The next installment in the Expat Interview Series! I’ve reached out to expats in different countries to hear why people might choose to move abroad, and how they do it. If you want to know more about moving to a particular country this is the place. If you’re interested in taking part or want to see a particular place featured let me know!
India is somewhere that’s been on my bucket list for… well, as long as I can remember having one! It’s also the kind of places that people worry about travelling with kids, which is why I was so excited to interview Jenny from TraveLynn Family, who actually MOVED to India with her husband and two young children. Read on to see what it’s like living in India with a young family!
Tell us about yourself
I’m Jenny! We are a family of four from the UK who live in Bangalore, India. Our boys are 2 and 4 years old. Hubby and I met at Hull Uni 18 years ago and from that first summer break when we went camping around Malawi together we have taken every opportunity to travel. Our favourite trip has to be travelling from London to Sydney in 2007 without a plane. We were moving to Australia and arrived in Brisbane off a freighter from Singapore. When kids came along, we knew that we weren’t going to stop travelling and I can honestly say that our travelling lives are so much better with them along for the ride.
What made you decide to move to India?
We wanted to make the most of the time with our boys before our eldest was in the full time education system. But with 2 kids, mortgage etc., it was so much harder to save for a big trip. My husband works as a software developer and his company asked if we would be interested in moving to India.
We had travelled India pre-kids on a very VERY tight budget and had initial concerns. India can be a challenging place to be for even the hardened backpacker, let alone with 2 young kids for the ride. But being true to our nature, we jumped at the opportunity and in April 2017 we moved out to Bangalore (our boys were aged 1 and 3).
Tell me about the cost of living in India
Anyone that has been to India will tell you that it’s cheap. And it is! A local dinner for all 4 of us costs about GBP6, a 5km auto (tuk-tuk) ride will cost GBP2. However, most Western items will cost more – nappies, baby wipes, sliced bread, UHT milk, antiperspirant, shampoo and conditioner. Also, accommodation really isn’t a cheap as you would think. We live in a modest 3 bed apartment in a gated complex in South Bangalore and the rental cost is the same as what we would pay at home in Kent, UK.
How do you make a living?
On our visa, as we came through my husband’s company, I’m not allowed to work. However, I have my two lively boys to look after full time and find time to write around them. We had initially hoped to put them in a nursery/pre-school when we first arrived for a couple of days per week. But schooling is very different here. Children tend to go to school full time from the age of 2 and the rigid structure of learning and little explorative play is not what we’re used to in the UK. The international schools are expensive and again, full time. Plus, we do so much travelling and they would be in and out of school so much, so on went my full-time mum hat and our daily Bangalore adventures began!
Do you need a visa to live in India?
You do indeed. And ours got VERY complicated. In fact, three weeks before we left to move out here, we still didn’t have our visas sorted! But we got there in the end.
What’s the social scene like? How easy is it to make friends?
It’s been a lot harder than I thought it would be. I consider myself quite a social person and generally find it easy to find friends in new places. When I first arrived there were no social media expat mum groups and it was 3 weeks until I bumped into another expat mum. This awesome mum (who is now a very good friend) then introduced me to the Bangalore Mums Whatsapp Group and from that I’ve found a handful of expat mums in the city.
But with the terrible traffic, an hour auto ride to a playdate is the norm. I’m very happy to do the journey though as I’ve connected really well with these people – you have to have a bit of a screw loose to move to move to India with young kids 😉 There are lots of young local families in the complex where we live and whilst the parents are happy to chat, I haven’t been able to progress relationships beyond small talk.
What’s the best thing about living in India?
EVERY day is an adventure. We take autos every day and there is just so much to see and always a new surprise – life here spills out on to the pavement and it’s fascinating. We also love that Bangalore is well connected to other cities with overnight sleeper trains. So we can hop on a train on a Friday night and wake up in Pondicherry, Kochi, Goa or Hampi the next morning. There are also cheap flights to Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand. So it’s a perfect base for our itchy feet.
What’s the hardest thing about living in India?
Bureaucracy and non-truths. It takes an age and a mountain of paperwork to get so many little things done – ask anyone who has had to just check into a hotel here. Plus Indians hate to let you down and disappoint. So rather than tell you that something will take months to finish, they will tell you it will take a few weeks. For six months we were living under an apartment that was being renovated. We were told it would finish in June, then July, August, September, October… when November came round we finally made the decision to move out. It’s now December and the work is still going on. I wish we had been told the truth from the beginning.
How is your new home different from your old one?
I’m not sure where to start with this one as it really couldn’t be more different! Our home in England is so green, so polite, so ordered. Bangalore is the polar opposite and we love it! This is a place where you have to embrace the difference and go with the flow.
If we had just one day in Bangalore, what should we not miss?
Lalbagh botanical gardens – start at the West Gate where you’ll meet some monkeys by the lake and walk towards Peninsular Gneiss (a large granite rock to climb with views over the city). Iskcon Temple – it’s one of the largest in the world. Marvel at the lavish decorations and stop to observe the fascinating ceremonies taking place. Also, head to to The Taj West End for high tea in a sanctuary of luxury and stroll around their beautiful gardens in the heart of the city.
Can you share your best local/insider tip about where you live?
Use the Ola app to book your autos. No haggling and the driver knows exactly where to go. Just be patient in ordering as they sometimes don’t turn up or will call to check the dropoff (and cancel if they don’t want to take the fare).
If you could give one piece of advice to people looking to live in India what would it be?
Ensure your home is an oasis away from the chaos. Bangalore is loud, dishevelled and dirty. But it is also colourful, vibrant and energetic. You need to be able to step out of the chaos into a sanctuary to appreciate it.