Expatriate_Global Mobility, Expat Life In India

10 things that one could find (almost) anywhere in India – By Jasper Fortuin

I’ve talked about the huge differences within this immense country in some of my earlier blogs, and I will continue to highlight them in upcoming ones. However, it’s very hard to refer to ‘India’ as a country. Ask ten people who’ve traveled within India and you might get eleven or twelve different answers. This would be mainly based upon the experience in a particular part of the country. If you talk to a German couple after a 2-week trip to Kerala and Goa and compare their answers with another couple from a different European country after a trip to Varanasi, Agra and Delhi, there will be very few similarities. The language and/or the script, cuisine, nature, weather, architecture, people, vegetation and much more are different in each part of the country.

Despite the huge differences, there are many similarities. Some remarkable elements in India could be found all across the Subcontinent. I’ve created my personal list of Top-10 of things that actually make every corner of this country undisputedly ‘India’, even in the tribal or remote areas.

  1. One could buy a 10 INR milk tea (chai), with or without masala

 Although there is proof that tea was brought to India decades ago by the Chinese, the official introduction of tea in this country was done by the British. After the introduction, tea became the Indian version of a Red Bull all across the country. Tea is the most popular National beverage for almost all Indian people and is being sold everywhere. If you order a ‘tea’ or ‘chai’, chances are very high that they’ll serve you a strong black tea, filled with milk and lots of sugar. I’m a very big fan of the ‘Masala Chai’ edition, which is a strong black tea with milk, but also with a mixture of cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper and the strongest contributing powerful taste: ginger. Contrary to a lot of principles in the general cuisine, the quality of your tea will not increase if you’re ordering and drinking it in a more upscale place. I’ve had the best tea in India just on the roadside. These so called ‘Chai Wallah’s’ often sell a cup of tea for less than 10 INR (13 Eurocent) and the quality is very good; they often use fresh herbs for the flavor and the milk is full fat and rich, which – after brewing together – will give one the ultra-chai flavor.

2) ‘Horn ok’ signs on trucks

 Nobody will criticize me for sharing some of my ever-increasing irritation about the nending noises in India. People are loud and they don’t mind sharing these irritating sounds with everyone around. Don’t be surprised if people around you start spitting. Even worse: it’s not uncommon to notice a lot of human morning rituals during a early morning walk through residential parts of an average Indian city. And there is more: traffic is horrible in almost every part of India, mainly because ‘horning’ almost seems to be a national sport with an ongoing competition; who is the loudest ‘honker of the day’? One of the oddest things that one could observe on the roads in India is the ‘Horn ok’ sign at the back of almost all trucks. While trucks are actually encouraging other people on the roads to use their horn, there are actually a lot of ‘no horning zones’ within cities. India wouldn’t be India, if people would actually follow this public guidance.

3) ‘Stick no bills’ signs

India is the largest democracy in the world with a lot of government regulations. As a result, one could find a lot of state-managed messages, encouraging people not to spit in public, follow traffic rules or avoid using excessive much water. It’s very funny to see some of these messages, mainly because of the very direct forms of the (English) language. All across India, one would find signs on walls, fences or government buildings telling people to ‘stick no bills’. Even after being in India for over 28 months now, I still laugh about this; I’ve seen so many concrete walls with ‘stick no bills’ signs, partly covered with the latest announcements about a travelling circus, hair growing elixirs or job offerings.

4) Thali meals

People from all backgrounds visit public restaurants a lot for their lunch- or diner food-options. Especially on the lower end of the spectrum, one could find unlimited eateries. The menus at these places are often very simple, with a limited set of options. Although tastes may vary, there is actually one thing in India that could be ordered in almost every corner of this country: a thali. The objective of the thali is very simple: serve the customer fresh prepared food with a wide variety of tastes and dishes. In a basic thali are some curries, vegetables, rice, dahl, curd and sweets. They will start serving you the dishes on a metal round plate. Some of the curries will be served in smaller metal bowls. The idea of the thali meal is to serve a variety of curries (vegetarian or with meat/fish) as an accompaniment to the naan breads or chapati’s. A thali, which is a heavy meal, could be bought for less than 60 INR (0.75 Euro) if you’re ordering one in remote area’s or very crowded areas in large cities. There is a wide variety of thalis within each city. One of my favorite thalis is the Gujarati thali, in which the dishes are prepared with a sweeter taste.

5) The Indian railways

With over 1.3 million employees, the Indian railways is one of the largest employers in the world. Offering a network of huge connections between the larger cities and a combination of a lot of local trains, the Indian railways has the largest network of trains within Asia and the second largest in the world. The trains are being managed by a huge organization. They are responsible for trains leaving and arriving on time, clean and safe railway stations and a wide variety of routes, offering seats in a wide variety of classes. Unfortunately, one could experience a lot of delays and it’s not uncommon that trains would usually be delayed by 1-2 hours.

6) Bureaucracy

 I really love India and try to avoid any judgements within the country. But some things are so tough and obviously funny and therefor it’s hard not to criticize it. Take the bureaucracy as an example. I often share my beliefs with people about India’s bureaucracy as a joke: the British brought bureaucracy to the Indian subcontinent, but the government and the Indian population did an excellent job in improving this. The bureaucracy is interesting in India, and it will actually consume a lot of your time here. While living in India, opening a bank account, registration of a rental lease agreement, extension of a visa…..things are definitely improving, but some of these processes could turnout in a time consuming and frustrating process.

7) MG Road

 The letters ‘M’ and ‘G’ refer to Mahatma Ghandhi. I always had the impression that he would be a hero for all people, but this is actually not true. Whereas Ghandhi has been seen as a leader and peacemaker in the Western World, in India there are many individuals who are actually opposed to his views and actions. However, the Indian government has actually created this myth about the man. One of the very visible signs is the inauguration of a MG Road in almost every Indian town or city. Some people refer to this street as ‘Main Street’, and I actually don’t know if the controversy about Gandhi is the main driver for this.

