Mumbai, India Report of what it's like to live there - 08/02/13
Personal Experiences from Mumbai, India
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. I have also lived in China, the UK, Mexico.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Washington. Went through Frankfurt - it took about 18 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
A few months.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is exorbitantly expensive. It makes no sense how expensive. And unfortunately outside most buildings, it is not very nice, even in expensive neighborhoods like Bandra: there are no functional sidewalks, the streets have potholes, etc. South Bombay is very nice and has wide streets.
My commute is 10 min in the morning and 30 in the afternoon.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can find everything you need here. The Palladium has a huge western import grocery store, and Nature's Basket is like whole foods. I haven't tried regular Indian grocers- there are a number of fruit and veg sellers in pali market.
3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Lots of fast food, but who comes here to eat fast food? Lots of street food that I am too scared to try now. I have been pretty happy with the restaurants. Indian food can cost around US$2-4 . Western food, around US$8-15 for dinner.
4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Lots of bugs - my apartment has some in the kitchen routinely. Not as many mosquitoes during monsoon as you would expect. I see a mosquito once every two weeks maybe.
1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Extremely easy. Can cost as little as 80 bucks a month for part-time.
2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes. There are gyms, there's some yoga also. I am trying Yoga House, which is priced like an American place and which I am less excited about.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
4. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It helps, especially for taxis. Many Indians say they speak primarily English, even at home. However their accent is different, which frustrates people sometimes. Much depends on your attitude. You can get frustrated that they misunderstand you, or you can feel grateful that a majority of the population has a working level of English. Don't expect everyone to speak American English or you will be disappointed (as many people are).
5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Very difficult to get around, though hiring a driver is very cheap.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes. Very safe, very affordable. Trains cost around 10 cents for a regular fare, an hour-long taxi ride costs less than 6 bucks in a non AC cab. In an AC cab, maybe double or more.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Make sure it's a right side drive. All cars go here. I have a low-lying car and it's fine despite occasional flooding and bumps.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Security is tight at hotels because of the terrorist attack a few years ago. I have not felt unsafe at any moment from crime since coming here.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The monsoon causes a lot of health issues. Food is an issue, but I haven't gotten seriously sick in my few months here.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
I've had no problems with it. People are worried about it, but I have not seen much to worry about. They say in the winter it's polluted from small fires.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
I've only seen it during late summer to monsoon. Summer was hot, but not excessively - 90 degrees was maybe the max. Monsoon is very humid and overcast all the time, which wears at you. But supposedly the weather is nice the rest of the year.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
ASB is one of the best.
2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Perhaps cricket. Green space is a scarce resource.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Medium, not as large as I would have guessed for such a international and economically important city.
2. Morale among expats:
Good. Lots of complaining. Depends on the person, many people can't cut it here given the difficulties living here.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for singles and couples. Families may find the lack of green space challenging, and also the difficulty in doing things can be exacerbated by that. There are bars to go to for sure, and trendy ones too.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It's the best in India for sure, but there are no exclusively gay bars. There are nights at bars that will have a gay night.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Unlike in North India, women have it much better here. They can wear western clothing, it is pretty safe for them. Religious tolerance is fine. I haven't seen much racism, but be prepared to be stared at continually since many do not know westerners. They are benign stares, but can annoy you after a while.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The paper store Chimanlals - the most beautiful handmade paper that you can't even get from the highest end stores in the US.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
It's mostly a place to live, good food. Lots of travel outside the city to towns in India and Asia.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Beautiful paper stationary. Crafts, Shawls, handmade furniture, handmade anything.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The culture. You can spend years exploring the vast cultural patrimony. Of course, Mumbai is a modern city, so you see less cultural sites, and more of a working city. Flights are very cheap to everywhere in Asia from Bombay.
The food has been great - everything from Indian to Western food.
10. Can you save money?
Yes. Food can be extremely cheap. Housing, the opposite.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, it's a fascinating place that is, yes, difficult to live in, but there is a vibrancy here. You can find anything you need and often more. If you can handle the minor inconveniences every day, you will be able to appreciate the richness of life here.
It is a place you will love/hate because it depends on your attitude. Focus on the pollution and dirtiness and inefficiency, or focus on the new experiences, the western comforts, and the great food.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Expectations that it will be like New York, or that it's extremely poor, or that everyone speaks English.
3. But don't forget your:
Sense of adventure to deal with the different culture here.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Do you have any other comments?
This is said to be the best city in India, and it seems that way from what I've seen. Come here with a sense of adventure, but if you aren't willing to accept that life is much different here than in the West, then you will not like it here. It's all up to you.