The sub-continent of India is one of the most diverse countries on the planet. Home of one of the world's largest populations, India is loaded with history, culture, and world-renowned cuisine. The famous 'Silk Road' brought explorers from across Asia and Europe to the Indian countryside.
Historically, India was known for its trade routes, both to and through the country. Traders from across Eurasia made their way to India, bringing Indian customs and culture back to their native countries. Fabrics and foods became especially prized commodities. When Britain established India as part of its Commonwealth, understanding the English language became a priority for many Indians. In the more recent past, many American corporations began outsourcing some of their work to India due to the large English-speaking population.
Finding paid work as a teacher in a school in India is not an easy task, however volunteers are generally welcomed. While the English language is used commonly throughout India, there is still a need for structured English classes which focus on grammar, sentence structure, and speaking. Accomodations are sometimes provided to volunteer ESL teachers. With the right skills and attitude, it is possible to find a paid teaching job in India with a TESOL certification.
India supports a relatively weak TESOL market compared to other nations, however, accommodations for English teachers are sometimes included or an allowance may be given towards accommodations. Like in many American and Canadian cities, there are plenty of options for ESL teachers looking for an apartment in India.
Most expats new to India prefer to rent furnished apartments, allowing them the freedom to live without shipping their furniture overseas. Apartments are typically leased for 11 months. When applying to rent an apartment in India, applicants will be asked to make a deposit; the amount varies depending on the cost of rent, the interest the apartment has generated from other renters, and its location.
Apartments in India are very similar to their North American counterparts. Many ESL teachers will notice, however, that most apartments in India do not have a bathtub, featuring instead only a shower stall.
One of the biggest expenses an ESL teacher faces before arriving in India is the cost of airfare. The price of a one-way ticket can vary substantially based on the airline, the season, the city of departure, and how early the flight can be booked. If the length of the flight is of little importance, it is common for flights with multiple layovers to have a slightly discounted price tag attached to them.
During the second half of the 20th Century, the Indian government worked to make noticeable improvements to their healthcare system. Part of this process was to increase the amount of medical schools in India and to upgrade medical services in rural India. Although there has since been significant progress within the Indian healthcare system, it is still nowhere near the level of global leaders such as the United States, France, Canada, and Britain.
Prescriptions in India tend to be quite inexpensive, however those traveling there to teach English will want to purchase their own medical insurance to cover larger expenses incurred. All ESL teachers should call their insurance provider to make certain that their insurance policy is valid for a long-term stay in India.
India is a developing nation, and one of the strongest reminders of this is the fact that the country has no universal pension system. Those working for the government, banks, or a company with more than 20 employees pay into a mandatory government-run insurance plan which they can utilize once they are ready to retire. Otherwise, the Indian workforce must rely on private retirement plans; many are unable to plan and save for their retirement. The Indian government is currently working towards implementing a public pension plan that will be open to all Indian workers on a voluntary basis. Those with a current retirement plan are able to retire at the age of 58 regardless of their gender or profession.
Technology and Advancement
Historically, India is known for its contributions to philosophy, religion, and mathematics. Under the rule of Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, the nation underwent a transformation. Nehru believed that India needed to update their technology to compete with that of the Western world. A priority was placed on the development of nuclear technologies, both for power generation and for military purposes. The Indian Institute of Technology was formed to increase the Indian education system's focus on learning skills related to technology. In today's world, technology is a huge part of the Indian economy and provides many Indian workers with employment.
Those teaching English in India may not find technology to be as current as that of America, but still very manageable. ESL teachers living in bigger cities should have little trouble finding the latest in cell phone technology, with options of purchasing phones attached to long-term plans or with pre-paid units of time. Internet connections may not be fast, as most Internet services are operating on dial-up or wireless networks. However, the Internet in India is more than capable of giving those teaching ESL in the country the ability to perform most online activities, including communicating with those at home.
Larger cities often have supermarkets which offer American products in addition to Indian ingredients.
Many American chain restaurants opened in India have found that Indians view American food as unhealthy and lacking taste. These restaurants realized that the best way to find success in the Indian restaurant market is to create menu items which are hybrids between their staple American recipes and Indian cuisine.
As a foreigner in India, it is common for restaurants to serve you food that is less-spicy on the assumption that you would not enjoy it otherwise. If you do enjoy spicy food, it is advisable to make the restaurant aware of this in advance.
Transportation in India
There are plenty of transportation options for those teaching English in India. Expats can travel by everything from airplanes to rickshaws.
A large portion of India's national budget in the 1990s was devoted to upgrading the transportation system to a world-class level. Many Indians travel by bicycle or by foot and rickshaws are still a popular mode of transportation, especially in rural locations. To transport both goods and people throughout India, the country relies on the public transportation system.
A taxi is a quick and safe way to get around an Indian city. Taxi companies face heavy competition from auto rickshaw drivers, which is one of the reasons why Indian taxi rates are some of the lowest in the world. Depending on how busy a pick-up location is, an English teacher can simply put out their arm and hail a cab, or hire one from a taxi stand. For a higher rate, newer taxis may be available and often feature air conditioning.
