Expatriate_Global Mobility, Expat Life In India

10 things that one could find (almost) anywhere in India – By Jasper Fortuin

I’ve talked about the huge differences within this immense country in some of my earlier blogs, and I will continue to highlight them in upcoming ones. However, it’s very hard to refer to ‘India’ as a country. Ask ten people who’ve traveled within India and you might get eleven or twelve different answers. This would be mainly based upon the experience in a particular part of the country. If you talk to a German couple after a 2-week trip to Kerala and Goa and compare their answers with another couple from a different European country after a trip to Varanasi, Agra and Delhi, there will be very few similarities. The language and/or the script, cuisine, nature, weather, architecture, people, vegetation and much more are different in each part of the country.

Despite the huge differences, there are many similarities. Some remarkable elements in India could be found all across the Subcontinent. I’ve created my personal list of Top-10 of things that actually make every corner of this country undisputedly ‘India’, even in the tribal or remote areas.

  1. One could buy a 10 INR milk tea (chai), with or without masala

 Although there is proof that tea was brought to India decades ago by the Chinese, the official introduction of tea in this country was done by the British. After the introduction, tea became the Indian version of a Red Bull all across the country. Tea is the most popular National beverage for almost all Indian people and is being sold everywhere. If you order a ‘tea’ or ‘chai’, chances are very high that they’ll serve you a strong black tea, filled with milk and lots of sugar. I’m a very big fan of the ‘Masala Chai’ edition, which is a strong black tea with milk, but also with a mixture of cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper and the strongest contributing powerful taste: ginger. Contrary to a lot of principles in the general cuisine, the quality of your tea will not increase if you’re ordering and drinking it in a more upscale place. I’ve had the best tea in India just on the roadside. These so called ‘Chai Wallah’s’ often sell a cup of tea for less than 10 INR (13 Eurocent) and the quality is very good; they often use fresh herbs for the flavor and the milk is full fat and rich, which – after brewing together – will give one the ultra-chai flavor.

2) ‘Horn ok’ signs on trucks

 Nobody will criticize me for sharing some of my ever-increasing irritation about the nending noises in India. People are loud and they don’t mind sharing these irritating sounds with everyone around. Don’t be surprised if people around you start spitting. Even worse: it’s not uncommon to notice a lot of human morning rituals during a early morning walk through residential parts of an average Indian city. And there is more: traffic is horrible in almost every part of India, mainly because ‘horning’ almost seems to be a national sport with an ongoing competition; who is the loudest ‘honker of the day’? One of the oddest things that one could observe on the roads in India is the ‘Horn ok’ sign at the back of almost all trucks. While trucks are actually encouraging other people on the roads to use their horn, there are actually a lot of ‘no horning zones’ within cities. India wouldn’t be India, if people would actually follow this public guidance.

3) ‘Stick no bills’ signs

India is the largest democracy in the world with a lot of government regulations. As a result, one could find a lot of state-managed messages, encouraging people not to spit in public, follow traffic rules or avoid using excessive much water. It’s very funny to see some of these messages, mainly because of the very direct forms of the (English) language. All across India, one would find signs on walls, fences or government buildings telling people to ‘stick no bills’. Even after being in India for over 28 months now, I still laugh about this; I’ve seen so many concrete walls with ‘stick no bills’ signs, partly covered with the latest announcements about a travelling circus, hair growing elixirs or job offerings.

4) Thali meals

People from all backgrounds visit public restaurants a lot for their lunch- or diner food-options. Especially on the lower end of the spectrum, one could find unlimited eateries. The menus at these places are often very simple, with a limited set of options. Although tastes may vary, there is actually one thing in India that could be ordered in almost every corner of this country: a thali. The objective of the thali is very simple: serve the customer fresh prepared food with a wide variety of tastes and dishes. In a basic thali are some curries, vegetables, rice, dahl, curd and sweets. They will start serving you the dishes on a metal round plate. Some of the curries will be served in smaller metal bowls. The idea of the thali meal is to serve a variety of curries (vegetarian or with meat/fish) as an accompaniment to the naan breads or chapati’s. A thali, which is a heavy meal, could be bought for less than 60 INR (0.75 Euro) if you’re ordering one in remote area’s or very crowded areas in large cities. There is a wide variety of thalis within each city. One of my favorite thalis is the Gujarati thali, in which the dishes are prepared with a sweeter taste.