8) Jugaad

 In India, people will always come up with solutions, even if it’s not clear if things could be sorted out or fixed. They’ve even come up with a word for it: Jugaad. Go online and use google to search for ‘Jugaad India’ and check on the images. You will find the weirdest solutions for technical issues of day to day challenges. There is a lot of Jugaad in transportation: people use two-wheelers to transport huge things, very often risking their lives. I’ve seen a lot of big mirrors or large glass elements, being transported by two individuals on a two-wheeler.

9) Auto rickshaws

The rickshaw is a recurring theme in this blog. One could find rickshaws in almost every Asian country, but some of their models in India are so iconic that it’s hard to imagine an Indian city without them. Whereas human pulled rickshaws or cycle rickshaws could only be found in some cities in India, the Auto Rickshaw offers a service to you all across India. Funnily enough the colors of the Auto Rickshaw vary from state to state. I’ve seen green-colored Auto Rickshaws in the south, while yellow and black remain the main colors in my home state (Maharastha).


 Although India has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world for years now, it’s still considered a third world country. I’ve written about the socio demographics of the country before, highlighting the huge disparity between various groups within the Indian society. There are very well-developed parts in India, with higher average incomes. But don’t let the stats fool you, because underprivileged people could even be found in Goa, Kerala or other more affluent parts of India. As a result, one could find beggars in almost every corner of the Indian subcontinent.

For more wonderful stories about India, through an expat eye please visit Jasper’s personal blog: https://bustlingpune.com/

Living In India, Expat, Expats, Expat Life

Living in India – a comparison on charges levied on Indian Nationals vs foreigners – By Jasper Fortuin

Go for a 30-minute walk in a random tier-1 or tier-2 city in India and you will come across the huge inequality of this immense country. Lush airy streets with huge bungalows are often built next to small one-room houses, which are occupied by huge families. A significant percentage of the population in India is very poor, with an average monthly income of 15.000 INR per month or less, roughly 170 euro’s. The upside for these less privileged families is the cheaper cost of living conditions. Groceries could be bought for a fraction of the cost when compared to the western world and rental prices are comparatively low. Furthermore entertaining your family is also very cheap. One could buy a cinema ticket for less than 50 INR (0,75 Euro). And visiting a museum, heritage buildings or wild parks are very affordable, entry fees are often a little more than 10 or 20 INR (12 or 24 Eurocent).

India is one of the most diverse countries in the world, a melting pot with Muslims, Hindus, Christians and other religions living side by side in a peaceful way. However, it’s also one of the most variable countries on earth. The difference between the ‘have’ and ‘haves not’ is often huge, while the proximity between those groups is relatively very small; there is a huge slum-area not far from Mukesh Ambani’s flashy tower house in Mumbai, the most expensive home in the world. The government in India is doing a lot in helping challenging families to improve their living conditions. Healthcare in India is free, and ‘the poor’ are often depended on government-run hospitals or medical posts. While the healthcare services in those hospitals are often very good, most people try avoiding these places because private hospitals can serve people faster.

The zero tax policy also helps a lot of the underprivileged people, although a growing group of tax payers in India is actually in favor of introducing liberal tax laws. They want to expand the group of people who should pay taxes. Some people told me that the ratio of taxpayers in India is very low; only a small percentage (less than 5% of the population in India) actually pays tax. Paying (income) tax is not a big thing in my country. Every Dutch citizen pays some tax, even if you are dependent on some kind of welfare fund. Although the high taxes in my country are being criticized by a number of people – the highest tier of my salary is taxed at 52% – I’m still in favor of this People with more money, pay more tax and I don’t mind supporting the people who have been less fortunate.

A lot of other basic needs in India – public transport, food, goods – are also relatively cheap. Driven by low wages, the cost of vegetables, meat, drinks and other necessities are comparatively lower when compared to similar products and services in western countries. And there is more: a lot of museums, landmarks or parks are open to the public for a small fee. Entry fees for museums are mostly not more than 10 or 20 INR (0,12 or 0,24 Euro). However, there is a catch; this is the entry fee for ‘Indian’s’, the entry fee for foreigners is much higher. I have seen multiple examples of entry fees being more than 10 – 30 times higher than the fee for an Indian. Let me give you an example. The Aga Khan Palace in Pune is one of the ‘highlights’ of the city, a well-maintained 1800-century palace which was once the home of Mahatma Gandhi. The palace was built in 1892 by Sultan Muhammed Aga Khan and was in use as Mahatma’s prison. He stayed there between 1942 and 1943, a sad period where he lost his wife and political assistant. The entry fee for this landmark is 20 INR for Indians (0,25 euro). A sign at the ticket counter points out the entrance fee for others: the fee for ‘foreigners’ is 200 INR.

Living and working in India as an expat is comfortable and everybody knows it; employers generally provide employees with luxurious accommodation. And traveling from A to B is easy, because the jobs most often also come with a car and personal driver. And let’s not forget the financial perks. Expats generally receive good pay. The salaries are high and many companies offer their employees a ‘hardship allowance’, a bonus on your salary in lieu of the challenging conditions of living far away from family and friends. I am fully aware of my privileged conditions. I am definitely part of the ‘have’ group and therefore am more than willing to pay a little extra from time to time. I generally pay a lot more for many things, but that is by my own choice: although I am a big fan of Indian street food, I generally dine out in upscale places. And I also do my grocery shopping at more fancy shops or supermarkets.

Visiting an Indian landmark is – however – different. The actual landmark and its service is actually the same. So my question here: why should I pay much more than the Indian visitor? I want to share two views on this topic:

1)            Varying entry fees based on background or Nationality is discriminatory and should be stopped.

