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Relocation to India - Your first aid Box!

  • Posted on 01-Mar-2006 21:48:49

    Know India Before you Move

    As an Indian I was asked by many of my friends from different countries about the opportunities, customs, traditions, behavior and much other information at various occasions. This has made me to think of an accumulated answer to all these general questions together which will be very much useful and handy for any foreigner who visit India as a tourist, move in to work or relocate with family for business or employment.

    India used to be a closed control-and-command economy until the early `90s. Since then it has opened its economy, and allows foreign investments in most industries except a few strategic ones. Over the last 15 years, the Indian economy has enjoyed an average annual GDP growth of around 6% which has grown to 7.5% in recent times. This has attracted many multinationals to India which resulted in the increase of foreign nationals moving to India.

    India is a country with 28 states and 7 union territories .There are 18 official languages and more than 300 spoken languages in India. Population as per the censes in 2001 is 1,027,015,247 and total Area of the country is - 1,027,015,247 sqkm

    Tips on General Behavior:

    The traditional way of greeting in India is performed by holding your palms together, as in praying, and saying `Namaste` [nah-mas-tay] or `Namaskar` [nah-mas-kar], with a slight bow.

    While, the Namaste or Namaskar are Hindu ways of greeting, they are also accepted among all other communities. These other communities, however, also have their own traditional greetings. For instance, among Muslims, the traditional greeting is `Salaam-Wale-Kum`, which is responded to by saying `Wale-kum-Salaam.` Similarly, Sikhs traditionally greet each other by saying `Sat-Siree-Akaal.`

    Shaking hands is also an acceptable way to greet people among urban and westernized Indians.

    Among the younger urban Indians, a `Hello` or `Hi` with a wave of the hand is also an acceptable form of greeting when making informal contact.

    In general, Indian society is conservative about heterosexual physical contact and relationships. Refrain from greeting people with hugs and kisses.

    Shaking hands with women, since it involves physical touch, is not universally accepted in Indian society. Among the urban westernized Indians, you may find some Indian women offering to shake hands. However, it is advisable to shake hands only when it is offered. In most other situations, `Namaste` is the safest way to greet--in fact, it will also be appreciated as a gesture of friendliness.

    It is customary to allow women and guests to proceed before yourself.

    The acceptable way to beckon someone is to hold your hand out, palm downward, and make a scooping motion with fingers. Beckoning someone with a wagging finger, with the palm upward is seen as an authoritarian/ condescending signal, and will be perceived as an insult.

    Do not point to someone with your finger, since that is likely to be interpreted as an accusatory gesture. Use of hand/palm or chin is a more acceptable way of pointing towards someone.

    Standing erect with your hands on your hips is likely to be seen as an aggressive and dominating posture.

    Among Indians, it is normal for them to use their hands to gesticulate while talking with each other. Folded hands, or hands in one`s pockets while talking are likely to be perceived as arrogant gestures.

    Whistling and winking are usually perceived as rude and unacceptable behaviors, as they have sexual connotations.

    Talking to a woman who is walking alone is not advisable, since it is likely to be seen as a proposition or other inappropriate gesture.

    Seniority, age and authority are respected in India, both in business and in public life.

    While there are many topics of conversation which Indians find engaging, there are a few which are quite popular. These are: Politics, Cricket, Films and, in recent times, Indian Economic Reforms. Taking the time to do some advance preparation on these subjects can be very helpful in building rapport and establishing one`s acceptance.

    Indians are enthusiastic about discussing politics and political figures. A foreigner can sometimes find the level of political awareness of an average Indian surprising. It is important, however, to recognize that politics in India is very diverse, and the political issues are often regional in nature. Thus, certain political topics may be very local, and it is advisable to get involved only if you know about them.

    Cricket in India is almost a national pastime. India has produced some world-class cricketers [e.g., Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, etc.] and Indians - even those who don`t play it - are passionate about the game. Cricket, for Indians, is not just about the game, but also about the cricketers, who are seen as national celebrities, and are idolized.

    Custom Regulations: If you are planning to relocate to India you should have a basic idea about the custom procedures which will help you to decide what to carry with you and what not.

    Prohibited and restricted Items

    Firearms, ammunition and weapons unless licensed in advance. Obscene literature, photographs or films. Politically undesirable literature and Narcotics.

    Entry for Foreign Nationals

    Business visas (which have to be supported by a sponsoring corporation) are valid for four months stay that can be extended for up to six months. Beyond that, requires a minimum one year work permit (again supported by the sponsoring corporation), and applicants should allow a minimum of three months for the process. A valid work permit is essential prior to the arrival of household goods. Foreign nationals must possess a visa valid for one year from date of last entry, to avail of duty concessions under transfer of residence.

    Entry for Returning Indian Nationals

    Owner should have resided out of India for a minimum period of two years preceding his transfer to India and intends to reside in India for a period of at least one year. Short visits to India in the preceding two years are promoted provided the total duration of stay in India does not exceed six months.

    Household goods

    The owner must be physically in India before customs clearance can take place. Air shipments must be shipped within 15 days and surface shipments must be shipped within one month of owner`s arrival in India.
    All shipments are subject to customs examination and customs duties will be assessed, based on the Customs evaluation.

    In general terms under Transfer of Residence, a TV, VCR, washing machine, cooking range, dish washer, music system, personal computer, air conditioner, refrigerator, deep freezer, microwave oven, video camera, word processing machine and telefax machine may be imported at a duty of 35% of assessed value provided

    1. That the combined value of these items must not exceed Rs. 150,000 (approx. US$ 4250 at 1997 exchange rates).
    2. There must only be one of each such item in the shipment.

    Duplicate items or any sums in excess of Rs. 150,000 attracts 35% duty.
    Other household goods, provided they have been in the owner`s possession and use for one year, will be allowed free entry.


    • Owner`s Passport - Owner must be present in India at the time of customs clearance.
    • List of articles with values and date of purchase.
    • Customs Declaration Form signed by owner.
    • Original Ocean Bill of lading.
    • Diplomatic consignment - Duty free exemption certificate issued by Diplomatic Mission in India.