India is a GREAT country! Literally! It is roughly 13 times bigger than the UK and counts 21 times as many inhabitants.
Once part of the British Empire, India is now a superpower to reckon with.
Third economic power in the world after China and the US, it ranks second in term of population and 5th on the list of the fastest growing economy.
According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Indian diaspora has become the largest one in the world ahead of China, with more than 15 million Indian living abroad, albeit a big chunk of them reside in neighbouring Pakistan it is estimated that at least 4.4 million Indian citizens live in the US.
British-Indians are the first minority in the UK with 2.3% of the population being of Indian origin, roughly 1.5 million Britons. Freddy Mercury, Ben Kingsley and Dev Patel are only a few examples of famous British-Indians.
While there are at least 800,000 Indian-born residents in the UK at the moment, the British population in India isn't quite as significant.
The Home Office estimates that there are about 32,000 Britons living in India at the moment. With a population of more than 1.32 billion people, British citizen only represent 0.000024% of India's population.
Most Britons who relocate to India in Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata (i.e. Calcutta) or Hyderabad, do so because of work, they either are transferred by their company, or they found a job there.
While India gained its independence from the Crown more than 70 years, about 150 million Indians speak English, making India the second largest English speaking population (outside the UK and) after the United States. This figure is predicted to quadruple in the next decade.
While at least 1 out of 10 people you will meet in India can speak English, most of the population there still speak one of the many Indian dialects. The official language in India is Hindi, and 43.6% of the population are native speakers. However, because of India diverse ethnic groups, languages in India are often a matter of regions.
The States of India coined a total of 23 languages as "official languages of the Republic of India", but Hindi is the one used by the government along with English. Beside Hindi; Tamil, Bengali, Telugu and Marathi are some of the most spoken dialects.
One thing to know is that Hindi and Urdu, another official language of India, are mutually intelligible: Hindi speakers can understand Urdu speakers and vice-versa. The main differences reside in the way both languages are written.
Because Urdu is the official language of Pakistan, learning Hindi will come in handy if you decide to explore the Indian sub-continent.
To sum things up, if you are a native English speaker and mastered Hindi, you should, in theory, be able to converse with at least half the country.
Should you move to India? If you feel ready for a complete civilisation shock and a lot of spicy food, here is what you should do to get ready for the big move.
Find out more about learning Hindi in India.
Moving to India From The UK
If you are getting relocated to India by your company, which will most likely have a branch there, you are part of the lucky ones. Your boss should take care of all the paperwork, and visa applications made by companies are usually straightforward and simple, and most importantly, rarely denied by the India authorities.
Get the right Visa
Whatever your reason for moving to India, you will most likely fall under one of the following visa categories:
Tourist Visa: if you are planning to travel around India you will have two options.
You can choose to apply for an E-visa, which can be done online up to three months before your arrival and will grant you a double entry (meaning you can leave India once) and up to 60 days in the country.
Your other option is to apply for 3, 6 or 12-month tourist visa with one, two or multiple entries. India is a vast country, about 13 times bigger than the UK! For those wanting to explore the 29 states of India and learn Hindi while there, this is probably the best option.
Be that as it may, the maximum stay on a tourist visa is 180 days which means that even if you hold a 12 months visa, you will have to exit the country after six months, even if it just for one day.
Business Visas are for those wishing to work in India but not working for an Indian based company. To be simple, if the company that pays you is outside India, that is the visa you will need. It requires you to get a letter of invitation from whoever you intend to do business with.
Employment Visa, this is the visa you will need if you will be working for a company based in India (including multinational companies having a branch in India). If you found a job in India, you will need proof of that to show to the immigration service while applying for your visa.
It can either be a letter of employment or a contract. In the case of a transfer, your company's HR department will usually take care of the formalities for you, but you might be required to attend an appointment at one of the Indian Embassies in the UK.
Student Visa, if you have decided to move to India to study, you will need proof of your enrollment at a University based in India as well as proof of funds showing that you will be able to survive while studying. Lucky you, food is dirt cheap in India!
For all those visas but the e-visa, you will need to go to the embassy at least twice: the first time to attend an appointment with an immigration agent, the second time to pick up your passport with your visa stamp or sticker.
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If you intend to stay in India more than 180 days (not possible on a tourist visa) you will need to register of a Residence Permit.
It is imperative that you register within 14 days of your arrival as you will get fined £15. You will need to get to the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO), or to the local police station under whose jurisdiction you will be staying.
For all visas, keep in mind that special permits are necessary to travel through the North India regions of Kashmir and Jammu due to political unrest in those parts.
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Life In India
For those who have never been in India before, moving there will probably feel like a bit of a culture shock.
If you are relocating to Mumbai (or Bombay as Indians still call it), you might feel a bit cramped. The capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra is about six times more populous than London.