The policy of charging higher fees for foreigners is not new; I assume it has been there for decades. I have encountered this during many of my previous travels through the country. My first thoughts about it were actually not negative. It is progressive: assuming that foreigners have more money than the average Indian national, one could argue that it’s not a big deal to pay a little extra. Having lived in this country for some time now, I have actually changed my view. As a foreigner – being a traveler or employee – I am already paying a lot of taxes. The visa fees are still very high, which brings in a lot of foreign cash. Furthermore: working here for more than 182 days a year, I am obliged to pay taxes in India. In addition, one should not forget that India has become a popular travel destination, funneling in a lot of foreign money into the economy.

2)            If they want to continue with this weird policy, they should start checking all visitors ID cards or passports

Some fancy nightclubs refuse people entry at the door with a fabricated story. A lot of you would be familiar with this phrase: ‘sorry, members only tonight’. I do not mind being refused, but I hate to see people entering a club without showing any membership card. The same goes for the Indian landmarks. They will charge the fees based upon someone’s appearance. If you look Indian, you are ok to enter paying the Indian fee even if you do not speak Hindi or one of the local languages. As a result, a lot of tourists from Nepal, Malaysia, Indonesia and a lot of other South Asian would only pay the local fees. This is weird and sad at the same time. The government should only implement policies if they have also implemented a solid control mechanism.

The Indian government launched the Aadhar card, a nationwide ID-proof system which seemed to be one of the largest personal data projects in the world, a program to track data of more than one billion people. A lot of people carry this card as proof of their ID. I was one of the lucky ones to get one and I carry it with pride. I do not carry my passport for domestic trips; the Aadhar card does the trick for me. And here’s my point: I can also use my Aadhar card to buy a ticket for the ‘Indian’ tariff. It does not work everywhere though. Some officers actually tell me that I am still a foreigner, which is true. Using my Aadhar card is fun and I always get a positive feedback. Airport security guards more than often asked me ‘Oh, you’re Indian’, not realizing that this card is actually ID-card and not a proof of being an Indian National.

For more wonderful stories about India, through an expat eye please visit Jasper’s personal blog: https://bustlingpune.com/

Corporate Employee Relocation to India

How to make your expat employees feel at home? – By Preeti Roongta (Founder)

With the advent of globalization, every company now provides a global platform for their employees to grow professionally. Countries around the world are investing in other nations and working towards expanding their business horizons. These employees who migrate to other countries usually feel quite comfortable at their workplaces -the companies make that extra effort and the professional environment is usually not very different from what they are used to in their home country. However, as we have written earlier, a crucial part of making your expat employees feel at home is helping them and their families assimilate culturally. Your employees will only be as happy as their families, and therefore, their happiness, health, well-being, and adjustment should become a priority too. It’s often up to the Human Resource teams to help their expat employees, and their families, get familiarized with the country and its culture.

A country’s culture is a window to its rich history and heritage and it can help one grow and learn. Also, of course, when one shows respect for the culture of the host country, the host country accepts you just as openly! The cultural growth of an employee in their host countries helps them adapt better and be happy in their life outside of work. A key part of that effort could be accelerated if they have the opportunity to join a close-knit community of like-minded people and make new friends. In a country as colorful and as diverse as India, where getting accustomed to the different festivals, geographies and culture can get a little overwhelming for expats, it is always a plus to have a social circle with people from all over the world who are going through the same transition as you. A circle like the Pune Expat Club, an initiative supported by Lexagent.

In India, it is often said, “Atithi devo bhava”, which translates to “A guest is like God”. We have always believed in going the extra mile to help our expat guests get that wholesome colorful Indian experience while they also strive for growth at their workplaces. In 2018 we conducted various engaging events that saw wonderful participation from the members & clients of our Pune Expat Club & Lexagent.

Any culture is defined by its food and India has a particularly rich and varied heritage to boast of. With Indian food finding its rightful place in fine-dining menus around the world, there is abundant curiosity among our expats about the right way to create some of the most iconic Indian dishes. To feed that craving, an Indian Kebabs Masterclass that was held at The Conrad, Pune. Here, the attendees experienced and explored the delectable flavors of Indian cuisine, learned various kebab recipes, and enjoyed a lovely lunch. A hands-on session with the expert chefs made this event even more delightful for our guests. This Masterclass was especially appreciated by the ladies as it helped them understand the whole cooking process, while at the same time letting them adjust the spices and the oils according to their preference.

Expats know of India as a land full of history, but they don’t get to experience much of that first hand in the rough and tumble of their daily lives. For the historically-inclined and the adventure-loving expats, we conducted a trek to the 400-years old Tikona Fort. Starting at 6 in the morning, our expat explorers witnessed a beautiful sunrise as they trekked their way up to the historic marvel of the Tikona pyramid peak. Once there, their view enclosed the breathtakingly beautiful Pawna Lake. The 3-hour trek was an exhilarating experience for all our guests. Monsoon makes the canvas of Pune even more beautiful and greener, making the trek even more exciting for all our members –including kids. Activities like this help make stronger communities for expats. They meet new people, make new friends, and their families come together – helping them build a fulfilling social life.

One must-do for every individual who visits Pune during August-September is to experience Ganeshotsav in its full glory -this may well be the defining Puneri experience. The expats residing in Pune too yearn to get caught up in this fervor they are Puneris too! To help them get the full sensory overload, we organized a Ganesh Festival Walk through the old city of Pune, visiting some of the oldest and best-regarded Ganesh Mandals. Walking from one Mandal to the next, immersed in the sights and sounds of the festival, all while partaking of some of Pune’s must-have street food offerings like Vada Pav transported these expats to a bygone age. If their experience had to be defined in one word, it would be mesmerizing. From the aarti to the different idols and their significance, the morning was incredibly enlightening and enriching. These expats felt a little bit of India and Pune take root in their hearts after this divine “Darshan”.

Here’s a suggestion for the companies out there that employ expats. To enhance performance and overall happiness of your expat employees, make that effort to help them blend in the local culture. Their performance at work directly depends upon how well they take this transition and settle into their new surroundings. Every company must take active steps to support their international employees during, what is, a difficult period for them. After all, that’s what the Indian culture is all about, isn’t it?