5) The Indian railways

With over 1.3 million employees, the Indian railways is one of the largest employers in the world. Offering a network of huge connections between the larger cities and a combination of a lot of local trains, the Indian railways has the largest network of trains within Asia and the second largest in the world. The trains are being managed by a huge organization. They are responsible for trains leaving and arriving on time, clean and safe railway stations and a wide variety of routes, offering seats in a wide variety of classes. Unfortunately, one could experience a lot of delays and it’s not uncommon that trains would usually be delayed by 1-2 hours.

6) Bureaucracy

 I really love India and try to avoid any judgements within the country. But some things are so tough and obviously funny and therefor it’s hard not to criticize it. Take the bureaucracy as an example. I often share my beliefs with people about India’s bureaucracy as a joke: the British brought bureaucracy to the Indian subcontinent, but the government and the Indian population did an excellent job in improving this. The bureaucracy is interesting in India, and it will actually consume a lot of your time here. While living in India, opening a bank account, registration of a rental lease agreement, extension of a visa…..things are definitely improving, but some of these processes could turnout in a time consuming and frustrating process.

7) MG Road

 The letters ‘M’ and ‘G’ refer to Mahatma Ghandhi. I always had the impression that he would be a hero for all people, but this is actually not true. Whereas Ghandhi has been seen as a leader and peacemaker in the Western World, in India there are many individuals who are actually opposed to his views and actions. However, the Indian government has actually created this myth about the man. One of the very visible signs is the inauguration of a MG Road in almost every Indian town or city. Some people refer to this street as ‘Main Street’, and I actually don’t know if the controversy about Gandhi is the main driver for this.

8) Jugaad

 In India, people will always come up with solutions, even if it’s not clear if things could be sorted out or fixed. They’ve even come up with a word for it: Jugaad. Go online and use google to search for ‘Jugaad India’ and check on the images. You will find the weirdest solutions for technical issues of day to day challenges. There is a lot of Jugaad in transportation: people use two-wheelers to transport huge things, very often risking their lives. I’ve seen a lot of big mirrors or large glass elements, being transported by two individuals on a two-wheeler.

9) Auto rickshaws

The rickshaw is a recurring theme in this blog. One could find rickshaws in almost every Asian country, but some of their models in India are so iconic that it’s hard to imagine an Indian city without them. Whereas human pulled rickshaws or cycle rickshaws could only be found in some cities in India, the Auto Rickshaw offers a service to you all across India. Funnily enough the colors of the Auto Rickshaw vary from state to state. I’ve seen green-colored Auto Rickshaws in the south, while yellow and black remain the main colors in my home state (Maharastha).


 Although India has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world for years now, it’s still considered a third world country. I’ve written about the socio demographics of the country before, highlighting the huge disparity between various groups within the Indian society. There are very well-developed parts in India, with higher average incomes. But don’t let the stats fool you, because underprivileged people could even be found in Goa, Kerala or other more affluent parts of India. As a result, one could find beggars in almost every corner of the Indian subcontinent.

For more wonderful stories about India, through an expat eye please visit Jasper’s personal blog: https://bustlingpune.com/

Expat Assignment

The Top Reasons Why Expat Assignments Fail

There’s a lot at stake while hiring an expat to fill a specific role in your organization. Like all senior-level hires, the expectations and deliverables need to defined, stated, and agreed to in order to avoid conflict between the involved parties later. Like all senior-level hires, an expat assignment too must be a win-win situation for both the expat employee as well as the organization.

That said, the financial stakes are perhaps higher when hiring an expat employee. Besides the financial stake, a lot more time is devoted to the process of screening and finalizing an expat employee. The entire process of hiring an expat is longer, more effort-intensive, and time-consuming. This means that there may be a lot more riding on ensuring the success of an expat hire. That said, an INSEAD study had projected that close to 50% of all expat assignments would fail.

Knowing the possible reasons for the failure of expat assignments could help you prevent them. From our perspective of having helped many hundreds of expats relocate to and out of India, here is our distillation of the top 5 reasons expat assignments fail.