Railways were first introduced to India for freight purposes in the 1830s. Since then, India's railway system has developed into one of the largest in the world. Rail is a popular mode of transportation, particularily, for those traveling long distances in-country. English teachers will be happy to know that Indian train tickets are highly affordabe as much of the cost of people riding the train is subsidized by the transportation of goods. The Indian rail business is dominated by the state-owned company Indian Railways. Beyond linking travelers to urban and rural destinations throughout India, the rail system ventures into the railways of China, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Bhutan.
In addition to being an excellent way to get from point A to point B, the Indian railway is a great way to explore and experience India and its countryside. Like many rail companies, Indian Railways allows riders the ability to customize their commute with various ticket classes.
- 1A (First class AC) Up to 18 passengers can occupy a 1A-classed train car. It is usually air conditioned and carpeted. More importantly, a 1A ticket provides its riders with a much more private sleeping area.
- 2A (AC-two tier) Travelers on a 2A train will have many of the same features that a 1A ticket holder would have, but the car is more crowded. Sleeping areas have more beds than the 1A, but like its pricier counterpart, bedding is included.
- FC (First Class) The only difference between this and the 2A train lies in the lack of air conditioning on the FC. Depending on the season, this could be a reason for some ESL teachers to upgrade their ticket.
- 3A (AC three tier) A popular ticket with the Indian Railways is the 3A ticket. Similar in design to the 2A, the 3A car offers its passengers air conditioning, but the sleeping area of the 3A is much more crowded than either the 2A or the FC.
- CC (AC chair car) Designed for short-distance commutes, the CC is the most luxurious train ride for ESL teachers making a day trip. The CC is far less crowded than other local trains, which provides its riders with more leg room. One of the biggest selling points of the CC is the fact that it also features air conditioning.
- EC (Executive Class chair car) With rows of four seats, the EC train is a comfortable way to travel a short distance. Like the CC, an EC also keeps the Indian heat away with air conditioning.
- SL (Sleeper class) The most popular ticket for riders of the Indian Railway is the SL ticket. This train has vertically stacked beds which are three layers high. There is not usually any air conditioning on a SL train.
- 2S (Seater class) The 2S train for short-distance commutes holds the same amenities as the CC car, except without air conditioning.
- G (General) Those looking to save money on their train fare may purchase a G ticket, which is the cheapest ticket on the Indian Railways. There are usually no cushions on the seats, which are made of wood. The trains are not air conditioned and typically are so crowded that there are usually not enough seats for all of the passengers.
Compared to other nations, the subway in India is a fairly new commuter option. The Kolkata (Calcutta) Metro was the first subway system in India when it was built in 1984. Today, there are Indian subway systems in Bangalore, Calcutta, Chennai, and Delhi. There are many future metro systems currently in the planning phases.
Just like the train, the bus is another way to travel both long and short distances in India. Bus travel is usually much less expensive than train travel, although you can pay higher prices for newer, air conditioned buses which are quite comfortable. There are both state and privately owned bus companies. Like many governments around the world, India is encouraging its citizens to ride the bus as an affordable and clean way to commute.
Other Modes of Transportation
The bicycle is another way that ESL teachers can travel short distances. Some Indian communities look at the bicycle as an excellent way to get around, while in some regions, the locals view the use of a bicycle as a symbol of lacking importance and power. For this reason, the use of a bicycle is sometimes frowned upon in Indian communities. As well, given the chaotic nature of Indian roads, the bicyle can be an overwhelming and unsafe mode of transportation for some.
In addition to riding traditional bicycles, some Indians choose to ride motorized scooters and mopeds. Indians typically think of a motorcycle when they hear a direct translation of the English abbreviation "bike".
ESL teachers accustomed to driving in North America will most likely find that driving in India can be stressful. In addition to the busy traffic, scarce parking spaces, and often poor road conditions, the main difference that North Americans need to account for is driving on the left-hand side of the road. Automobile sales have skyrocketed over the last few years in India, and there is a definite trend towards the purchasing of smaller, more fuel efficient cars. Larger luxury vehicles are often used as taxis.
Getting a driver's licence in India is a fairly simple process. An International Driver's License (IDL) is a valid driving license for ESL teachers in India. This document can be found at any state automobile licensing office. Once expired, an IDL card can be exchanged for an Indian license by completing a written test; occasionally, a road test will also be required.
Etiquette in India
India has a culture that is both interesting and unique from that of North America. ESL teachers should take the time to properly understand some of the differences between the cultures of the United States compared to those of India.
- Hierarchy is an important factor in Indian work and social relationships.
- The elderly are considered to be more prominent than the young.
- A person's name can vary depending on which region of India they are from:
- People from the Northern region of India often have both a surname and a given name.
- Those from the South do not typically have surnames, they simply use the first letter of the father's name in addition to their given name.
