21 Things to Know Before Moving to India
India is what many people picture when they think of Southern Asia. Hot weather, spicy food, and bustling street markets might come to mind, but upon further questioning, you might find yourself lacking in knowledge of the specifics.
If that’s the case, this article is for you! Here we’ll go over some things to know if you’re looking to move to India, or just curious about what goes on over there. Whether it’s small fun facts, or big structural fixtures of the country, we’ve got it all.
1. There are many recognized languages
India has the second largest population in the world, trailing behind China with a tiny difference of just 40 million people. As of this article being written, India has a massive population of 1.35 billion. And, as you can expect from this many people, there are a lot of ways to communicate.
In fact, India finds itself in second once more when it comes to the largest amount of languages spoken within one country. While India recognizes 23 official languages, which is already a staggering number, there are actually a total of 780 languages spoken in the country – second only to Papua New Guinea’s 839.
You might know that India’s most common language is Hindi, but English does have a firm foothold in the more populated centres, so if you only speak English, you should be able to get around.
It's not all spicy food – India has a vast assortment of dishes, each as colorful and delicious as the last
2. It is the second largest English-speaking country
In fact, as an English speaker, you’ll be able to do more than just get around. India claims to be the country with the second largest English speaking population in the world, second only to America.
This is obviously due in part to their massive population, but if you spend any time near even a medium-sized city centre, you’ll be able to find a plethora of English speakers that you can speak to for directions, or in the case of emergencies.
3. Cricket is a way of life for some
India is bonkers about cricket, and has been for some time.
In fact, the Indian national cricket team, known colloquially as “The Men in Blue,” is one of the most prominent teams in the cricketing world, consistently making it to the upper echelons of tournaments and championships – and even walking away with some trophies.
India is also home to the Chail Cricket Ground, the highest altitude cricket ground in the world!
4. Their healthcare system is semi-universal
If a member of the team were ever to wound themselves playing cricket, they might not need worry about lofty medical bills. After all, India’s healthcare system is kind of universal.
There is a government system funded by taxpayers, but there’s a bit of a discrepancy between the quality of the public healthcare and private hospitals. These private hospitals are genuinely high quality, but you’ll want to make sure you have insurance, or deep pockets.
Colorful buildings like this Varanasi neighborhood are very common throughout India
5. India is the world’s biggest democracy
With a population so big, India can take pride in being labeled the world’s biggest democracy.
That’s right – everyone’s favourite system of government is thriving over in India. With such a large voter base (every single citizen within voting age gets a vote), the government can really get a feel for what the people desire.
6. It can snow in India
Thanks in no small part to Indiana Jones or James Bond-esque films, it’s pretty easy to form a view of India that consists mainly of one long road of bustling crowded markets in intense, tropical heat. However, this is obviously not the case.
In fact, in a country as geographically large as India, there is bound to be a lot of meteorological variation. So if you’ve wanted to experience Indian culture but find sweltering heat particularly unappealing, you can go to one of the many regions of India familiar with cold weather and snow.
A few places that come to mind are Auli, which is praised for its skiing and snowboarding; Sonamarg, which has some amazing snowy vistas; and Ladakh, which allows you to hike along a frozen river. Keep in mind, a lot of these places do melt in the middle of the year, so you’ll have to schedule appropriately.
7. Europe has a shameful history in India
In the 1600s, the British Empire, the Portuguese, and the Danish all converged onto India for the sole purpose of trade.
For westerners, India was a new frontier in terms of various crops and fruit – the big draw being the various spices that could only grow in the Indian climate. In fact, these trade routes became so profitable that, at its peak, the East India Trading Company – the main company responsible for importing and exporting these spices – had an armed forces twice the size of the British Army.
As you could expect from an influence as big as that, Britain left a lasting (and deeply controversial) impression on India, with plenty of residual culture being left behind once they had relinquished their hold on the Indian colonies. While the colonies in India were once considered (by Brits) to be a proud expansion of the British Empire, under today's moral microscope, these rampant claims upon land and people are a dark mark on British history.
8. Their currency is the rupee
This might be common knowledge, but you might not know exactly how it works. One rupee is less like a single dollar or a single pound, and more like a penny. If you’ve ever converted your money to the Japanese yen, they’re pretty similar, as neither currency has decimal points.
If you’re thinking of moving to India, you’ll probably need to convert some of your American dollars into rupees.
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The famous Taj Mahal overlooking the bustling cityscape
9. They were the first known culture to use sugar
Sugar is one of the most important ingredients we have as a society. It’s in a lot of things that we don’t even think about, like ketchup. And the first recorded culture to recognize and utilize the versatility of sugar was India.
When you go that far back, you can never be too sure on the legitimacy of the claims, but the earliest records claim that some settlements were processing sugar in the 4th-3rd century BC. Looking at such early success with milling crops, you can see how a society based heavily on agriculture would arise.
10. They have the largest percentage of vegetarian citizens
A large aspect of Hinduism (the country’s biggest religion) is vegetarianism. Due to this, a massive percentage of India’s population is vegetarian (or vegan). A study predicts that the total percentage of vegetarians is between 31-33% of the population.
When their population is as big as it is (around 1.3 billion), this is a colossal amount of people who don’t eat meat – especially when compared to the runner up, Brazil, which has a vegetarian population of 14%.
11. They have a spa for elephants
Continuing the love for animals, India is also home to the Indian Elephant (hence the name). And to pay appropriate respect to these gentle giants, an elephant spa has been established, where elephants can come and get a nice cold shower.