Returning expats settle in India

Welcome Back – Helping returning expats settle in the home country

The US survey on international migrant trends from a couple of years ago reported that India had the largest diaspora in the world with over 16 million Indian’s living and working in other countries. This is only half the story though. Since 2010 or so, there has been a steady flow of these Indian expats returning to the home country to make a mark here. In fact, a few months ago, the Economic Times reported that leading recruitment and search were “inundated with requests from Indian in the US, the UK, the Gulf, even Singapore, and Hong Kong”, who were looking to move back to India.


People like Srikumar Misra returned to their native land driven by a sense of purpose and founded start-ups to solve the problems faced by the locals there. Misra quit his job at Tetley Tea in London and returned to his native place in Orissa and founded Milk Mantra – the first Indian venture capital-funded agri-food start-up. The people in this area faced scarcity of this commodity and Srikumar Misra found an opportunity in it. “All I wanted was to make a difference to the people of my state. We now have a networked group of 40,000 farmers from whom we procure milk at 300 centres,” Misra told Business Line.


The emergence of India as the world’s fastest growing economy in recent years has seen a corresponding shift in its expat communities across the globe. The opportunities for competent and ambitious Indians once lay outside the country but that’s not the case anymore. There are equal, if we may not say more, opportunities in the home country today. With a large number of MNCs setting base and/or expanding their operations in India, a thriving start-up ecosystem, and a steep growth in opportunities to make an impact in the rural economy, these opportunities are bound to witness an exponential growth.


The booming Indian market and an increase in the protectionist environment in the European and American markets have led many Indian expats to return to explore opportunities in their homeland. In many cases, the returning expats are being hired by MNCs and large Indian corporates like you. But life for the returning expat is not without its challenges. So, as the HR group in the companies that employ them, what can you do to help them settle in?


Difficulties faced by a returning expat

You probably have a settled process to address the relocation of foreigners to India. Much of what you do for those incoming expats would also apply in case of your returning NRI employee. But there are a variety of specific issues that a returning expat must face in the home country. Resettling is no cakewalk. Especially for those who have spent long years outside the homeland, it takes time to acclimatize to the environment of another country.

Here are 3 specific issues faced by the returning expats:

1) Reverse Cultural Shock

The biggest difficulty of a returning expat is to readjust to the culture of his native land. After spending a significant amount of time in a foreign land, a person gets molded into that environment. The dual challenge for these people is that the environment in India is sure to be unlike what they were used to in their foreign home, but is also sure to be different from what they were used to before left the country. India has changed dramatically in the last few years. Returning expats may find a land that is nothing like the simple, cheap, and innocent land they left behind. We are now a confident, aggressive, and opinionated people who believe that we are ready to lead the world – this change of personality can be hard to adjust to. Returning expats need cultural sensitivity training too – maybe even more than foreigners.

2) Food and Drink

This is a physical as well as a mental issue. Many are the story of expats facing tummy or gut issues because of reduced immunity brought about from years of protected eating in their foreign home. Ill-advised attempts at revisiting the spicy, oily street food of their youth have laid many returning expats low. The process of readjusting the gut to spices can be slow and long, especially for the kids who have been born abroad. The same goes for water consumption. Even filtered water can be hard to stomach (literally). Hence it is advisable to start slowly and gradually making the digestive system to adjust with the introduction of spices in the food. If the worst happens, then you may need to familiarize them with the available healthcare options – availability, suitability, costs etc. may all be mysteries to them.

3) Accommodation & Family Resettlement

You must be helping all your expat employees find suitable accommodation but there is a chance that the demands of your returning expat employee could have their own complexity. Many such expats have no concept of how housing has changed in India in recent years. They are often unfamiliar with the amenity-rich, luxe condos in most Indian cities today. They may be outraged and flabbergasted by the rents in such locations. They may seek accommodation of types or in areas that used to be “posh” back in the day, but where accommodation is near-impossible to get now. The modern age also has its own problems – safety, security, privacy, and controlling access to name a few. Returning expats may not quite appreciate the extent of these problems while seeking a house or while building a life here. Exposing them to these realities – shiny as well as harsh will help them make the right choices in these areas.

Returning expats have made a major commitment to the land where they were born. Their willingness to return is admirable proof of their intent to make a difference to their home country. As their employer organization, it’s up to you to support them as they work through the nuances of their move.

Expats, Expats Life in India, Employee Relocation, Relocation

Strong hierarchy is still the dominant approach in India – Jasper Fortuin

Micromanagement sucks! I have had micro-managers for some time until a new wave of managers within our company came to light. If I hadn’t moved to another role, I wouldn’t have developed myself to what I’m now. A brilliant young and modern manager gave me one of the most valuable drivers in corporate life: autonomy. I have been reading a lot about how to motivate people for the last couple of years. Every book is different, they write about this topic from various angles. However, they are all very clear about micro-managers: their approach only works in very specific companies and the success rate is very limited.

Daniel Pink: Drive

If you want to read about this subject I would strongly advise you to start with Daniel Pink’s masterpiece ‘Drive’. He’s a great storyteller and the book includes a lot of proof that already has convinced a lot of managers and CEO’s to change their management approach. More recently I just read ‘The Best Place To Work’. The book has been written by Ron Friedman, an award-winning psychologist and behavioral change expert who specializes in human motivation. If you want to draw one bold conclusion out of the many books on this topic, what would it be? The very brief and bold summary after reading thousands of pages is actually simple and logical: it’s important to give people a purpose in life, invest in enhancing their knowledge and give them the trust to work in an autonomous way.

