Mumbai, India Report of what it's like to live there - 07/28/08

Personal Experiences from Mumbai, India

Mumbai, India 07/28/08

Background:

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

Second overseas assignment.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

Diplomat, second overseas assignment.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Delta to NYC- 16 hours, Lufthansa to Frankfurt-9 hours.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartment Living- Very expensive and very small. Mumbai's real estate boom, and strong rupee vs. dollar, leave alot to be desired for housing. Your average--reasonable 3 BR, 3 Bath Apartment is between US$6-10,000 per month. No need to pack your furniture, or anything that cannot hang on a wall or sit in a cabinet.

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

Goods are available, but buying U.S. products is quite expensive, and you can normally find local products of lower but similar quality.

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

COFFEE, COFFEE, and did I say COFFEE? Baking items like baking soda.

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

Fast Food- KFC, McDonalds - no beef, chicken, fish, and soy only, Pizza Hut, Dominos, and Baskin Robins. Restuarants are everywhere, lots of italian, chinese. No shortage of restaurants.

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Daily Life:

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

We use pouch. Customs duties are 30+ percent on all goods coming in. So do not anything here unless willing to pay the customs.

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

US$175 per month for Driver, US$175 per month for maid/cook.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATMs are everywhere, no issues.

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

Christian, Evangelical, Baptist Churchs. LDS available.

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

Newspapers, Hindustan Times, Times of India, DNA, and television is US$20 for three months- approximately 25 english channels- Discovery, HBO, Star Movies, CNN, BBC, Travel and Living, Starworld, ESPN, Ten Sports, etc...

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

Not necessary, but a little bit is helpful for the taxis.

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

Not a good place for someone with a physical disability.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Left Hand Side- DRIVING is CHAOTIC- 99% of expats have drivers.

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

Taxis are safe, affordable, and hot. Rickshaws or three wheelers are not allowed in South Mumbai, but are readily available everywhere else. If traveling with children, not advisable due to chaotic driving conditions.

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3. 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?

Honda CRV is your best bet. Gas is on par with US Prices at US$4.50-5.00 per gallon. If you have a European car, bring your spare parts as getting them here is quite expensive and frustrating.

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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?

DSL available for decent prices- US$25 per month, but downloading is charged by the size, so if you are planning to download your shows, think again- its cheaper to buy and ship them.http://delhi.mtnl.net.in/services/broadband.htm.

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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?

All services are good. Everyone has a phone.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage, Skype, or local cell phone- 15 cents a minue.

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Pets:

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

Not Sure.

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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?

Schools pay well, but outside of teachers, working opportunities are very limited.

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

All depends on the field- Business attire normally, and social functions are usually pretty casual due to the Mumbai Bollywood scene. Jeans and a button down for the guys, and anything goes for the girls.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Unhealthy.

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

Mumbai is very safe. Adult males, no problem traveling at any time in taxi, etc. Females- after 10pm, best to travel in pairs.

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

Health care is surprisingly good and very cheap with caveats. All care is very inexpensive, but emergency care is very poor, as the planning in India is very poor for staffing, and preparing an ER with neccessary items. Several friends have given birth in India, reconstructive surgeries, and such. Best Hospital is HINDUSTAN with a fully staffed ER, US Quality Lab...

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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?

Hot and dry, and warm and wet. The hottest month is May-110 degrees, and monsoon is June-July-August- Most expats send the families away during the monsoon, as most kids are gone, and it rains heavily.

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Schools & Children:

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

American School of Bombay-ASB (90% Expat) was recently awarded a top international award for technology. Students grades 6-12 all have laptops, and instruction is centered around technology. Outstanding academics, strong extracurricular, and excellent rapport with US and other international Universities. USD approx. 30K per year, plus 20-30K capital levy fee of which you do not get back.www.asbinia.org. Dirhubai Ambani Int'l School (Primary Indian), and Ecomunidial (Expat and Indian) in Juhu. Prices are all similiar.

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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?

ASB offers preschool at high prices, which typically are not covered by an expat package, but local preschools are prevalent and we have freinds that are very pleased with schools in Bandra.

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Expat Life:

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

HUGE- South Mumbai, North Mumbai, Powai.

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2. Morale among expats:

OK. Everyone is planning their next vacation.

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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?

Vibrant social scene, late nights- indians don't eat dinner until approx 11:00, so parties go late.

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

Families- so-so. Large expat community, with many good restuarants, several malls, and lots of theaters. No parks, dangerous to ride your bike due to traffic, and running on the streets unless early in the morning, is not advisable. SINGLES- Large Bar Scene, with Bollywood and the financial center of India, but bring your wallet, as the drinks are quiet expensive. Getaways in Mumbai are the must. Getting out of the city and going to the hill stations-Lonavala, Goa, Kerala, or Dubai is the most common for outings.

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

Not sure.

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

Heavy caste and religious divides in the city, and country. You typically wont encounter it during your normal routine, but the occasional protests, riots, beatings, and murders are available daily in one of the many newspapers here.

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

Hindu Festivals- Ganesh Festival in October is a must.

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

Indian crafts are everywhere- Buddhist, hindu sculptures, rugs, pashminas- WOOD CARVINGS.

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9. Can you save money?

If you don't travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes- A great experience, and unlike anywhere in the world- Mumbai is the most densely populated city in the world.

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

Snow gear, coats, and extra furniture.

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3. But don't forget your:

Rain jacket, hats, sandals, mosquito repellent (for excursions), and your India travel book.

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Darjeeling Unlimited.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

If you like cities you will do fine. If you can't stand NYC, then you will not like Mumbai. While very different from one another, the chaos is similiar, as is the congestion.

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