Summers in certain parts of India can be brutal, so to be a large, darkly coloured animal in this heat can do a number on these elephants’ health. Not only does the spa offer cold showers and scrubs, but they even provide some proper pachyderm pampering in the form of massages!
12. They have a reverse-gravity hill
Hopefully that heading caught your eye. Yes, India has a hill that allows you to defy gravity. Unfortunately, you won’t be flying around by yourself, but it’s still a bizarre phenomenon.
If you were to go to the “bottom” of this hill and put your car into neutral, you would slowly roll “uphill,” as though you were being pulled magnetically. To make it more mystical, people claim this happens due to the certain magnetic properties of the area, but the answer is a lot simpler (and perhaps a bit disappointing).
In truth, the hill is a simple optical illusion. The surrounding area and slopes give the illusion that you are going uphill, when in reality, the hill is actually on a downhill slope. A bit less fun than anti-gravity or powerful magnetic forces, but still a neat trick!
13. Their space program has made important strides
When thinking about advancements made in the cosmos, most people typically picture the US and Russia doing their best to reach the end of the universe. But other countries have made huge strides in the realm of the stars as well – one such country being India.
For example, India was the first country to identify water on the moon, which sounds like the kind of thing we’d know before going there, but was actually only confirmed in 2009. They also succeeded in their maiden voyage to Mars, while other countries needed a few attempts to get it right.
14. The air in Mumbai is very, very unclean, but they’re working on it
One of India’s biggest downfalls is its problem with pollution. Whether it’s plastic in the rivers, or the smoggy air in the cities, there are definitely some environmental issues that the government needs to address.
The government isn’t blind to the climate, however. For example, one day last year, they planted 220 million trees in a single day. Hopefully they can make more and more progress looking forward.
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus is a UNESCO heritage site, and what a sight it is!
15. Their national animal is the tiger
Tigers are extremely cool, and this fact was well recognized when India decided to choose a tiger as their national animal. India is home to most of the remaining (unfortunately endangered) tigers on the planet.
As the tiger is its national animal, India goes to great lengths to protect these creatures from poachers, encourage breeding, and raise awareness and funding to do what it takes to allow these beautiful big cats to survive.
16. They export a large amount of the planet’s milk
You might know that India holds the cow in high regard, even considering it to be a holy animal. Giving milk is a very maternal and caring act, and Indian culture respects the cow for its gentle and loving nature. It runs so deep that many Indians do not eat beef – even those who are not vegetarians.
But then what do they do with all these cows? Well, according to Dairy Global, India had a massive dairy-exporting year in 2019, exporting tens of millions of dollars worth of milk – weighing in at 123,000 tonnes of product. And that’s just what they’re exporting – there would be even more consumed within the borders of the country.
17. They’re very receptive to refugees
The political conflicts within the Middle East/SouthEast Asia are not exactly secrets. There are a lot of serious problems in these regions – everything from social persecution to all-out war.
That is why India has taken it upon themselves to accept as many refugees as they can. In fact, they’re so well known for taking in refugees, there’s a whole Wikipedia article focused solely on the refugees they accept.
War refugees from Afghanistan, or persecuted Tibetan monks – India has a heart as big as its square mileage, and is willing to take anyone looking for aid.
18. Don’t go to North Sentinel Island
If that heading gave you some ominous chills, then good. But you don’t really have the option of going there in the first place, as the island is completely cordoned off and inaccessible – under direct protection from the Indian government.
The North Sentinel Island is home to a completely isolated tribal community, who are passionately protective of their home. The only two instances of someone approaching their island have ended in a hail of arrows and death. Whether you’re a tourist, a missionary, or an explorer, it’s best to mark this island with a big red X (not the treasure map kind).
19. Their primary religion is the world’s biggest polytheistic religion
There are a lot of religions in India. Whether it’s the imported Christianity, the proximity to the Middle Eastern Islam, or Asianic relgious influences from the North, these religions all have representation within India.
India's own religion, however, is Hinduism, and it has India’s largest percentage of religious followers – clocking in at just a hair under 80% of the country’s population.
What’s unique about Hinduism, however, is that it’s the largest polytheistic religion still widely practiced. Polytheism is the worship of multiple gods rather than just one. While we won’t weigh in on the debate on whether Christianity is a mono or polytheistic religion (some people argue that the Holy Trinity substitutes three different subjects of worship, while others argue that they’re all parts of one whole), there’s no denying that Hinduism’s clearly defined and depicted beings are a unique form of religion in today’s world.
20. Bollywood is a bustling industry
You’re obliged to at least mention Bollywood when discussing India. You may have seen a Bollywood movie or two, or maybe just some clips online of some particularly over-the-top moments. But behind the dancing and occasional silliness, Bollywood is a powerhouse of an industry.
In fact, in 2016, Bollywood raked in the equivalent of 2.31 billion American dollars. That’s a staggering amount of money no matter who you are, so while it’s easy to view Bollywood as a novelty, it pays to keep in mind that it is a financial giant.
21. They set up a voting booth in a forest for one man
Ending on a fun one, we’ll mention how the Indian government went out of their way to establish a voting booth for a single citizen who lives in the Gir forest in Western India.
Guru Baharatdas Darshandas is a monk acting as a caretaker at a religious site within the Gir forest nature enclosure. While many people pass through on a pilgrimage, Darshandas is the only person to live in this area, which means that the government went out of their way to establish a polling location just for him. And since he votes in every election, that station always has a 100% turnout.
If that doesn’t show you how the Indian government cares for the voices of their citizens, nothing will!
So there you have it – some helpful facts as well as a bit of trivia for anyone looking to learn more about India. If you found this article due to a possible move to India, why don’t you check out some shipping companies who can tell you how much that will cost?