We’ve moved to Agile

Usually I’m a bit reserved in talking about company-related topics, but our corporate Agile- journey has gone public in many ways, so I wouldn’t reveal a lot of company secrets by sharing any insights. A couple of years ago my former department chiefs decided to move to Agile. It wasn’t far from being easy, but the new way of working brought a lot of new energy and some of the latest innovations have been built based upon these new principles. The working ways of my recent department has also been transformed, we are completely Agile now. The result for me is that I don’t have a traditional manager anymore. My ‘chapter coach’ has some HR-responsibilities but he mainly focuses on my personal development. Apart from ‘having’ a coach, I don’t have any people around me to direct my work. The peers around me are responsible for creating an energetic working environment in which I can succeed. Furthermore: everything is centered on the actual (virtual) teams.

Most companies are being managed very traditionally

Working in ‘Tribes’, manage your work in short ‘Sprints’ and operate without managers for giving direction? You might assume that this would be a bridge too far in India. Let me start with some positive news: India has changed drastically in this aspect, especially if you look at the very flourishing start-up scene and some innovative companies in the corporate world. I’ve heard and seen a lot of good stories about companies adopting Agile, Lean or other ways of working in order to speed up the innovation process. Also our Indian partners have completely moved to Agile, often being an example for other (potential) clients. However, most of the companies and institutions in India are still being managed very traditionally. They’ve implemented a very dominant hierarchal structure, with checks and balances. The regular modus operandi of Indian managing directors and/or CEO’s; they treat their employees as family, with a lot of loyalty flowing in both directions. However, there are sad examples where employees are being treated very suspiciously.

Worship the owner or director 

As most of you, I’m also part of a lot of WhatsApp groups and I’ve recently received a very good joke about Indian working culture: ‘A manager told a joke. Everyone in the team laughed except one guy….Manager asks him: ‘Didn’t you understand the joke?’ The guy replied: ‘I resigned yesterday”. I probably will have enough material for writing a book about Indian office politics, but the joke actually says it all: the boss, owner, managing director or CEO has a very dominant role in the Indian corporate world. He or she is being worshiped. And to be honest: while being far from a comedian, a lot of people are laughing when I’m telling the joke….

Autonomy doesn’t exist in India; it’s a very ‘directive’ society

Unless one is working for a fancy or modern corporate in a responsible role, in India, people are regularly being hired to execute things. The owner, CEO or manager is on the other side of the spectrum. He or she is not only the boss, but also the full time strategists. They have been put in place to be very directive. Where most employees in Europe are only being told to get from A to B, in India they will also receive some extra guidance: please go from A to B, take this route and inform me about your whereabouts on every crossing.

Changing the mindset does work, but it will take years

It’s a pretty bold statement but unfortunately it’s true. However, things are changing and moving in a faster pace than one might think. After India opened up its economy for outside joiners, the service industries has grown very rapidly. The banking industry, IT and general corporates are still being managed in the Anglo-Saxon model, mostly with strong hierarchical structures and a lot of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to control employees. Fueled by the demands of western companies or people who have worked outside India, the newer ways of working methods are being introduced into India. I have spoken to some people who recently started their company and almost all of them have launched modern structures, based on trust and autonomy. Let’s all hope that the new ways of working will be adopted by more companies and institutions!

For more wonderful stories about India, through an expat eye please visit Jasper’s personal blog: https://bustlingpune.com/

FRRO_FRO_ Rules_India_Visa_Immigration

Some Essential Things You Need to Know About FRRO Rules in India – by Preeti Roongta – Founder – Lexagent Expat Relocations

A key responsibility of Foreign Nationals who wish to reside long-term in India (typically that exceeds more than 180 days) is to visit the FRRO (Foreign Regional Registration Office) within the first 14 days of their arrival in India. It is the FRRO that has the role of regulating their legal stay in India. To that extent, the FRRO manages all the tasks related to foreigners residing in India. This may include issuing residence permits, converting specific kinds of visas, and addressing matters related to visa extensions related to foreigners. In short, FRRO deals with all the legal formalities that need to be completed by the foreigners intending to stay long term.

Bureaucratic processes in India have the reputation of being lengthy and cumbersome and involving long waiting times. Automation and IT are being deployed to ease these concerns but, for expats and the companies that employ them, it pays to stay informed and to understand the FRRO rules well to avoid frustration and hassles.

What is FRRO and what are its registration requirements?

FRRO is the primary agency which deals with the registration, departure, arrival, and movement of foreign nationals who wish to reside long term in India. This applies to foreigners visiting India on a student visa, business visa, employment visa or research visa. The FRRO is also responsible for the grant of extension of stay in India, if required.

The FRRO offices in India have a presence across most major Indian cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Amritsar, Hyderabad, Trivandrum, Cochin, Goa, Calicut, Lucknow. They also function with the District Superintendents of Police located across all other districts. There are 13 FRRO’s and 674 FRO’s in India.

Foreign registration is necessary for all the foreigners arriving in India on a visa which extends to more than 6 months, except for certain exempted categories. Registration is required only once at the time of usage of the visa, irrespective of the times the foreigner exits or arrives again using a multiple entry visa.

The registration requirements at FRRO are as follows:

  • Foreign nationals including those with Indian origin who are visiting India long-term and intend to stay for more than 180 days on a Student Visa, Medical Visa, Business, Employment and Research visa need to register themselves with the FRRO. The requirement is to register within 14 days from the date of arrival at a registered FRRO/FRO office.
  • Foreigners below the age of 16 years(minors) need to report in person or via an authorized representative at the registered FRRO office in a specific location. No registration is required for children under the age of 16 years. *This regulation is applicable in select cities only.
  • Registration may also be required in cases where it is specifically mentioned as- “registration required”

Here are some top FRRO rules to keep in mind for foreigners living long-term in India

  1. Prepare a checklist of all the documents required

You must carry your original passport which contains the visa stamped by the authorized officers, a photocopy of the passport and the original visa, four photographs, and details about your residence in India. A copy of the marriage certificate may be required for those seeking an extension on the grounds of their spouse being an Indian national.

For students a bonafide certificate from the University or Institute may also be required. For employment or business visa, an undertaking from the respective Indian company may have to be produced for FRRO registration. For those involved in joint ventures, a copy of the approval from the Government of India must be provided to the FRRO. In case of an employment visa involving contracts or agreements, a copy of the approval from RBI will be necessary.

