Living in India?
Housing, Education and Leisure in India
Finding Your New Home in India
Most expats in India live in big cities, such as Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, or New Delhi. Due to growing demand, there are now special housing complexes aimed at expats in many places. It’s important to specify exactly what facilities you would like in your house, as the quality and furnishing of accommodation across India varies dramatically. Also, make sure to always visit the property before agreeing to rent.
Expat complexes are usually gated communities consisting of modern, luxurious buildings with their own gardens and playgrounds for children. They are often serviced by a plethora of domestic staff and provide a safe and convenient environment for expats. On the downside, interaction with Indian society remains very limited, and it may feel like hotel accommodation rather than a real “home”, although expats will make friends with each other in no time.
Quite a few expat families thus opt for individual accommodation in high-class urban neighborhoods. While this might prove more time consuming and nerve racking at first, the rewards in terms of value for money and contact with local residents often more than make up for the initial concerns. Individual family houses in India vary in style and quality. You will find bungalow-style one-story buildings as well as more luxurious villas.
To Rent or Buy?
There is, of course, the question of whether to buy or rent property. There are some restrictions regarding foreigners purchasing and owning property in India. Expats must meet the residency requirement of 183 days per financial year in order to legally buy property. You cannot buy property on a tourist visa, either, as your visa type must stipulate that you intend to stay in India for an indefinite period of time. Apart from that, however, the process is rather straightforward.
It is nevertheless strongly recommended to enlist the services of an independent local legal advisor, not a lawyer recommended by the seller of the property. Properties for rent or for sale can be found by contacting local estate agents, checking the classified sections in local and regional newspapers, or in online directories such as 99acres, India Property, or PropertyWala.
A Struggling State School System
In 2009, the Indian Government published The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. As the name suggests, the law stipulates that all children from the age of 6 to 14 have a right to free schooling. However, despite recent improvements, the education system is still struggling to meet the needs of a big and diverse nation.
The government launched several attempts at making elementary education more accessible for formerly disadvantaged groups, e.g. women, the rural population, or members of certain castes. However, infrastructure and funding problems still prevail in the state school sector, and many schools are lacking teachers and essential facilities.
Private and International Schools
The private school sector is becoming increasingly popular, now comprising 22% of the K-12 (core educational years) schools in India. Many expat families with young children opt for small Indian private schools or nurseries within easy reach rather than sending their children to one of the big international schools.
For older children, international schools offering the International Baccalaureate or other internationally recognized qualifications might be the better option, especially if they are English speaking or only temporarily living in India. When it comes to secondary and higher secondary schools, public coverage significantly drops — 56% of the schools in India are privately run. International schools also provide children a greater chance to meet other expat families as well as Indian children, who are increasingly being sent to international schools due to the problems in state schools.
Most international schools in India can be found on the internet, for example, via the International Baccalaureate Organization, which boasts 138 member schools all over India. Study Guide India is a great resource for expats looking to send their kids to school in India, providing comprehensive lists of different types of schools and at each age level.
Bear in mind that private and international schooling is the costly option. According to the InterNations Expat Insider 2017 survey, 54% of expat parents in India thought education was not affordable, though 61% rated the quality favorably.
India: Fun for the Whole Family
Family life occupies an important place in Indian society. Although migration and urbanization have contributed to dispersing the traditional extended family, expats in India will find that social activities including the whole family are more common than in many Western countries.
Thus, while taking your children with you to India might seem like a daunting prospect, it could turn out to be less of a challenge than expected. In fact, your children are likely to play an essential part in establishing relations with other families.
Time Flies When You’re Having Fun
There are plenty of activities to engage in, with or without your children. A visit to one of the many famous temples is always educational; particularly around religiously significant holidays, such as Diwali, they will be bursting with people and color.
Many English-language bookshops in big towns offer reading groups and other activities for kids, while their parents can enjoy a cup of tea in the reading corner. If you’re looking for things to do on a relaxed weekend with your new expat friends, India’s ever-growing big cities New Delhi and Mumbai have lots of trendy bars and cafes. In Mumbai, the baristas have even mastered the art of glittery diamond coffee.
And what better time is there to take up yoga or Bollywood dancing than during your stay in India! There are plenty of courses on offer both for adults and children. Last but not least, joining a local expat club or network is the best way to establish first contacts, make new friends, and exchange advice on expat living in India.
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