  1. New work culture

Every country and region has its unique work culture. An important factor to consider in an expat assignment is the incoming expat’s ability to adjust and adapt to the new work culture. Every country has a slightly different way to look at even fundamental issues like deadlines, ownership, effort and impact, hierarchy, initiative, and even consequences. It can be challenging for an incoming expat to understand and then adjust to the host country’s work culture. One cannot know many of the nuances until one experiences them. Providing some basic information will help the expat in knowing what to expect rather than facing a work culture shock -but much of conquering this will be down to attitude. Adapting to a new environment takes time. Both the organization and the expat employee need to be patient with each other during this transition phase.

2. Language and cultural orientation

More often than not, the expats are unused to and feel uncomfortable about not being able to get mundane tasks done without depending on others. Seeking help for every small little task can hamper the expat’s confidence which reflects in their attitude at work too. There are other (good and bad) things that expats encounter in India that may disconcert or disturb them.

One cannot learn a language or about a new culture overnight. To minimize the impact of this change, the organization can help the expats by providing basic language and culture training early in the process. This will help the expat employee and the family feel more at home and let them get around that little bit better without feeling handicapped by a lack of knowledge of the local language and culture.

3. Smooth relocation

Moving homes across borders can be traumatic for the expat and the family. Any issues that crop up at this time or any perceived lack of support from the organization could leave a lingering resentment. That being the case, it is essential for an organization to employ a capable Global Mobility Team to provide all the required assistance to the expat employee for settling down in the host country.

This starts with assured and professional assistance over the legal and visa proceedings and continues to providing assistance for things like finding accommodation, school and university searches, admission procedure, transportation, spousal and family support, and cultural support. It is these routine things that will make the resettlement process in the host country smooth and pleasurable.

4. Issues at home

The biggest reason for the failure of an expat assignment is domestic. If the expat’s family is unable to relocate at the same time, or even after relocation in unable to make the adjustment to life in India, chances are the expat will soon consider a return to the home country. This adjustment covers a gamut of issues like finding an appropriate home and neighbourhood, a good school for the kids, a circle of similarly placed expat friends, and even issues related to missing the food, music, and entertainment of the home country. It can be an arduous task to start a new life in a new country. This is where the local knowledge and experience of a locally placed mobility team can prove invaluable. As a rule, an expat will be happy at work only if he or she is happy at home.

5. Wrong hire

The next biggest reason for the failure of an expat assignment is the error of judgement made by the organization while selecting the expat candidate. Many expat assignments are known to fail due to the hiring of the wrong person. This is not to do with experience or qualifications. It’s often to do with attitude, flexibility, tolerance for ambiguity, the ability to appreciate and work with different work styles and cultures, and other such soft issues.

We have written in the past about how to ensure that you are hiring the right kind of person. The blog has more details, but the HR department should conduct a thorough screening, both on professional and personal grounds, of the candidate in question before starting the process. The interview should also focus on these attitudinal issues. This helps both the involved parties feel each other out and define expectations too.

The failure of an expat assignment tells on both the employee and the organization. It is a failure for both the parties and there is plenty of blame to go around. That said, as we have seen, most of the issues are readily solvable. That assumes a degree of ongoing and open communication between the expat and the organization. This communication will help in removing the obstacles that lead to the failure of the expat assignment.

Returning expats settle in India

Welcome Back – Helping returning expats settle in the home country

The US survey on international migrant trends from a couple of years ago reported that India had the largest diaspora in the world with over 16 million Indian’s living and working in other countries. This is only half the story though. Since 2010 or so, there has been a steady flow of these Indian expats returning to the home country to make a mark here. In fact, a few months ago, the Economic Times reported that leading recruitment and search were “inundated with requests from Indian in the US, the UK, the Gulf, even Singapore, and Hong Kong”, who were looking to move back to India.


People like Srikumar Misra returned to their native land driven by a sense of purpose and founded start-ups to solve the problems faced by the locals there. Misra quit his job at Tetley Tea in London and returned to his native place in Orissa and founded Milk Mantra – the first Indian venture capital-funded agri-food start-up. The people in this area faced scarcity of this commodity and Srikumar Misra found an opportunity in it. “All I wanted was to make a difference to the people of my state. We now have a networked group of 40,000 farmers from whom we procure milk at 300 centres,” Misra told Business Line.


