Five Things I’ve Learnt As An Expat In India
Living in a country is a vastly different experience to simply visiting.
You gain unique insight into the daily ins and outs of a place and learn a lot more about the local culture. Faiza Bokhari has spend the past six-months living in Mumbai, India. She shares with us her top five observations of the city through the eyes of an expat.
1. There are a lot of public holidays
India is a melting pot of cultures and faiths, resulting in festivals and religious holidays being celebrated almost every second week. This means lots of public holidays. In recent months there has been Eid, Ganesh festival (where giant figures of the elephant god Ganesh are paraded through the streets then submerged in the ocean), Diwali and Deepavali.
Often the festivals mean road closures and a fair amount of disruption to your daily routine, but who can really complain about a public holiday?
2. Indian Standard Time is a real thing
My husband’s colleague invited us to his house for dinner and told us to come at around 8pm. We arrived at 8.15pm only to discover the hosts were a little surprised to see us. The rest of the guests didn’t arrive until about 10pm and dinner was served close to midnight. Apparently, when you are given a time it is not always expected that you should adhere to it. On the plus side, you learn to become a lot more patient and there is something quite liberating when you do away with rigid temporal structures.
3. Bollywood stars walk among us
Bollywood is a gargantuan industry with veteran actors such as Shahrukh Khan boasting way more fans than even Hollywood heavy weights. If you live near Bandra in Mumbai, you will more than likely bump into the big names from Bollywood. Some people travel from their villages for days to camp outside the star’s houses in the hope of getting a glimpse. However, if you live in the area you will often see the big names of Bollywood at cafes and in shops. Once at the gym, I was working out next to the Bollywood equivalent of Brad Pitt and I must admit, I became pretty star struck.
4. Overcrowding is real and in your face
The sheer number of people in India is overwhelming. As soon as you leave your house you never feel alone. To give you an idea, Australia, a big country, has a population of 24 million. The geographically small-ish city of Mumbai has about 18 million. That is a lot of people squished in together. India boasts two of the most densely populated cities in the world with Delhi at number two and Mumbai at number four.
5. The slums are a world unto themselves
Slumdog Millionaire put one of Mumbai’s largest urban slums, Dharavi, into the spotlight. But if you actually investigate a little more and go on a guided tour of a slum (lead and operated by youth from the area) you will discover there are a wide variety of small-scale industries that exist within these massive areas. From recycling plastic, pottery, pastry making and animal skin production, the locals work hard every day in these densely populated urban slums.
Have you lived in a foreign country? Do you recall anything different about the city or the culture which stood out to you?
You might also like Moving Home: How To Go From Expat To Local or 7 Tips For Moving To A New City.