You also need to be ready for daily smog, horrendous traffic, constant noise and piles of trash at every street corner, often slowly burning.
India has still a long way to go when it comes to keeps its air and streets clean.
Probably one of the best aspects of living in India, food is everywhere, and it's bloody delicious.
British people recently elected Chicken tikka masala has UK's national dish. Some sources placed the origins of the famous dish in the Punjab region of India, but other sourced cited Glasgow in Scotland as the birthplace of this delicious curry.
Wherever the truth is, what is for sure is that you will be able to find delicious curries (called gravies by Indians) at every street corner.
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Street vendors and eateries are dotted all around most cities in India and sell pretty much everything, from hot chai to tandooris and naans with food prices much lower than in Europe.
You will probably need to get your palate acquainted with local levels of spice before eating like a genuine Indian person.
Visit India And Travel All The Time
Because India is as big as continental Europe, it means that you will have an almost endless list of destinations to visit while you are living there.
Southern India states of Goa and Kerala are particularly popular with European and American tourists. Both states boast amazing endless beaches where one can relax by the sea for weeks on end while enjoying the seafood specialities.
If you are more of a history geek and love a proper monument, head to Agra to visit the world's wonder of the Taj Mahal or spend some time in Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan and get lost in its century-old fort and palaces.
Culture-wise, the Indian subcontinent is also home to Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism, each religion having many temples all over the country. One of the most beautiful one being the Jagdish Temple located in Udaipur.
If you are an adventure seeker, head to Rishikesh in the state of Uttarakhand, where you will be able to go down some Grade 4 rapids where the holy water of the Ganges emerges from the mountain to form the 2,525 km river. The city is also home to many yoga retreats attracting schools of foreigners.
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India also shares a border with Nepal, Bangladesh, Buthan, China and Myanmar making it an ideal base to be travelling the Himalayan mountains and to visit the rest of Asia. Singapore is only 5h or so from Mumbai and Colombo in Sri Lanka is less than 4 hours away from the capital city of New Delhi.
The Most Useful Hindi Phrases You Must Know
If you just landed in the country of Hinduism and yoga, you might feel a bit lost, overwhelmed, confused and maybe a bit scared.
Some of this will certainly be put down to jetlag, India is 4h30 ahead of London and the flight to get to Mumbai is no less than 9 hours. However, know that many travellers and expats do acknowledge that India takes a little bit of time to get used to.
The best way to go through that is just to dive in. Don't be scared and enjoy your experience as much as you can. To help with that, one of the best ways to get on the good side of the locals is to know some Hindi. First, it shows that you make an effort to learn some of the local dialects and second it makes you stand apart from the million other tourists that visit the country every year.
- Namastey! ( नमस्ते ) = Hello.
- Shubh raatri. ( शुभ रात्री। ) = Good night.
- Aap kaisey hain? ( आप कैसे हैं ) = How are you?
- Mein theek hoon, shukriya! ( मैं ठीक हुँ । ) = I'm fine, thanks.
- Hum kho gaye hain. ( हम खो गये हैं । ) = I am lost.
- Saucaghara/ pharmacy kahaan hai? ( शौचघर/ फार्मेसी कहां है ) = Where is the bathroom/pharmacy?
- Yeh kaisey diyaa? ( यह कैसे दिया । ) = How much is this?
- Kshama keejeeae… ( क्षमा कीजिए । ) = Excuse me ...
- Meraa naam …hai. ( मेरा नाम..... है । ) = My name is ...
- Aapsey milkar khushi huee! ( आपसे मिलकर खुशी हुई । ) =Nice to meet you!
If you want to learn more Hindi, this will most likely take time. Hindi is an Indo-Aryan language, very remote to European Romance and Germanic language that make the bulk of Modern English.
Taking private lessons or even learning Hindi online will probably boost your learning pace and mingling with the local remains one of the best ways to learn a foreign language.
Learn Hindi Online
There are many online platforms that will give you the chance to learn Hindi, either before you depart or once you made it to India.
These range from free websites giving you the essential to get around to more advanced lessons which will teach you how to speak, write and read Hindi like a native.
Loecsen will be a great start if you want to learn the rudiments of Hindi. This free website will give critical sentences to use in different contexts, using transports, ordering at the restaurant or simple greetings. The website will provide you with both the Devanagari script and the English phonetic pronunciation.
Duolingo is also an excellent tool if you want to learn Hindi before you move to India. The app claims that it can teach Hindi by following 5-minute lessons every day. Not sure how true this is but practising your Hindi every day certainly can't hurt.
Rocket Language, the famous linguistic teaching company, also offers some free material online, but if you want to make the most of their resources, you will most likely have to pay a hefty fee. That being said, Rocket Language is a well-recognised teaching institution, and the methods they use have been proven to be efficient.
If you are truely committed to learn in Hindi and make the most out of your stay in India, the sooner you start studying, the better.