Ahmedabad, India Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Ahmedabad, India

Ahmedabad, India 04/19/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

1st.

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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?

US-various locations. It takes about 20 hours to fly back and forth. The best connections are in Doha and Dubai. Try not to make connections in India.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

NGO (myself), Corporate (husband).

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Usually poorly constructed flats (ignore the earthquake zone status). Some wealthier expats live in villas outside of town. Most people live in the newer outskirts of the city in "mall-land". The commutes are usually around 30 minutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Local groceries like rice, beans and vegetables are cheap and readily available. Canned anything and imported anything is hard to find. You cannot find even marginal coffee.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Canned beans and coffee

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Fast Food: McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns. They are more expensive than local options but probably slightly safer to eat. Other restaurants in town have poor food that is not safe to eat. And, while many advertise ethnic cuisine, there is none. Everything is sweet and oily Gujarati food.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes and their diseases, as well as other household pests.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We've received one letter. It took a month or so, and we were surprised to receive it. Don't count on the postal service. Unfortunately, DHL is ridiculously expensive.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I hear it's okay. Communication can be hard. We have chosen to cook and clean ourselves.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, but women may not be comfortable in them, and exercising to the point of sweating is frowned upon.

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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?

They are fine and also readily accepted at shops.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes - Cheap but of questionable quality.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A little Gujarati will go along way to help not get ripped off -- as much.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Horrible difficulties: no sidewalks, ramps or other accommodations.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Buses are not safe. There are new rapid-transit buses which look better but are still prone to accidents and running people over. I get around using auto-rickshaws, which are not safe but are cheap. Most expats have a car and driver. Trains around India are fine, just book at least 3rd AC class.

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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?

Something that you don't mind getting completely beat-up in fender benders and by sand and smog.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes - Cheap, and usually reliable.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get a cellphone from home that accepts a sim card, and then buy a sim card here. Phones here are expensive or poorly made.

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Pets:

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?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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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?

It's hard to get an employment visa, but otherwise you can probably find something.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Modest: Don't wear shorts.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Try and avoid it, but you probably won't die if you end-up using it.

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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?

Unhealthy. Sinus infections from the pollution are constant. As you fly into the city, you see a layer of hanging smog.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hottest, Monsoon, Hotter, Hot.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

I think so.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small.

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2. Morale among expats:

Low. Unless you really like malls and sweet vegetarian food, there is little to do.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Watching downloaded TV shows. There are no bars (the state is dry) or clubs. The restaurants are of poor quality. There are malls and some movie theaters.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Only for families with children -- there is little to do for anyone else.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

All of the above. There is a lot of tension between the Muslim minority and Hindus, and occasionally small-scale (or more rarely large-scale) riots will break out. The society is pretty misogynistic, but at least within Ahmedabad, women are pretty safe.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Participating in local festivals like Holi and Navratri.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

None.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Gujarat is known for its textiles, but please be sure to go through an NGO which supports local women instead of child labor.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Saving money and exploring the nearby region.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you can avoid the temptation to flee the city -- if not the country.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I would explore other options before committing.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

tank-tops and your desire for recreation or outdoor exercise.

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3. But don't forget your:

anything that can keep you entertained indoors in 130 degree heat.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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