  1. Registration officers will provide the Registration Certificate / Residential Permit (RC/RP)

As a foreigner, once you apply for the Registration, the resulting certificate is called the Registration Certificate or Residential Permit. This is most often valid until your visa validity, or 1 year, whichever is shorter. This RC/RP is your valid address in India and can be used to open Bank accounts, Apply AADHAAR Card, Apply PAN Card etc.

  1. Seeking exemption from registration

There are specific categories which may be exempt for registration such as US nationals who are on a 10-year business or tourist visa and their continuous stay does not exceed more than 6 months in India.

-Foreigners with 5 year tourist visas who are engaged in tourism and who visit India frequently for extended periods of time, and whose visa states that, “continuous stay must not exceed more than 6 months”

  1. Restrictions in certain circumstances

If you are a foreigner coming from yellow fever countries, then you may be required to produce a vaccination certificate from a valid medical authority. You are allowed to visit restricted or prohibited areas by securing a valid permit as visa alone may not be adequate to visit these places. For Ex: North East India, Military and Cantonment Areas.

  1. Online services are now available

A new online system has been recently introduced. This enables foreigners to apply online using an e-FRRO application and to then avail of all the services through e-mail or by post, without the need for an in-person appearance at the FRRO. These are currently available only at 13 FRRO’s. This is much simpler as you can gain access to a portfolio of 27 visa and immigration-related services during your stay in India. The e-FRRO scheme has been operating successfully since February 2018, after it was initially launched in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai and Mumbai. It has since been introduced in other Indian cities as well.

Like most countries, the government rules and regulations may appear to be complex and cumbersome, but with the right guidance, they can prove to be easier to navigate. Remember that the respective government departments are the final arbitrators of all the laws and rules, but we hope this information helps you as you engage with those authorities.

Lexagent Expat Relocations (www.lexagent.net) has helped thousands of expats, hundreds of Multi-national companies and several Chambers of Commerce and Industry to assist, educate, help with the maze of paperwork and dealing with the FRRO’s and FRO’s all across India. Write to us at info@lexagent.net if you want more information on this complex subject.

Culture In India, Cultural Assimilation, Expats Club in India,

The Why & How of Cultural Assimilation for Your Expat Employees

Business is going global rapidly. Companies are leaving no stone unturned to be the best in their industry. And, to be the best, companies need to employ the best talent, local as well as international. Sure enough, international talent has become an important part of the strategy of the modern business enterprise.

International talent, is by definition, likely to be more senior, potentially more valuable, and almost certainly more expensive for the company. It follows that these valued international employees need to settle well into their new surroundings for them to feel happy and to perform their duties up to their maximum potential. This is where cultural assimilation can play a vital role in helping these expats adapt to their new circumstances and role.

Living and working in a new country and surroundings presents employees with significant challenges even outside their new workplace. It is important for the international employees to understand the foreign culture and ways of the host country. The better they assimilate the foreign culture the sooner they will ease into their new life. Initially, many expats go through the so-called ‘Honeymoon’ phase where they are excited about coming to a new country and experiencing the new culture. Others go through a “Culture Shock” phase where the sheer newness of everything threatens to overwhelm them. The crucial part comes after this initial phase, where many of the expats start feeling homesick and missing their earlier lives. This period is the make or break period, as it determines whether or not the international employee be wanting to give up and move back to the home country or stick through.

The company and its Human Resource management group must take necessary steps to support the expat employees during this phase. There are various things that can be done to support expats with culture assimilation:

  1. Initial training:

Companies should sensitise their expat employees with training as they get started with their new job. They should be given an introduction to the new culture that they are going to be a part of. Communication is key here. Clear, detailed, and strictly relevant, information will allow the expat to understand the scenario in the host country and will allow him/her to prepare mentally accordingly. Climate, language, traditions, lifestyle, and security are some of the important factors that affect expats while settling in. The company should make sure that relevant information is communicated to the freshly-minted expat.

It is also very important for an expat to understand the prevailing social norms regarding public behaviour, etiquette, and even acceptable dress-codes. Understanding and following such traditions and values are important on the road to adjusting to the new culture. The expats should share that information with their family members, with whom they have moved to this new country.

  1. Festivals:

Whether it be Diwali and Holi in India, Christmas in most countries, or St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, festivals have always formed an integral part of any nation’s culture. This offers an opportunity for HR Depts to take the initiative and help their expats understand and participate in the host country’s festivals to blend in with the culture. Fun group activities aligned with the theme of the concerned festival where the expats can dip into the festivities along with their local colleagues will help them feel a part of the celebrations.

  1. Expat clubs and communities:

Even if it is outside the workplace, it is very important that expats meet other expats so that they can share their experiences and support each other through the cultural assimilation phase in the new country. Companies can seek out appropriate forums like the Pune Expat Club. They could introduce their international employees to these communities in and around the city. These are the platforms where not only the expats, but also their families can get together with other expat families and build a fulfilling social life.

  1. Company outings:

Employees look forward to a break from the routine, so that they can sit back, relax and rejuvenate, even as they get work done. Company outings can be used as a platform to help expats and their families understand the lifestyle of the people in the host country. Company could plan off-sites and occasions in such a way that their international employees along with their respective families bond with the other local employees. The more the time the expats spend with the locals and their families, the better they’ll understand the lifestyle that the locals lead and the easier it will be for them to blend in.

  1. Expat’s family:

It is often true that more than the expat, their family suffers the most due to culture differences. The expat has the preoccupation of work but the other members of the family especially children have to start their life from scratch. The company should make an effort to ensure that the needs of these children are taken care off. This includes providing advice and help in finding and securing admission for them in an appropriate educational. This is the most critical element in ensuring the children settle comfortably into their new surroundings. The right choice of educational institution will go a long way in organizing not only the schooling, but also the hobbies and playtime of these young expats.