The emergence of India as the world’s fastest growing economy in recent years has seen a corresponding shift in its expat communities across the globe. The opportunities for competent and ambitious Indians once lay outside the country but that’s not the case anymore. There are equal, if we may not say more, opportunities in the home country today. With a large number of MNCs setting base and/or expanding their operations in India, a thriving start-up ecosystem, and a steep growth in opportunities to make an impact in the rural economy, these opportunities are bound to witness an exponential growth.


The booming Indian market and an increase in the protectionist environment in the European and American markets have led many Indian expats to return to explore opportunities in their homeland. In many cases, the returning expats are being hired by MNCs and large Indian corporates like you. But life for the returning expat is not without its challenges. So, as the HR group in the companies that employ them, what can you do to help them settle in?


Difficulties faced by a returning expat

You probably have a settled process to address the relocation of foreigners to India. Much of what you do for those incoming expats would also apply in case of your returning NRI employee. But there are a variety of specific issues that a returning expat must face in the home country. Resettling is no cakewalk. Especially for those who have spent long years outside the homeland, it takes time to acclimatize to the environment of another country.

Here are 3 specific issues faced by the returning expats:

1) Reverse Cultural Shock

The biggest difficulty of a returning expat is to readjust to the culture of his native land. After spending a significant amount of time in a foreign land, a person gets molded into that environment. The dual challenge for these people is that the environment in India is sure to be unlike what they were used to in their foreign home, but is also sure to be different from what they were used to before left the country. India has changed dramatically in the last few years. Returning expats may find a land that is nothing like the simple, cheap, and innocent land they left behind. We are now a confident, aggressive, and opinionated people who believe that we are ready to lead the world – this change of personality can be hard to adjust to. Returning expats need cultural sensitivity training too – maybe even more than foreigners.

2) Food and Drink

This is a physical as well as a mental issue. Many are the story of expats facing tummy or gut issues because of reduced immunity brought about from years of protected eating in their foreign home. Ill-advised attempts at revisiting the spicy, oily street food of their youth have laid many returning expats low. The process of readjusting the gut to spices can be slow and long, especially for the kids who have been born abroad. The same goes for water consumption. Even filtered water can be hard to stomach (literally). Hence it is advisable to start slowly and gradually making the digestive system to adjust with the introduction of spices in the food. If the worst happens, then you may need to familiarize them with the available healthcare options – availability, suitability, costs etc. may all be mysteries to them.

3) Accommodation & Family Resettlement

You must be helping all your expat employees find suitable accommodation but there is a chance that the demands of your returning expat employee could have their own complexity. Many such expats have no concept of how housing has changed in India in recent years. They are often unfamiliar with the amenity-rich, luxe condos in most Indian cities today. They may be outraged and flabbergasted by the rents in such locations. They may seek accommodation of types or in areas that used to be “posh” back in the day, but where accommodation is near-impossible to get now. The modern age also has its own problems – safety, security, privacy, and controlling access to name a few. Returning expats may not quite appreciate the extent of these problems while seeking a house or while building a life here. Exposing them to these realities – shiny as well as harsh will help them make the right choices in these areas.

Returning expats have made a major commitment to the land where they were born. Their willingness to return is admirable proof of their intent to make a difference to their home country. As their employer organization, it’s up to you to support them as they work through the nuances of their move.

FRRO_FRO_ Rules_India_Visa_Immigration

Some Essential Things You Need to Know About FRRO Rules in India – by Preeti Roongta – Founder – Lexagent Expat Relocations

A key responsibility of Foreign Nationals who wish to reside long-term in India (typically that exceeds more than 180 days) is to visit the FRRO (Foreign Regional Registration Office) within the first 14 days of their arrival in India. It is the FRRO that has the role of regulating their legal stay in India. To that extent, the FRRO manages all the tasks related to foreigners residing in India. This may include issuing residence permits, converting specific kinds of visas, and addressing matters related to visa extensions related to foreigners. In short, FRRO deals with all the legal formalities that need to be completed by the foreigners intending to stay long term.

Bureaucratic processes in India have the reputation of being lengthy and cumbersome and involving long waiting times. Automation and IT are being deployed to ease these concerns but, for expats and the companies that employ them, it pays to stay informed and to understand the FRRO rules well to avoid frustration and hassles.