- Traditionally women incorporate their father's name into their own names. Once married the woman usually replaces their father's name with that of her husband's.
- Cash is a common and acceptable gift in India.
- Cash should be transferred by the right hand, as the left hand is considered unclean.
- Dress is conservative for both men and women, although larger cities can be more lenient in this regard.
- It is common for Indians to greet with a handshake, although some conservative cultures will prefer women and men to bow in prayer when greeting eachother rather than making physical contact.
- A lot of Indian cuisine can be eaten with the hands. When eating in India it is important to only eat with the right hand as the left hand is traditionally viewed as unclean.
- An Indian dinner table is another example of hierarchy playing a large role in culture. The most prominent or oldest person is seated and served their meal first.
- Indian dining protocol suggests that one should turn down any offer of food or drink when first asked.
- English teachers should not be offended if they are asked to wash their hands before they eat; this is a common and acceptable request.
- Like in many places, people in India prefer to do business with people they know.
- In order to have a meeting with someone it is essential to make appointments far in advance.
- Usually the final decision in a business proposal rests on the shoulders of a company's owner or manager.
- Business cards are common and are usually offered during introductions.
- Age, education, and previous experience are all factors in business.
Language in India
Hindi and English are the most used out of India's 22 official languages. It was decided that India should incorporate English as an official language in 1963. Government services are available in both of these official languages.
Some people, especially the elderly, are not familiar with English and communicate in Hindi. Below is a list of commonly used Hindi phrases.
My name is______.
Meraa naam ______ hai.
How are you? (to a male)
Aap kaise hain?
How are you? (to a female)
Aap kaisee hain?
Where is the __________?
_________ kahaan hai?
Eating in India
Indian cuisine is known around the world for its generous helping of spices and herbs. The cuisine has also become a staple of vegetarian diets around the world because many Indian dishes are accompanied with rice. The food of India varies from region to region, each incorporating local ingredients. This diversity makes Indian cuisine very unique.
A large portion of Indians classify themselves as vegetarian. In some spiritual villages, meat is entirely banned. However, another large percentage of people eat limited amounts of meat. Many Hindus consider cattle to be sacred; therefore beef may be hard to find in certain areas of India. Traditionally, Muslims will not eat pork because they believe the pig to be an unclean animal.
- Curry - Those from outside Pan-Asia refer to any spicy Indian dish as curry; these meals usually feature vegetables and/or meat. Curry powder was invented by the British to replicate the taste of Indian cuisine. The powder is a mixture of various elements including heavy use of turmeric.
- Naan - Naan is a flatbread resembling a pita which is commonly used to accompany an Indian meal. Food can be stuffed into the bread or it can be scooped up with it. Naan bread is usually served warm with ghee or butter brushed on it.
- Chicken - As mentioned above, meats such as beef and pork have religious and cultural beliefs attached to them. Chicken is eaten in the majority of India, and is included in many popular Indian dishes such as Chicken Tikka and Butter Chicken.
Climate in India
Within the borders of India, English teachers can find deserts, rainforests, and glaciers. The climate in India varies dramatically between regions. Generally, the nation has four different seasons: winter, summer, monsoon season, and post-monsoon season.
The average temperature across India has a noticeable drop with the arrival of winter. Northern regions of India do not experience snow or ice, but regions near the Himalayas experience heavy snowfall and blizzard-like conditions on a regular basis.
India will experience its warmest temperatures during the months of April and May. Temperatures in North India can climb as high as 122°F, while cooler regions average a temperature of 77°F.
Eighty percent of India's annual rainfall is generated during the monsoon season. Monsoons are created by heavy winds gathering weather from the Indian Ocean. Every year, monsoons play a large role in determining the success of the Indian economy. A monsoon season with little rain will hurt the agricultural sector, and therefore, the rest of the country's economy will suffer.
During the post-monsoon season, the Indian landscape has a chance to dry. Light precipitations still occur however, and warm weather is typically seen throughout India.
Natural disasters are more frequent in India than in many other nations around the world. One should be mindful of weather warnings and cautions from locals regarding flooding, cyclones, drought, avalanches, dust storms, and landslides near the Himalayas. People living in coastal regions of India are more likely to experience a cyclone than those in India's interior. Overall, India is a very safe place to teach, but extreme weather should be respected.
Holidays in India
There are three public holidays in India (Republic Day, Independence Day, and Gandhi Jayanti), and plenty of local public holidays. Each region of India has holidays which are unique to the area; they are typically based on Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, and Christian religions.
- January 26th - Republic Day
A holiday to celebrate the launch of the Indian constitution. Every year a large parade is held in New Delhi to mark the occasion.
- August 15th - Independence Day
This holiday marks the anniversary of India's independence from Britain on August 15th, 1947. Cities across India celebrate the holiday in their own way, but there are usually ceremonies centered on the hoisting of the Indian flag.
- October 2nd - Gandhi Jayanti
Celebrating Mahatma Gandhi on the anniversary of his birth. The holiday was adopted into the UN and is known as the International Day of Non-Violence.