Thus, in conclusion, cultural assimilation plays a vital part in the happiness and performance of an expat. It’s fair to say that the performance of your international employee directly depends on how well they settle into their new surroundings. That being so, the company must take active steps to help these international employees understand and blend in with the new culture. You must support the international employees during the adjustment period and welcome them with utmost warmth -they could well be your most valuable employees after all.



Different Phases of Cultural Shock….Which Phase You Are In?

You may experience a range of emotions when adapting to a foreign culture, from excitement and interest to frustration, depression and fear of the unknown. It is important to stress that culture shock is entirely normal, usually unavoidable and not a sign that you have made a mistake or that you won’t manage. The experience can be a significant learning experience; it will give you valuable skills that will serve you in many ways now and in the future.

Culture shock has five phases, depending on which source you read.

The Honeymoon Phase: This is a fun time. Everything is great, exciting, and new. You love the differences, meeting new people, tasting new foods, seeing different architecture, doing new things, working in your new job. This phase can last days, weeks, or months.

Irritability and Hostility: During this phase, you’re noticing differences, even slight differences, and typically not in a good way. You don’t like people’s attitudes; you have had enough of the food and just want mom’s home cooking. During this phase, a person often feels anxious, angry, sad, and/or irritable.

Gradual Adjustment: Essentially, during this phase you decide whether you will succumb to negativity or negotiate past it to make the most of your experience. If you’re successful, you regain your sense of perspective, balance, and humor, and move on to the next phase.

Adaptation of Biculturalism: You feel more at home with the differences in the new culture. Depending on how big a change a person has experienced. The person doesn’t have to be in love with the new country (as in the honeymoon phase), but they can navigate it without unwarranted anxiety, negativity, and criticism.

The Reverse Culture Shock Phase: Sure enough, this can happen! Once a person has become accustomed to the way things are done in a different country, that person can go through the same series of culture shock phases when they return home.

Learn as much as you can about the new location before you go. This means the good, the bad, and the simply different — from time zones, to what side of the street people drive on, to climate/temperature, to foods, political system, culture, customs and religion(s), to “Can you drink the water?”.

Be open-minded and willing to learning. Ask questions. Don’t withdraw! Travel within the country, and visit cultural events and locations, such as museums or historic sites.

Build new friendships. Associate with positive people. Maintain a sense of humor. (Perhaps the most important!)

Keep in touch with people at home by Skype, email, phone— whatever. This can give you some comfort while away, and it will help you to minimize reverse culture shock when you get back home.

We would love to know your cultural shock experience in India. Please write your story in the comment box.


Security in India: It’s a disadvantage to be treated with an advantage-Jasper Fortuin

Feeling safe and being safe are two different things. You could feel very safe, while still in danger. And you could be very safe, while actually being in danger. Amsterdam, my former hometown, has recently been rewarded “the safest city in Europe”. The very extensive research conducted has been based on outcomes of various earlier researches. I’m very proud with this reward, despite the fact that Amsterdam is known for its red-light district and tolerance towards soft drugs. Having many other controversial policies it still managed to reach the top position. Well done, Amsterdam!


The awesome achievement is party based on good luck. Yes, the city government has been doing lots of things to increase the city’s safety. However, a lot of the ‘work’ has been done by the population and its visitors. There are multiple factors which have contributed to the very positive result. A fall in crime in almost every annual report since the 90’s has been a result of this. And here’s something really funny: there are still a lot of people complaining about the crimes and ‘unsafe’ city. Thus, it’s all about the individual perception!


In India, security is a serious thing. You will see security guards almost everywhere and security procedures at airports, in official buildings and at places with big crowds – The Taj Mahal, The Gateway of India, large hotels, and malls – are always stressful places to visit. Do you want to buy a pair of jeans at your local mall? If so, your bag will be x-rayed and in worse cases they would even ask you to empty your pockets. Being in India for more than a year now and having observed a lot of security, I now want to state something very bold: A lot of security procedures have been implemented to give us a safe feeling, not to necessary create a safer place. You could even say that the approach often is a ‘safety and procedural theater’. I will explain. It’s my assumption that the very kind and loving security guards are not trained to be successful in their work. Thus, they are not trained to create a safer mall, nor are they trained to make the Taj Mahal a safer haven for the wandering tourist. No “the security guards are there to execute the procedures that were designed by people who work in offices and have almost never set a foot in this areas. The ability to think, to anticipate, to help and to solve problems; that has not been written in their job description, with ‘executing officers’ as a result. They only focus on following the procedures, not bringing real safety to people.


Let me give you some examples. Buying fireworks for Diwali is a big thing in India. I was surprised to see many temporary outlets selling all kinds of fireworks. In and around Pune I observed a lot of open fields that were temporarily transformed into fireworks stalls. Despite the existence of special guards, the whole thing seemed very dangerous. The actual outlets were placed very close to each other, only bordered by a very narrow open lane. Above all: the actual storage of the fireworks was very ‘open’. When the shit does hit the fan, things could go horribly wrong. We were able to purchase a trunk full firework that would be illegal in any western country. This was enough to cause a lot of damage. After purchasing our fireworks, we were a bit hungry and drove to a nearby 5-star hotel for a western-style lunch. When we entered, something funny happened. The traditional car-inspection and luggage check-up at Indian 5-star hotels is not unique in the world. Whether you like it or not, it emphasizes the exclusive elements of the ‘fabricated luxury’. It feels as if you enter another world. However, the guards at the security gate didn’t say anything about our trunk full of explosives, no questions asked!


