I was very happy to return to my hotel in Mumbai recently to find the April edition of the Culturama magazine sitting on my desk. The magazine is published by Global Adjustments, a cross-cultural destination services company.
In early March the company had reached out to me to write an article for the magazine and I was extremely delighted to oblige. The magazine has a feature called “Look Who’s in Town’ each month and after discovering my blog online they thought I might like to submit an article for consideration. My brief was to write about my experience of moving to Mumbai.
The printed article can be read via this online link but below is my slightly longer version.
British-American Sue Oxley came to Mumbai for a two-week trip and 18 months later she is now calling this city home.
In September 2013 Sue’s husband was asked to visit Mumbai to advise on a joint venture between BP and Reliance Industries. As recent empty nesters they thought that a few weeks in a part of the world they had never explored might be a fun adventure. The Oxley’s’ never imagined that 18 months later they would still be living in a 5 star hotel in Mumbai.
This story is not new to Sue. In 1999 her family moved from their home in England to Houston, Texas for a two-year assignment. Fast forward 16 years and they are now American citizens with their three daughters living in three separate US states. This flexible approach to life has helped Sue adapt to her time spent in Mumbai, as it is quite different from her previous experiences in London and Houston. “Even with the best of intentions going into this move, there have certainly been some challenges to overcome. If I had my time again there are a few things I would change so that I hit the ground running a little quicker.”
How to make the most of your time in Mumbai
Keep a positive mindset. It’s amazing how people have such a strong opinion about a country that many have never even visited, both negative and positive. Go into your move with an open mind and discover for yourself all that Mumbai has to offer.
Join an expat group. There are many groups in Mumbai where you can meet people in the same situation that you find yourself. These groups provide a valuable resource as they offer a social outlet but will also know where you can buy certain items, how Mumbai works, and provide support, as they understand that transition can be challenging. The American Women’s Club of Mumbai is open to all nationalities, learn more at www.awcmumbai.org. Mumbai Connexions is a group of expatriates who give their time and resources to support each other and their community, learn more at www. Mumbaiconnexions.com
Don’t stress in traffic – Getting from A to B in Mumbai is time consuming (due to the heavy congestion on the roads), noisy (as Mumbaikars love their car horns) and seemingly disorganized (to a Westerners eyes). Learn to relax when in the backseat, as your frustration will not get you to your destination any quicker, just leave yourself a little extra time and instead have a camera ready to capture all the amazing sights you will see along the journey.
Be open to new adventures. Use your time to try something new. When you think of India, yoga comes to mind and there are certainly many opportunities to take classes but India has so much more to offer. Photography lovers will find a wealth of opportunities in this colorful country. NGO’s (Non Governmental Organization’s) provide much needed support and are always in need of additional people willing to get involved. Learn a few words in Hindi so you can surprise your driver or housemaid.
Take time to understand the culture. All the guidebooks will list out the top 10 places to visit in Mumbai but when you are given the opportunity to live in this vibrant city then take the time to dig a bit deeper and explore what really makes this ever-expanding financial capital of India tick. Hindu festivals seem to be almost daily with Holi and Diwali two of the bigger celebrations, but Mumbai also has sizable Christian and Muslim communities plus Zoroastrians, Jains and Buddhists.
Discover Mumbai’s history. Most people know about the British influences in Mumbai but discover how life changed following India’s Independence in 1947. With the new Government coming into power last year, you find yourself at an exciting time for a country on the cusp of so many changes. The Indian Tourist Board offers guided tours of many sites with extremely knowledgeable guides that will fascinate you with their stores.
“When I’m asked by friends to describe my time in Mumbai I usually reply that the city is an overload to my senses. The vibrant colors displayed on the beautiful saris worn by the ladies walking down the streets, the cacophony of car horns that seems to be never ending, the pungent smells from the street vendors or from the lack of sanitation, and the huge variety of amazing foods on offer that are rapidly expanding my waistline. My time in Mumbai has changed me, made me look at life differently and I will be forever thankful for this opportunity”.