The 5 Phases Expats Go Through In Delhi

(Post taken from Little Black Book Delhi)

After working with Delhi’s expat community for the past two years, I’ve seen many people go through a variety of emotions over their three – five year postings. While most of them leave with nothing but love and fondness for Delhi, they don’t always start that way.

When you read this article, imagine yourself as someone who is used to steak, traffic rules, cleanliness, order, a functional administration and clean air. You’ve probably never visited Asia before. Now picture finding out that you’re about to move to Delhi for the next five years. Cue panic.

Phase 1: Pre Arrival Panic!

Typical response:

The Google searches begin!

“Delhi pollution” + “women’s safety”+ ”food poisoning”


Resume Google searching


Repeat as necessary.

Hardly productive is it?

#LBBTip: While Delhi, like any city in the world, has its issues, read up on the positives. Try searching for “Delhi history” or “Delhi Culture” or “Delhi food scene” or “Shopping in Delhi” or “Trips to take in India”; I guarantee that the results will be a lot more encouraging.

Phase 2: Post Arrival Panic!

You’ve landed in Delhi and you’re still recovering from what you’ve seen on your way out from the airport. Note to self; traffic rules are more ‘guidelines’ than rules. You’ve arrived at your new home. Where do I find domestic help? Where do I buy groceries? Is the tap water safe to drink? I’m Jon Snow and I know absolutely nothing!

#LBBTip: Delhi and Gurgaon have lots of expat groups that help expats with settling in and navigating the city. Look up Delhi Network, Gurgaon Connection, AWA, ANZA and others for expat-centric support with settling in. Also, do try and befriend your neighbours; it’s invaluable to have help available from people in your building.

Phase 3: “My Pants Don’t Fit!”

Most expats think that they’ll lose weight in Delhi assuming that they’ll be hit by food poisoning on a semi regular basis. In truth, you end up putting on weight because you don’t get food poisoning {much, anyway} and find yourself hooked to champagne brunches and butter chicken!

Yup, once you’ve joined a few expat groups, suddenly, you have a social circle. Once you have a social circle, suddenly, you’re out every other night. Within a few months, you have a good understanding of the food scene and what’s good in your neighbourhood. A few months later your pants no longer fit, which brings you to the next important life decision; do you find a gym or a tailor?

#LBBTip: Find both.

Phase 4: Expat Swag

Now that you’ve been here a while and you’ve got the hang of things, you start getting adventurous. You’re educating the locals about history, culture and travel destinations in India {we forgive you btw}. You’re shopping at Sarojini. You’re driving with your international license and bragging about it on Facebook. Your friends are heading to the Taj Mahal and you say, ‘Call my guy for the best Taj tour ever’. You’re being invited to fashion shows and private events, and suddenly find yourself on page 3 of some socialite newspaper. You even rent an Enfield and ride to Leh! If you’re Canadian, you’re already building an ice hockey rink while you’re up there!

#LBBTip: Easy Tiger! We’re glad Delhi has finally become home for you, but do continue to take the same precautions we do.

Phase 5: Departure Depression

Your time in Delhi is at an end, and it’s time to move back home, or to another city. Suddenly, you’re taking pictures of your last auto ride, your last black and yellow taxi, your last Sunday brunch, your last masala chai, your last visit to Fabindia, your last mango {the list goes on}.

Suddenly you’re more attached to India than the locals and your initial hesitation to move here seems so unreasonable. Just then, someone spits a stream of red paan near your feet and shamelessly stares at you while he scratches his groin with one hand and picks his nose with the other. The trip to the airport is suddenly sounding better again.

When it comes to defining your time in Delhi, you’re in your window seat on the airplane and looking over the city one last time; probably thinking what a dear friend once told me: “For an expat, a stint in Delhi means you are faced with two choices: either grab the bull by the horns and hold on for the most exciting ride of your life, OR, be prepared to get gored by the angriest bull at the rodeo.” {Buffaloes! Not cows! Buffaloes!}.

#LBBTip: Ride the ‘Buffalo’.

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