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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Mumbai, India

Apr 22, 2018


Marine drive, Mumbai

Moving abroad is challenging, but moving with an illness is an even bigger challenge. An expat talks about her experiences moving to Mumbai. She looks forward to not having to work in India so that she can focus on getting well.

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Mumbai

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

Yes, within a couple weeks of arriving in Mumbai. I thought it was perfect timing but need to have refresher courses.

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

I speak English and tried but failed to learn Hindi. It didn't stick because I didn't use the language; most non-English Indians find a way around the language barrier.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

No; I had bigger things on my mind.

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How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

I experienced very little culture shock as I'm married to a British citizen and have traveled overseas. I expected to not understand anything and in turn enjoyed almost everything.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

I have been ill for a long time and was looking forward to not working. I knew to let my body heal, I need to let go of the expectations of diving into the country. I spent the first 4 months unpacking and sleeping.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

The first thing I longed for was chocolate syrup, something I didn't use at home. I did get lonely and angry; I wrote down what I could control and not control and focused on expanding my life as my health allowed.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

Delivery service for everything. My dog got sick and a vet came to the house. I order almost all my groceries. With the help of my Indian friends, I got a cook and maid at current rates instead of expat rates. My Mumbai dentist has equipment better than my dentist did at home. Once I figured out how to get around, I now ride rickshaws everywhere.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Indians aim to please...my husband. My husband's British accent is easier to understand than my Texas accent so I have to be a bit in their face. India is a cash society and don't accept credit cards readily so we had a bit of cash flow issues at first. Being fashionable 30 minutes to hour late to an event is expected.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

I sure I have but I don't have any stories.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Our cultural educator said some expats dive into the place; some count the days to leave. Have realistic expectations for yourself. Mumbai has been around for quite some time and isn't going anywhere. If you need to time to explore, then take the time. Let the city present itself to you.

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Help other expats and newcomers by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Mumbai.

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