India expert Margot Bigg has made the move to India herself, and in Moon Living Abroad in India, she uses her know-how to provide insight and firsthand advice on navigating the language and culture of this complex country. Bigg outlines all the information you need in a smart, organized, and straightforward manner, making planning the move abroad manageable.
Moon Living Abroad in India is packed with essential information and must-have details on setting up daily life, including obtaining visas, arranging finances, gaining employment, choosing schools, and finding health care. With color and black and white photos, illustrations, and maps to help you find your bearings, Moon Living Abroad in India makes the transition process easy for tourists, business people, adventurers, students, teachers, professionals, families, couples, and retirees looking to relocate.
About the Author
During a three-month trip across India in 2005, Margot Bigg became mesmerized by the sheer diversity of the world's largest democracy, and decided to make it her home. A year later, she was living in Gurgaon, near Delhi, where she worked for a consultancy before joining the staff of Time Out Delhi and turning to journalism full time. She has since written for publications in India and abroad, including Rolling Stone, Outlook Traveller, The Caravan, Courrier International, and The Oregonian.
Margot's interest in other cultures started from an early age: Her best friends as a toddler were from Japan, Iran, and Jordan, and her baby talk was mixed with Japanese, Farsi, and Arabic (all of which she has since forgotten). She's a dual national of the US and the UK, and spent her formative years living in Portland, Oregon, and Farnham, Surrey, in England. She also lived in Paris for three years before moving to India. Margot holds a master's degree in contemporary European studies from the University of Bath and Sciences Po Paris.
When not busy writing, Margot spends her time traveling, practicing yoga, exploring new music, and trying to improve her Hindi language skills.
Read an Excerpt
Moon Living Abroad in India
By Margot Bigg
Avalon Travel PublishingCopyright © 2011 Margot Bigg
All right reserved.
Margot Bigg Offers Advice on Living in India
1. What are some of the best reasons for relocating to India?
It’s a fascinating place to live, and there’s always something interesting going on so you are never likely to feel bored! It’s also going through changes very rapidly, not only economically, but also socially. Privatization in India didn’t happen until the early 1990s, and middle-aged and older people there grew up with a single, state-run TV station, Indian-made products and services, andwith the exception of the fortunate classes who were able to travel abroad and attend elite schoolsvery little exposure to the outside world. The younger generations have grown up with one foot in the "old India” and another foot in a global India, and they are inadvertently leading a cultural shift of a magnitude not experienced in the West since the late 1960s.
2. What surprised or shocked you when you first arrived?
How cold it was! I’d been to India before, but never to Delhi in the dead of winter and I only had one jacket with me! I had to rush out to buy warm clothes the next day! The southern regions are tropical so the temperature is relatively warm year-round. The North is another storyand while homes in the West are designed to keep you warm and cozy, Indian homes are constructed to keep you cool. It’s usually cooler inside than it is outside, and I sometimes find myself going outside in the winter just to stand in the sun and warm up!
3. Name some local customs newcomers should be aware of.
First, there’s a misconception that Indian women don’t shake hands with men. This definitely holds some weight with older generations and the rural poor, but in most business situations it would be rude not to shake hands with a female colleague! Also, it’s customary to always offer somebody something to drink when they enter your home or workplace. Most newcomers are pretty careful about the water they drink in India, but in most middle-class homes and virtually all offices, the water will be filtered or purifiedIndian people aren’t immune to tap-water bugs, either! So accept it, it’s the polite thing to do! If in serious doubt, you can always ask for a boiled cup of tea instead.
4. What’s the best way to meet people and make friends?
That really depends on your age group. The under-40 set are pretty active on social media, so just join a few groups on Facebook or a city-specific expat network and you will end up meeting people pretty quickly. No matter what your age, going to events is always a good way to meet likeminded people. The big cities all have their own editions of a Time Out magazine, and details for most events can be found online or in the arts sections of local newspapers.
5. What do you consider essential items to pack before moving to India?
Certain specialty foods are hard to find, and if you have any toiletries you simply can’t live without, you may want to pack a few extra bottles. Some prescription medications are not available in India, even under a different name, so check ahead. Women will want to note that tampons with applicators are not available.
6. Should someone find housing before they leave or look around upon arrival? Are there any great housing resources newcomers should take advantage of?
Unless your company is providing you with something, it’s better to look upon arrival. Otherwise, you risk getting seriously ripped off (unless you are moving into a housemate situation). The first place to look is with your local expat club or website. Otherwise, the best way to go about finding housing is by consulting with an agent in the neighborhood you want to live in. He/She will have the inside scoop on what’s available in your preferred area, but be prepared to pay an agent fee equivalent to one month’s rent.
7. What’s the best way to manage your money in India? Any tips on opening a bank account?
Your company will normally help you open a "salary account”, which is essentially an interest-accruing checking account. Your company will have a tie-up with a bank of their choice, and this account will be used for the direct deposit of your monthly salary. If you want an additional account, it’s best to go to one of the international banks (e.g., HSBC or Citibank) when possible. You’ll normally need your passport, a residence permit, and a proof of address, plus a couple of passport-sized photos.
8. How much money would you suggest someone set aside before moving? What are the initial costs?
That entirely depends on your lifestyle. In a big city, a student or young person could easily move to India with about $500-1000 in hand, and still have plenty left over at the end of the month. However, if you want to get a luxury apartment and are bringing your family over, you may need upwards of $5000 for the first month, or more! It all depends on your housing budget, really. The equivalent of three month’s rent, plus a couple hundred dollars per person for food is enough. Naturally, if you plan to buy a car, you will need money for that too.
9. In which fields is it easy for a foreigner to secure a job? Any tips on getting hired?
All industries that require educated people are easy to get into; as long as you have at least a bachelor’s degree you should be able to find something. So many industries in India are short of qualified employees, especially in the areas of language translation, technology, and outsourcing. Unfortunately, the Indian government now requires that foreigners earn a minimum of USD 25,000 per annum to work in India in most types of jobs, which is an exorbitant amount by Indian standards, at least for young professionals who want to work in local companies. However, this regulation has been criticized by leaders from many industries, who understand the need for a global workforce in a global economy. So let’s see how long it lasts! Note that this requirement doesn’t apply to language teachers and translators, embassy staff, or chefs.
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