It was also during Diwali that I wanted to ship a package from Pune to Hyderabad. Wanting to deliver 200 Diwali-lights in only a few days, I approached a courier company to research the possibilities of shipping this by air. He came to my house and took the package with him for delivery. Unfortunately, he called me within a few hours to inform me that air-shipping was not possible. They had found out that there were little candles inside the lights and it’s ‘forbidden to ship candles by air’. I was a bit angry about this, because the guy should have come to my house to inspect the actual delivery prior to the actual pick-up. He didn’t. He only showed up to pick up the actual delivery, so there was no time anymore for a plan B. A few days later I took off myself for a business trip to Hyderabad and decided to carry the 30 boxes of Diwali-lights with a candle. And guess what happened at the security? Nothing happened; it was ok for me to take the flight. One last experience. I went outside for an early morning run during one of my stays in a well-known 5-star hotel. When I came back to the hotel, there was nobody at the door. So no security checks at all!


Let me be very clear: there is nothing wrong with the ‘theatrics. It’s a major achievement if people in malls feel safer! And having all those guards in place will definitely have an effect on potential criminals or terrorists, they will hopefully think twice before they act. My point is this: things could be improved if security guards got more responsibilities. Therefore, you need more education and better management. But it all starts with a fresh new mindset towards this topic. In India, security jobs are seen as the ‘lowest of the lowest’ jobs. If you haven’t finished your school, there is always the possibility to become a security officer. That’s wrong and needs to be repositioned. The job needs an upgrade, with better education, better people and better PR!


And one other thing: as a foreigner, I’m not treated equally by security officers. In fact, I often feel prioritized! And here’s my point: they treat me better than Indian Nationals. When I want to enter a new fancy society in my car? No questions asked, while my Indian friends are always questioned very heavily. I cannot describe it, but it feels as if the guards don’t dare to question me. They look up towards foreigners; at least that’s my experience.

For more wonderful stories about India, through an expat eye please visit Jasper’s personal blog: https://bustlingpune.com/


India through loving eyes (Jasper Fortuin): Having friends over is fun

The moment we told our friends & family that we would move to India, there were a number of people who directly responded with a firm commitment: ‘wow, we will definitely be going to pay you a visit’.


I have been reading a lot of books about psychology in the last 20 years, so I’m aware of the big difference between ‘saying’ and ‘acting’. People can easily find excuses to postpone their travels, and India isn’t a very easy country to visit so a commitment could turn into a firm ‘no’ after reading different horror stories. The dirt, poor people on the streets and the constant honking of cars are not appealing to everyone and could even change someone’s mind.


Luckily we had some overseas guests the last year. Some of our friends were so kind to spend some time with us, combining a visit to Pune with a trip to Goa, Mumbai and/or other places in the Indian Subcontinent. We already had decorated and furnished a room in our house for guests; sleeping in a wonderful Airbnb in Sind Society, with an unlimited bar and a nice big garden was the offer that we made to our friends and family. And a big bonus off course: seeing us and spending some days in the wonderful city of Pune.


Time passed by until our first friends were to arrive in Pune and we started wondering: where should we take them? What places should we visit with them? We have travelled through this immense country over 5 times. It doesn’t feel arrogant at all to say that we ‘know India’ exceptional well. It is easy for us to weigh out various options and we have been very happy with Pune. In fact, it’s one of the finest cities to live in! The weather conditions are good (except for the very damp and hot months of April and May) & there are a lot of easy to access facilities within the neighbourhood. It’s the ideal place to live, and I still feel very blessed to be here!


However, there are some limitations, although Pune may be the ideal place to live in. It’s one of the largest cities in India without too many tourist attractions. Pune has no large temples, no must-see caves and no unique heritage buildings. We find living in a city without this very convenient. As a Westerner, you can easily walk around in the city without being approached by pan-handlers and that’s a big plus. Have you ever been in Mumbai or have you walked around or near the Taj Mahal in Agra? Then you know what I mean: you will find numerous people with other purposes rather than kindly talking to you; they want to sell you stuff. These people haven’t defined Pune as their hunting territory as yet.


But what should you do when your loved ones are coming over to see you? You want to take them a bit further than the society gate, right? And you definitely want to show them more than the H&M and Zara at the Phoenix Mall….? Are you with me? We had this challenge numerous times last months and found a 2-day tour that was appealing. It will give your guests some flavor of the city and it’s fun. So, what did we do? So, what Pune ‘highlights’ have we brought them?


The main highlight is to see each other after so many months again, of course. But after the cuddling and chatting, you probably want to go out and explore more of the city. I know a guy from the Netherlands, he told me e very funny story: when they had friends over, they would always take them to the meat market of Shivaji Market in Camp. It is an interesting concept but I must admit it: I have done it a few times and the looks on their faces tell if they like it or not. I don’t take them to Shivaji to annoy them. I want to explore the beauty of the market with them and show the magnificent architecture and hundreds of colourful shops in the area. A brief visit to the church opposite of Shivaji is also on our list, followed by a lunch in Koregaon Park. We recently found a new favourite hotspot in Lane 6: Indigo Delicatessen. It’s not a cheap place, but the food is awesome and you will impress your guests if you take a lunch break here. My advice is to go for a late lunch. It will allow you to visit the Osho Commune Park after lunch, as it re opens again at 3pm. The Osho Commune Park is a love-birds paradise, but the main attraction is the clean and green setup. It’s fun and relaxing to walk around.


Another Pune-area to wander around is the Tulsi Baug area. The beautiful vegetable market, the narrow streets with kitchen aid goods and Laxmi Road, which is the (traditional) fashion street of Pune, can easily fill up a whole day, especially if you have lunch in one of the thali restaurants. On Sundays or Wednesdays, one should definitely explore Juna Bazaar. It’s a predominantly Muslim area near Camp, with a large flee market. Please prepare yourself and your loved ones: it’s a bit of a gritty and messy place, with goats running around in small alleys and people selling second-hand stuff. But we have found some great catches for our house, of course for bargain prices.


Do you have a recommendation for us to explore in this lovely city? Please share your list of must-visits for tourists and residents. For more details about this city please visit www.lexagent.net

For more wonderful stories about India, through an expat eye please visit Jasper’s personal blog: https://bustlingpune.com/


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