5 common problems expats face after moving to India and how to tackle it

India is a rapidly developing country. The opportunities for foreigners to work here is increasing. Over the past few years, India has welcomed many foreigners who move here for work.

It is because of this, and the rise in the number of MNCs, that the work culture in India has evolved greatly.

While adjusting to professional life in India doesn’t take too long, dealing with things outside work can sometimes be a problem. Even if you’ve visited the country several times before, moving to India and living here can be a very different experience.

Culture shock, after moving to a new country, is almost inevitable.

Some of very common things that seem to bother foreigners are streets full of hawkers, traffic jams, unhygienic eateries, and lack of clean public toilets. The weather can also feel uncomfortable sometimes.

But once you get past the initial culture shock, life in India can be quite fun and an enriching experience.

To make sure you aren’t bogged down by the minor inconveniences, we’ve listed out the most important things you must keep in mind.

Here are 5 common problems expats face after moving to India

1. Patience is a virtue, and you are going to need a lot of it

After moving to India, you’ll probably need to get a lot of paperwork done. If you’re moving to India for starting your own business, you might find this Quora thread helpful.

The problem is, even though India is one of the fastest growing nations, the government related work here can sometimes be painfully slow.

The first thing expats need to do, is registering at the Foreigner Regional Registration Office or FRRO. No matter how prepared you are you have to visit this office at least two or three times to get your FRRO certificate.

Even things like setting up your bank account and getting your pan card can be a time consuming process.

These things can be quite frustrating. Especially if you aren’t used to systems like this. The best way to deal with it is to be patient and not lose your cool.

2. India’s definition of modern work culture might be different from yours

Even though workplaces in India are quite modern and liberal, you might experience some major differences. The most common being that a lot of professionals in India still believe in paying more respect to a senior at work. If a junior addresses you as sir or madam, despite you repeatedly asking them not to, it is because they aren’t comfortable otherwise.

Hugging your colleagues, especially of the opposite gender, or even shaking hands sometimes makes them uncomfortable. A senior joining juniors for lunch or for tea breaks is also not common practice. Although this depends greatly on the company’s culture and the kind of relationship you share with your colleagues.

To help you understand this better, a lot of companies offer cross-culture training to expats moving to India for work. But if you’re here to start a business and will be your own boss, these are things you must keep in mind when dealing with employees.

3. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t

As an expat, you are likely to draw attention wherever you go. But that shouldn’t deter you from exploring business opportunities or tour the city in your free time. Just be careful and always trust your instincts.

If a person or a place doesn’t feel safe, it probably isn’t. If you feel like you’re being followed, get to the nearest safe place, one that isn’t isolated or overly crowded.

When going out, dress appropriately. While a short dress or a tank top might be appropriate for a party at a friend's house, you should dress more conservatively when going to the local market or for sight-seeing. This will help you avoid unwanted stares, eve-teasing, or being followed around.

While gender or racial inequality at workplace isn’t very common, it really depends on the company you work for.

4. ‘Atithi devo bhava', but not everyone can translate it in your language

In English, Atithi devo bhava translates to A guest is equal to God. While Indians do believe and practice this, understanding the language they speak might not always be easy for an expat.

India is a vast nation with around 22 languages being spoken here. Hindi is the national language and English is also widely understood. But finding someone who speaks the same language as you might not always be possible.

The language barrier is most evident when dealing with local vendors or finding your way around the city without Google Maps.

The best thing to do is learn some of the basic Hindi phrases, if you’ve decided to move to India.

5. When eating out expect some sugar-spice and, well, some more spice

Indian food is spicy. Especially if you aren’t used to eating this kind of food. But that definitely doesn’t mean it isn’t nice.

If you aren’t used to spicy food, make sure that you start slow. While that butter-chicken or tandoori paneer-tikka might seem irresistible, don’t eat too much at once. Spicy food can cause digestion or other health related problems. Be careful about water, too. Not every water in India is fit to drink. Always ask for mineral water or drinking water for drinking.

Getting used to a new lifestyle and the ways of a new country isn’t easy.

When moving to India from another country, these are tips that will help you get over the culture shock. Once you’ve spent enough time in the country and start understanding the people and their culture, your move to India will definitely be an experience to cherish.

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