Mumbai, India Report of what it's like to live there - 02/20/14
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?
I've lived in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur
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?
Chicago: 20 hours with a layover in Frankfurt.
3. How long have you lived here?
From 2011 on - I am still here.
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?
Cramped apartments but many are comfortable to live in.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Local produce is cheap. Imported groceries are very expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
All the cuisines of the world but fairly expensive.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
All manners of insects carrying all diseases ever known to man are present.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Fedex for packages. India Post is not the worst.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Plentiful and inexpensive. Quality is iffy.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Lots - costs vary.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Credit cards are widely accepted.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Some Protestant and Catholic services are available.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Many Indians speak some form of 'English'.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Do not come here if you are differently abled.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Some radio taxis are safe.
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?
An SUV is best. Indians are the worst drivers on the planet.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Medium speed internet is available at low cost.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Get an open cellphone and buy a 'prepaid' plan.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
I don't have pets. Pet care is readily available.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
None. I feel safer than in downtown Chicago.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
This is the paradox I've never fully understood. I was admitted to a private hospital for 4 days and the quality of care was much better than back home. The doctors even gave their home phone numbers and I was given the best possible care, and it was very affordable too. That being said, the poor defecate on the streets and lack everything. It is dehumanizing and distressing.
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?
Good to very unhealthy depending on where you live. The air in Mumbai is pretty bad though.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
When it rains, it RAINS. There's two seasons- hot and very humid with temperatures in the low 100s (F), raining hard and very humid.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are many international schools, Podar international is among the better ones.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I don't think special children are particularly welcome in India.
3. 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?
Too many to list.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Not that I know of.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large, middling morale. The traffic and filth wears one down.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There are some bars; the city usually shuts down by 10pm.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Ok for families, bad for singles, ok for couples.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No. India has officially banned 'unnatural contact'.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Lots. Dark skin is frowned upon. India is the largest market for 'fairness creams'.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Incredible trekking opportunities in the Himalayas. Semi-decent skiing. Terrific beaches.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
India offers tremendous travel opportunities; facilities for tourists range from bad to outright horrible, however.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Brass articles. Steel, steel, and more steel! Indians use steel for everything. You get excellent steel dinner sets for like US$100! You may also wish to buy the latest android phones at dirt-cheap rates.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Second oldest inhabited place in the world, some of the hottest, wettest, driest places in the world. You can (potentially) see snow, beaches, and the desert in one day.
10. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
The incredible diversity is mind boggling.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Impressions of India as a hell hole. You can live like a prince, and a pauper too if you so wish. And your impressions of India as one huge boiling furnace. You have the world's highest motorable roads in India, and large parts of the Himalayas remain frozen year-round.
4. But don't forget your:
Grit and determination.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
7. Do you have any other comments?
Stay positive, and your Indian sojourn will be rewarding. Many expats have even given birth in India and tell incredible stories of the country's progress. It might take a gazillion years to understand India.