10 tips for new Delhi expats


Street Art, Lodi Colony South Delhi

There’s lots to think about when touching down in Delhi and India for the first time.    Here’s ten tips for new arrivals in our little survival guide. 

  1. Don’t drink the water

An obvious, but an important one.  Don’t drink the water directly from the tap (and yes, that includes when cleaning your teeth).

Buy bottled water to start with and then explore the merits of filtered water once you’ve settled in.  Be wary of ice in drinks too – including from high end hotels and five star restaurants.  You never know where that ice may have come from now, do you?.

  1. Wash your fruit and veggys really well

Delhi’s fruit and veggys look fabulous, but they may be home to some not so friendly bacteria that could give you a dose of Delhi’s infamous belly.

Wash vegetables thoroughly with a mild bleach solution and rinse with water (some people swear by mineral water when rinsing, others say filtered water from the tap is fine).  Read the instructions on the bottle, talk with others and you’ll find a method that’s right for you.

  1. Get plenty of passport photographs

Thankfully, passport photos are cheap in India.  You’ll be filling in loads of forms and for each and every one you’ll need to provide at least one passport sized photo.  Most markets have a photography shop, click here for a list of many of Delhi’s markets.  Always carry a couple of photos in your wallet.  You never know when you might need one, two or three!

  1. Patience. Patience. Patience

Did you pack some patience before you left home?  Good.  Unpack it as soon as you arrive. Things take their time.  Getting used to that fact takes time. Something that might be simple back home, may be a lot more complicated here.  Yes.  It can be frustrating, but it’s important to try and go with the flow.  Now.  Take a long, deep, breath.

  1. Shopping and markets

If you’re expecting a superstore or a single place to do all your shopping, you won’t get it. Supermarkets and one-stop shops aren’t here.  There are shopping malls and neighbourhood markets, but be prepared for your shopping to take quite a bit longer than what you may be used too.  Online shopping is big businesss with Natures Basket and Grofers amongst two brands in this emerging space.

Shopping doesn’t have to be a chore, it can be seen as a great introduction to Delhi’s people and is a wonderful way of learning the language.

  1. Medical matters

Have you been inoculated against everything that you should been inoculated against?

Double check with a medical professional. There are top notch medical facilities in Delhi and India’s major cities, but get out of the cities and provision is pretty patchy.    Look up what’s available where you live and plan what you would do in the event of an incident.

The US Embassy in India provides this list of doctors and medical facilities.  There’s a fine FAQ section in this too.

A quick note about medicines.  Delhi is hot and many medicines don’t like to be kept above 25 degrees C.  Check out what your prescriptions and pills say about the temperatures that they like.  Remember that the fridge is not just for food.

  1. Dengue and Chikungunya

Delhi is home to some pretty unpleasant diseases.

Just after the rainy season watch out for Dengue Fever and Chikungunya.  Carried by the pesky Aedes aegypti mosquito, these are two diseases that you definitely don’t want to catch.  There isn’t a cure for either, there’s no vaccine and that means bite avoidance is best.  Here’s a link that gives a little more guidance.

  1. Learn a little Hindi

Namaste.  Learning a little bit of the language is a great way to get immersed in India.  The locals love it and if you’re willing to give it a go they’ll welcome your attempts.  Don’t worry about making mistakes.  Even when you accidently offend someone they take in it their stride.  I should know, I’ve done it a few times.

  1. Air quality

Delhi’s air quality isn’t great.   The US Embassy monitors air quality on the compounds of its embassy and consulates, but this reading can’t be taken as a guide for the entire city.  The use of air filters in homes and in cars, and people wearing masks on their faces in the winter months are an increasingly common sight.

Here’s a post with some more information about Delhi’s air and some handy links to resources that be help you make some more informed decisions.

  1. Keep your eyes open and ask lots of questions

I knew when I moved to India it woudl be a culture shock, but I didn’t bank on it being a full on seizure.  Everything wasn’t just new, it was baffling.  To cope I turned into a four year old child.  “What’s that?” and “What are you doing?” were two questions that are never far from my lips.  But I spent most of my time asking, “Why?”    I’m doing the same two years down the track.

I don’t like to admit it, but there were a few temper tantrums along the way too.  I’d even stamp me feet.  I know.  Very embarrassing.

Remember, there’s always something new to learn in this marvellous, chaotic and confusing mega-city if you choose to see and enjoy it.

One thought on “10 tips for new Delhi expats

  1. Pingback: Expat groups and networks in Delhi NCR | Namaste New Delhi

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