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October 17, 2011

Safe ≠ Safe Abroad: InterNations and Safety for American Expats in India

By Guest Blogger: Valentina Griffin

The aspects of safety vary across the world. They are influenced by the culture of the people and the layout of the city, as well as by politics and the government’s role in society. Americans are very particular about their sense of safety. Frequently when strolling down streets, a police patrol car will roll by just to check out the general area. When law enforcement fails, many cities in the US have a “neighborhood watch” program, where residents take turns patrolling the area for any suspicious behavior. In addition, video cameras are installed almost obsessively in public places and most Americans carry some sort of pepper spray or alarm system with them when walking about alone.

As a whole, Americans are also very hygienic. Disinfectant hand soaps or lotions, room spray, astringent cleaning materials, sanitizing wipes, etc. are all part of the daily routine. It comes as a shock and repulses most Americans when someone does not wash their hands regularly, shower daily, use deodorant, and wear new clean clothes every day.

These are all things that are not necessarily the norm in a foreign country and which may make an American’s stay abroad more difficult if he/she insists on taking this clean, hygienic and generally safe atmosphere for granted.

India, for example, is a country to which American safety standards cannot be applied, due to its enormous population. As safety and society are closely intertwined, one must first look at the Indian society in order to come up with some tips on safety that an expat living in India should heed.

It is impossible to avoid air, noise and water pollution in overpopulated metropolises. India is full of these. Hand in hand with overpopulation and poor government infrastructure comes poverty, which inevitably leads to a number of illnesses that cannot be avoided. Furthermore, due to the poverty stricken state of many Indians, the petty crime rate is relatively high – pick-pocketing and sometimes more serious burglaries are common.

As an expat in India, it is important that you be aware of the following safety and health issues, and pay attention to these tips:
  • Water is polluted in India. Do not drink from the tap and buy purified water at stores. If you have none, boil it before using it – even to brush your teeth!
  • Many Indians believe washing fresh vegetables in a salt and turmeric solution will kill bacteria and worms. Therefore, be careful when eating salads or other vegetables at restaurants and fresh from the market. It is recommended to wash these at home with boiled water and then slice them open to inspect any worms hidden within.
  • Cook meat fully and try to stick to the freshest products at all times, including produce.
  • Be sure to check which immunizations are needed for India and get them before moving abroad.
  • Avoid wandering through streets in the dark and taking unnecessary short cuts.
  • Be aware of Indian laws and your rights in India. Avoid breaking the law and getting into heated discussions with police or any other city officials.
As there is so much information and issues regarding health and safety in India, some expats may feel overwhelmed. Luckily InterNations – the world’s leading online social network for expats – is able to offer its members abroad in India some sort of support network. With more than 300,000 members worldwide in almost 300 cities across the globe, InterNations has a very large member base in India.

There are over 10,000 expat members spread out across this large continent in the cities of Bangalore, Calcutta, Chennai, Gurgaon, Mumbai, New Delhi, and Pune. Monthly meetings, as well as InterNations Forums on housing, travel, expat Q&A, etc., help members gain footage in a country that is so different from theirs. Tips may be shared and information exchanged online; InterNations members have made valuable friendships and business partnerships.

As there are also a number of Indian citizens in the InterNations India Communities, they are most likely willing to lend a helping hand to expats who have just arrived in India and are still unsure of the cultural and safety values, ensuring that all expats in India remain safe, healthy and happy to live in India!

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Previous 4 Guest Blog Posts on Authentic Journeys:
Culture Shock - Is it Possible to Be Prepared for Everything?
4 Ways to Handle Culture Shock
Getting Into the Groove of Life In India: Three Pieces of Friendly Advice (by Vidya Hebbar and Jennifer Kumar)

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.