boy won’t. From toys to toiletries, gourmet food to groceries….even bottled water and your double filter smokes and beer kegs, everything can be delivered at your door step. Keep those phone numbers handy and some of them even take “whatsapp” orders – All for no extra service charge. But always a good idea to tip them.

  1. 911 is just a number

The service doesn’t exist in India, and that’s why always a good idea to have a one doctor you can call at midnight for any medical assistance. Or even better, keep the emergency numbers of the closest hospital tagged on your phone for a quick call. Keep 108 handy for ambulance though!

  1. Meetings spill over

A common occurrence in bigger cities, where one meeting can spill over into the next one for various reasons. Evening catch ups possibly lead to a few rounds of drinks that may be tough to refuse, as business tends to be social. And traffic is never your best buddy if you are packing in more than 2 or 3 meetings across the city.

  1. Chauffeur or Uber

Both work well; depending on your daily commute that work and errands demand. A short drive can guzzle up gas and time, so having a driver or service like that is good idea, while you figure the switch from left hand drive to right. Most senior colleagues have day long drivers, because cars double as mobile offices or downtime dens on wheels. Prep your next presentation in peace or get a cat nap on the go. Though younger India is Uber-ing it more than ever before until the new wave of metros / subway lines changes our lives.

  1. Google maps work – Mostly!

Grid streets and signage are not a common in most Indian cities, given how they old they are. Definitely doesn’t help, as roads have pet names – Yes only India does we call the same path with 4 different names, depending on who you ask for it. And that may sometimes mislead your navigation system. Being in the know of a landmark of sorts can bail you out from going in circles. Literally. Fortunately, Indians will not assume it’s an excuse for showing up late for a meeting.

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