With its unmatched diversity and a contrasting character that can both be enthralling and mystifying, India may hold some culture shock for new arrivals. The country's humid climate, muddled traffic blocks and a hodgepodge of overexcited hawkers and guides are a lot to handle initially.
But the country also welcomes all new arrivals with considerable warmth, and the sights and smells often are what those who leave miss most.
Bureaucracy in India
Getting things done in India may take longer than what expats may be used to. Processes often seem inefficient and time consuming. Expats may find they receive conflicting information depending on who they talk to. It is best to exercise patience and persistence, as getting angry won't solve the problem.
Networking and building relationships with locals and therefore having contacts within the right institutions can expedite processes.
Women in India
Women in India may find that patriarchal attitudes can be all too common. That said, this is far less apparent in larger, more cosmopolitan cities such as Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai.
Still, women living in India may find themselves the target of unwanted attention, particularly when visiting crowded places, local markets or smaller towns. In such situations, it's best to dress more conservatively and not show too much skin. Women are also burdened with additional safety considerations and we advise against travelling alone at night.
Religion in India
As the world's second most populated country with well over 1.38 billion people, it's fair to say that India's population is as diverse as it is large. This multiethnic country is host to many religions. The large majority practise Hinduism, though Islam and Christianity are also prominent. The Indian subcontinent is said to be the place of four major religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
This can be an eye-opening experience and an opportunity to learn about various cultures and religious traditions. Major religious festivals make for a colourful and warm experience, and different regions celebrate varying public holidays. While this could make adjusting to their new home overwhelming, open-minded expats can benefit from the ease of making friends and settling in. We encourage expats to be respectful of people and the diversity of religions.
Language barriers in India
India's official and main languages are Hindi and English, and for many expats in their work environment or in large cities, language barriers are unlikely to be a problem. The further from a large urban area expats venture, the more likely they will encounter diverse ethnic groups speaking different languages and dialects, with major differences noticed in the north compared to the south.
When moving to India, it is worth learning at least a few key phrases of an area's predominant language. This can help an expat when going about their day or inquiring about public transport routes, as well as learning more about culture in India.
Poverty in India
The wealth gap in India is massive – slums sit cheek by jowl with wealthy areas. Poverty is a reality in India and expats will be confronted with it daily.
Expats will get used to being targeted by beggars. The best option is always to ignore them. If one feels compelled to give something, food is always a better option than money. Wherever possible it is better to give to a reputable charity than individuals on the street.
►For an overview of business culture, see Doing Business in India
►Read more about adapting to a new environment in this expat article: Cross‐Cultural Catastrophes: Understanding the Problem at Hand
"There is a certain 'style' and pace to the bureaucracy in India that takes some getting used to initially. But it is not a huge problem, different doesn't necessarily mean worse."
Read more about British expat Striddle's experiences in India.
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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