Jul 17, 2015
It has been an absolute headache getting settled in India! I hope that the things I share here will be the worst of anything you will ever experience when moving to a new country or city, it certainly has been for me.
Anytime I move, I always try to remember that things are not the way as I am used to and that I cannot expect immediate results. When I moved to Germany I was frustrated at finding a place for so long and some other differences in the ways of doing things. However, it seems like now in India the struggles are much higher. Although I was warned about this and had done a bit of mental preparation, actually being inside of it has proven to be frustrating and kind of makes me never want to move again.
When we first came to Bangalore we stayed with some friends of my gf from a few years ago. They were very nice in letting us stay at their apartment and we had a nice bed under the foosball table. It was honestly quite comfortable but I wanted to get out because I felt I needed my own place to start getting settled in. I was anxious to move out also because the place I was going to work was a 2 hour bus ride from where we were located. But looking back, it was still a good location and we could be happy to be living there.
After many days of deciding where we wanted to live, either close to work or close to the nightlife, we decided to stay at the Guest House on campus. This was a price friendly option and the living there was quite nice. It also satisfied my curiosity about having a maid clean the house and change the sheets, a potentially expensive option if we did this ourselves. We were sold on the idea the second that we saw it. It being only a few minutes walk from where we were going to do our work was also a big plus. However, it seemed to take a long time to get all the paperwork done for this. Perhaps I was just anxious to get out on my own, but every extra day felt like an eternity.
Finally, after a week we were able to move in. This was about two weeks after we had come to India, honestly we thought this would be much worse! The place was furnished but we still had to get the small things that make it comfortable for living: refrigerator, stove, dishes, utensils, and other small stuff like this. This honestly added up and took considerable time to track down. Since we are students and are both cheap at heart, we wanted second hand items which was a bit hard in our neck of the woods. After about 3 weeks of living in the apartment we had collected everything that we needed.
Another issue was internet. Did I mention I am a podcast host and I need Skype quality internet to work? Our internet was based on a wireless one for the whole Guest House and was only available in certain positions through the window. It was extremely difficult to get things done and Skype was out of the question. We eventually tracked down a wireless router after two weeks and set it all up. But it still didn't work! We had to do some fancy configuration and the guys from IT department came to our apartment to set it up. This was a frustrating extra week while we tried to make it work. I was fine without steady internet for the 3 months prior, but now that I was expecting to have good internet, not having it was really aggravating!! Finally it was fixed about 3 weeks after we came and has been good ever since.
The hardest thing we had to deal with so far was getting SIM cards and replacing my stolen smartphone. This is also something that is incredibly important especially when you have gotten settled in a place and want to do more than just wander around. When you want to be in contact with people it becomes much more necessary. Since a residence permit is required to get anything done, it was absolutely horrible that the Guest House didn't provide ours. We honestly spent maybe 20 hours walking around and asking places if we could get it there. We tried all sorts of documentation that could be accepted, followed people's advice which led to a dead end on more than one occasion. Finally, I bought the used phone I wanted and got the SIM card a full month after arriving in India. Since in Germany a SIM card is something you can buy as an afterthought in a supermarket, I never thought it would've taken 20 hours and one month to get this done.
Finally the traffic here is horrible! This is literally the worst traffic I have ever experienced or even heard about! Since we live in the Northwest side of the city and all the cool events happen in the Southeast side of the city, we have to travel across the city to do anything fun. Since rush hour is all day, we have to spend two hours in a bus to go each way. Four hours of transportation really puts a damper on anything you really want to see. This means that our nights out end up being mostly being in a bus and hanging out with friends for a short time before heading back. We want to buy a motorbike which could speed things up but the current monsoon season is slowing that idea down.
Other than that we have mostly gotten settled into our new home until the end of November. It is starting to be more comfortable with all the luxuries of a real home. Now that all of the hassle is behind us we can focus on our work, meeting with friends, exploring southern India and learning Hindi. This feels nice :)
So after all this complaining about the negatives of Bangalore, I have to say that it really is a very nice city. I honestly want to live here for a good part of the year. I recently heard about the 7, 3, 2 way of living where you spend 7 months in one place, 3 months in another, and 2 months in the last. I really like this idea and am currently thinking about doing 7 months of every year in India, 3 months in Germany, and 2 months in the US.
The biggest plus on the side of Bangalore is the price. As a Westerner coming in the cost of living is really nice. Although there are many places where you can still end up paying western prices for a plate of food or beer, most places are very reasonably priced and you can get a plate of food for $1-2 and a beer for $1.50. With rent for the both of us being less than $150 per month and food being our main expense, it is easy to imagine that each of our monthly expenditures for EVERYTHING being less than $300. I had never been in a place that was so cheap and we can live quite well on $300 a month. If we wanted to really pinch pennies (or paisals here in India) we could probably even get that down to $100 a month and still live quite well with restaurants every day.
Another great advantage here is the entrepreneurial spirit. This city is often called the Silicon Valley of India as it is home to many tech companies such as HP, Microsoft, Oracle, various biotech companies, and aeronautical companies. It really seemed that every Indian I had talked to either in the US or Germany had lived in Bangalore for some time. This is because it is so attractive to young educated people as the place to get your foot in the door on a successful career. The environment here certainly reflects that! I attended many MeetUps and it no longer came as a surprise when people said they had lived in the US or that they worked with companies there. Everybody has dreams of going abroad to make 5x more money.
The startup scene is also quite alive. When you get young, intelligent, scrappy people together ideas start to form and dreams of making big businesses bloom. There are dozens of startup events to teach people how to do the founding process and get people thinking. This is a great interest of mine and am excited to be among the next Indian Steve Jobs, founder of Apple. It really was a welcome relief after being in Germany where the startup scene was not nearly as lively, with only about 20 people in my city interested in this sort of thing. Here, there were about 10 events per week, each with at least 30 people attending each of them!
Finally the weather is quite sublime. It is a constant 60-90F (15-30C) throughout the year and is mostly sunny. We did come at a bad time, during the monsoon season where it rains the most but even this is not bad. The rain, although strong enough to need an umbrella, never lasts more than an hour and you can soon get along with your day if you happen to be stuck out at that time.
So in the end, although it was quite a pain in the ass to get setup, it has been starting to pay off. I hope that being around this entrepreneurial spirit will infect me with some good business ideas. I like to say that Bangalore is a combination of the three main Californian cities: San Francisco for the tech startup spirit, Los Angeles for the infrastructure and traffic, and San Diego for the weather.
Hope to see you here soon!