Published 10th September 2019
For newly-qualified teachers of English as a Foreign Language, the opportunities can seem endless. Many teachers will be lured by the beautiful beaches of Thailand, or the generous salaries of South Korea, or the party lifestyle of Spain. You know, the usual suspects when it comes to top TEFL destinations. Other teachers will be attracted to destinations that might not be on the top ten lists but which hold just as many attractions as those that are. India is one of those countries. If you’re considering moving to India to teach English as a Foreign Language. This is what you need to know about moving to India.
Expect culture shock
Culture shock is a very real phenomenon and it can hit you quite hard if you’re not expecting it. You may already be aware of some of the ways in which India is totally different from where you live but living in a place and experiencing all these things on a daily basis can take its toll. Expect the transition to be hard and make sure you have coping strategies and support systems in place for when you’re feeling homesick.
Learn the language
This is obviously a good tip no matter where in the world you are going, but it’s slightly more complicated when you’re going to India. Of course we want to be able to speak the local language in order to communicate with our colleagues at school and our neighbours, but in India you are more than likely to be able to get by perfectly well with English. Being able to speak the local language just adds that little bit of respect when dealing with Indians.
The problem is, which language do you learn? It might seem to make sense to learn Hindi but only 30% of the country speak it – mostly in the north. With so many languages in one country you actually need to be pretty sure of where you’re going so you can identify which language would be the most appropriate for you to learn.
Watch what you eat
Delhi belly is no joke. Indian food is probably very different from what you are used to. When you arrive in India there is no need to prove yourself by eating thalis every day. Take it slow and let your body adjust to the different flavours of Indian food. And don’t drink the water!
Be mindful of how you dress
Aim for modest chic. It might be hot (okay, scorching) but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to wear a crop top or vest. Dress modestly and you will be shown more respect and not given as much attention as you would otherwise. This means covering your shoulders, your midriff and your knees and not wearing anything too form-fitting. Not surprisingly, you’ll find wearing loose-fitting, long, flowy clothes will be the coolest way to dress anyway.
Add bargaining to your skill set
Shopping in India is much harder than in other places! Haggling is expected and, especially if you are a foreigner, necessary unless you want to pay up to ten times the price of an item. As the vendors get to know you and learn how to haggle like a pro it’ll get easier, but if you find yourself getting ripped off a few times in the beginning, chalk it up to experience and learn from your mistakes.
Surrender to the traffic
India’s roads are crazy. They are busy, noisy and seemingly lawless. You are not going to be able to change that, so try not get too worked up when travelling on the roads. A good rule of thumb to save your sanity is that whenever you have an appointment, calculate in an extra half an hour for traffic.
Driving on India’s roads is one thing but taking public transport is another crazy adventure altogether. Trains and buses can be chaotically overfilled and the underground system is confusing even for Indians. If you find yourself more lost than when you set out, don’t worry, you’ll eventually get the hang of it!
Patience is a much-needed quality in India. If you are told your suit will take a week to be tailored, don’t expect it before two weeks. It’s all a matter of expectations, really. Adjust those and you won’t get frustrated with waiting.
India is a country with many hidden gems. It may hold its fair share of frustrations, but they are all worth it for the amazing experience you will have in this fascinating country.