What is FRRO and what are its registration requirements?

FRRO is the primary agency which deals with the registration, departure, arrival, and movement of foreign nationals who wish to reside long term in India. This applies to foreigners visiting India on a student visa, business visa, employment visa or research visa. The FRRO is also responsible for the grant of extension of stay in India, if required.

The FRRO offices in India have a presence across most major Indian cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Amritsar, Hyderabad, Trivandrum, Cochin, Goa, Calicut, Lucknow. They also function with the District Superintendents of Police located across all other districts. There are 13 FRRO’s and 674 FRO’s in India.

Foreign registration is necessary for all the foreigners arriving in India on a visa which extends to more than 6 months, except for certain exempted categories. Registration is required only once at the time of usage of the visa, irrespective of the times the foreigner exits or arrives again using a multiple entry visa.

The registration requirements at FRRO are as follows:

  • Foreign nationals including those with Indian origin who are visiting India long-term and intend to stay for more than 180 days on a Student Visa, Medical Visa, Business, Employment and Research visa need to register themselves with the FRRO. The requirement is to register within 14 days from the date of arrival at a registered FRRO/FRO office.
  • Foreigners below the age of 16 years(minors) need to report in person or via an authorized representative at the registered FRRO office in a specific location. No registration is required for children under the age of 16 years. *This regulation is applicable in select cities only.
  • Registration may also be required in cases where it is specifically mentioned as- “registration required”

Here are some top FRRO rules to keep in mind for foreigners living long-term in India

  1. Prepare a checklist of all the documents required

You must carry your original passport which contains the visa stamped by the authorized officers, a photocopy of the passport and the original visa, four photographs, and details about your residence in India. A copy of the marriage certificate may be required for those seeking an extension on the grounds of their spouse being an Indian national.

For students a bonafide certificate from the University or Institute may also be required. For employment or business visa, an undertaking from the respective Indian company may have to be produced for FRRO registration. For those involved in joint ventures, a copy of the approval from the Government of India must be provided to the FRRO. In case of an employment visa involving contracts or agreements, a copy of the approval from RBI will be necessary.

  1. Registration officers will provide the Registration Certificate / Residential Permit (RC/RP)

As a foreigner, once you apply for the Registration, the resulting certificate is called the Registration Certificate or Residential Permit. This is most often valid until your visa validity, or 1 year, whichever is shorter. This RC/RP is your valid address in India and can be used to open Bank accounts, Apply AADHAAR Card, Apply PAN Card etc.

  1. Seeking exemption from registration

There are specific categories which may be exempt for registration such as US nationals who are on a 10-year business or tourist visa and their continuous stay does not exceed more than 6 months in India.

-Foreigners with 5 year tourist visas who are engaged in tourism and who visit India frequently for extended periods of time, and whose visa states that, “continuous stay must not exceed more than 6 months”

  1. Restrictions in certain circumstances

If you are a foreigner coming from yellow fever countries, then you may be required to produce a vaccination certificate from a valid medical authority. You are allowed to visit restricted or prohibited areas by securing a valid permit as visa alone may not be adequate to visit these places. For Ex: North East India, Military and Cantonment Areas.

  1. Online services are now available

A new online system has been recently introduced. This enables foreigners to apply online using an e-FRRO application and to then avail of all the services through e-mail or by post, without the need for an in-person appearance at the FRRO. These are currently available only at 13 FRRO’s. This is much simpler as you can gain access to a portfolio of 27 visa and immigration-related services during your stay in India. The e-FRRO scheme has been operating successfully since February 2018, after it was initially launched in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai and Mumbai. It has since been introduced in other Indian cities as well.

Like most countries, the government rules and regulations may appear to be complex and cumbersome, but with the right guidance, they can prove to be easier to navigate. Remember that the respective government departments are the final arbitrators of all the laws and rules, but we hope this information helps you as you engage with those authorities.

Lexagent Expat Relocations (www.lexagent.net) has helped thousands of expats, hundreds of Multi-national companies and several Chambers of Commerce and Industry to assist, educate, help with the maze of paperwork and dealing with the FRRO’s and FRO’s all across India. Write to us at info@www.lexagent.net if you want more information on this complex subject.

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