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Moving to Delhi – FAQ

Some questions we’ve already answered:

Q: My husband may be posted to Delhi in the near future. I have three kids. How is the American school? Is life for families easy? Is there an expat community that live in certain areas outside of the main metropolis which is appropriate for families? In other words, how is it as a posting?

A: We don’t have kids but many of our colleagues send theirs to the American school and it has a good reputation. Expats generally live in the better areas of town such as Vasant Vihar. We like it here and think it’s a good posting. You can get most things: food, clothes, sports equipment, etc. The main thing it lacks is a decent supermarket. Also, it’s not easy to get lingerie in the right sizes so bring a stock of undies with you.

Q: What’s the deal with people moving out to “Farms”? I understand that the homes are pretty fabulous but are even the close ones towards town a hassle in terms of getting to the diplomatic compound area during rush hour? Do many expats live out there?

A: Yes, these places are fabulous, many with their own swimming pools etc. As you say, they are generally inconvenient for facilities such as schools, offices etc. Although some expats do live on “farms”, I only know one expat couple who had a farm house and they moved back into Delhi because they found it too inconvenient being on the outskirts. Think of it in London terms, you’ll get a smaller place in the centre or a mansion further out.

Q: I’m moving to Delhi with my wife and our 20-month-old daughter. My wife has been offered a job there. I was wondering if there are many female executive expats in Delhi? Also, I get the impression that membership of clubs and golf courses is pretty important to getting to know people? Is this right?

A: Re female executives, if your wife is British, she could join the BBG – the British Business Group. They meet regularly and she might find some peers there. Alternatively, register with your own Embassy or High Commission when you arrive and see what they have on offer. Membership of clubs is certainly a good way to get to know people. Again see what your Embassy has on offer. Many expats play golf regularly, it’s very popular. If you don’t otherwise have access to a swimming pool, you might consider becoming a Hyatt member.

Q: Am coming soon with three kids…what would you suggest we stock up on?

A: Dunno about kids’ things – there are toy shops here and clothes are cheap. I expect that most people import car seats and any safety equipment.

I’ve found it difficult to get underwear in the right size – and I’m not a plus size – although there is a tiny M&S here now. There’s no Boots or Body Shop so you might want to stock up on your favourite products from there, although there are some nice alternatives here.

Tinned food is available, of course, but relatively expensive so you might want to take some if you have room in your baggage allowance.

Clothes and shoes are available but not very stylish unless you want to pay a fortune. If you like Next and Monsoon etc, you’d be as well to get kitted out before you come.

I can’t really think of anything much that you can’t get here, some things are very cheap, imports are expensive. If you can think of anything specific that you can’t live without, ask away and I’ll try to answer.

Q: About clothing… I am interested in dress codes for official diplomatic receptions, dinners, etc. Do women wear basic business type skirt or pant suits and pumps or is the dress code more informal or more Indian?

A: Dress code – it’s very flexible, but I haven’t seen many women in business-type skirts. Some women take advantage of the attractive shalwar-kamiz outfits (long shirt/dress over pants – sounds awful but some are very nice) available locally at prices ranging from very cheap to outrageously expensive for Delhi’s well-heeled.

I wear Western (British) clothes, trouser suits, dresses etc for official functions. If you have a favourite outfit you can have it copied fairly cheaply here. They generally do a good job. I’ve had many of my ready-made British clothes tailored here for a better fit. I would take at least one formal-wear long dress as I expect that it would be hard for them to make such a thing from scratch. It’s unlikely that you’d be at more than half a dozen functions per year which would require you to wear this.

Most events are “informal” – in Brit-dip-speak, this means lounge suit and tie for men and women get away with pretty well anything better than “casual”. The summers are hot and humid so much of the dress code for women is based on comfort – anything smart and comfortable would be right.

Indian women often wear their most glamorous saris but we westerners just do our own thing. In the winter, it can get cold, so we all cover up with pashminas – widely available and cheaper here. All that relates to official functions. For your off-duty time you can wear anything you want. You’d get away with longish shorts in the modern markets like Khan Mkt, but I personally wouldn’t wear shorts to go out and about. Some do. There again, I wouldn’t go down a British High Street in beach-wear. Not least because it’s too cold!

Q: What about malaria? Any worries? Do you take anything against it?

A: Disclaimer: I have no medical training and cannot be responsible if you take, or fail to take, any action based on my opinion.

Most medical people recommend that you take anti-malarials. This is probably just to cover their backs. I personally do not take anything, nor do most people. I only know of one person who got malaria but I don’t know where he picked it up. The risk is not so high in Delhi as it might be if you were travelling around more. There is a seasonal risk of dengue in Delhi so you might want protection during that time. In any case, always take precautions to avoid being bitten. Cover up feet and ankles in the evenings and/or wear anti-mozzie cream.

PG Author: Kay McMahon

Kay has been an expat for nearly 30 years. She set up the British Expat website back in early 2000, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)

1 Comment

Kay McMahon 27-04-2010, 11:42

Dave and I subsequently both got dengue fever in Thailand in 2005. You do NOT want to get dengue. Remember that dengue mosquitoes are active during the day so in the dengue season you need to protect yourself during the day as well as the evening.

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