Crossing boundaries

by Khushboo on November 7, 2011

Whether the place in question is your country of origin or somewhere entirely new, moving always requires some form of adjustment.  From culture differences to tastes, lifestyle, and so on moving to Mumbai required a lot more than brushing up (still a work in progress) on my Hindi skills.  While one post isn’t nearly enough to do justice, here are some notable differences that I’ve found to exist between life in London & Mumbai:

  • Manners aren’t vocabularised.  After living in London for 8 years and developing a habit to say please and thank you before and after almost anything, this was hard to get my head around initially.  Lack of usage of these ‘magical’ words came across as insincere, and in the words of Stephanie Tanner, “rude”. Over time, I’ve come to realise that just because gratitude is shown without fuss, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist at all.
  • The use of the term ‘madam is a used to address a female with respect and although it’s common practice here, it still makes me cringe to be referred to as one.  Hearing someone older than me call me ‘madam’ solely because of class differences makes me feel very uncomfortable.  At the same time, the term probably rolls off their tongues just as easily as the words ‘mister’ or ‘missus’ do mine.
  • Going to the cinema is an educational experience.  Believe it or not, I learnt my country’s anthem at the cinema.  As an attempt to forge unity and an emotional bond between people of India, the national anthem precedes each movie screening.  Consequently, members of the audience are encouraged to show their respect by standing up during those 2-3 minutes.
  • Life is a lot more comfortable here, and by that I mean hiring drivers/house help/washing lady is the norm.  I still cook my meals sometimes but it is nice to have the option to delegate when laziness kicks in.   Also everything is literally a phone call away.  Run out of milk or need packet of pens desperately? Just call your nearest dukaan-wallah (shopkeeper) and it will be delivered to your home within an hour.
  • Unless you make a conscious effort to be active, life in Mumbai can be very lazy.  Whereas in London I would regularly walk to and from the gym, supermarket, bus stop/tube station, up & down Oxford Street and so forth, my journey time in Mumbai is spent in a car.  Both private & public transportation are both affordable and readily available, which is why walking long distances is hardly common practice.  Also the state of the roads here leaves something to be desired.
  • Eating healthily is surprisingly accessible here. Although we don’t have any Whole Foods or WF-equivalent here, we do have various unprocessed snack options.  For example, roasted chickpeas, peanuts, dhoklas (savory ‘cakes’ made from steamed rice & chickpea flour) and freshly roasted corn with the option of chaat masala seasoning, salt, or lemon can all be bought from most street vendors.  For those who enjoy fizzy drinks but are not so much a fan of their notorious ingredient list, fresh lime sodas are the drink for you.  These are as popular Coke in the west and are essentially soda water with lemon juice.  For a sweeter (savory) option, you can order it with sugar syrup (salt) although it’s just as refreshing plain.  Alternatively, fresh coconut water is also always an available.


Which city do I prefer living in? That’s as silly as comparing a Chanel  and Hermes…I’d be happy with either (hint hint ;))!

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracy's Treats November 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Great post! I like how you addressed that even though there’s no fancy schmancy organic grocery stores in Mumbai, you still have access to plenty of healthy foods. I find the same thing when I visit Malaysia. It’s actually easier to eat healthy there compared to the US because almost all the foods you can find (my Grandparents live in a small city) are unprocessed!


Kiran @ November 8, 2011 at 6:33 am

Ditto! I agree with you on Malaysia, Tracy. Because I am a Malaysian myself (currently residing in the States). My mom still goes to the local vegetable markets and the freshness of produce is incomparable. Everything is so affordable in comparison to Whole Foods being so expensive!

I love street foods in India!! There’s many unprocessed options 🙂


Khushboo Thadani November 8, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Freshness is definitely a plus factor here..and also the fact that we have no choice but to eat seasonally! If it’s not in season, it’s not available- 2 ways about it!


Khushboo Thadani November 8, 2011 at 5:31 pm

I think with the number of ‘healthy’ options available in the shops these days, we tend to forget that such products are still processed and probably aren’t as healthy as we think.. When I’m India, I feel like my eating habits are a lot more basic.


Alexandra November 7, 2011 at 7:58 pm

What a great post! I think it’s neat you can see the pros and cons of both cities 🙂


Errign November 7, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Love this! I am struggling with figuring out what to do post graduation and I’m leaning towards trying to work or volunteer somewhere else. I’ve only ever lived in other countries while going to school.


Khushboo Thadani November 8, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Travel would be a great option post-graduation!


Tessa @ Amazing Asset November 8, 2011 at 12:20 am

Loved this post lady! I just learned a whole lot from this! I want to travel more but do have some anxiety around it…obvious ones that I am sure you can guess. But you are inspiring me to get my foot out the door one of these days 🙂


Nada (One Arab Vegan) November 8, 2011 at 5:25 am

Read this on my phone earlier and was oddly excited to comment! I can relate to this big time, especially with vocalising manners. When I was in Egypt this summer my mom pointed out that my please and thankyous which had become second nature to me were a big telltale that I was “foreign”.
I also agree about life being more comfortable. A lof of my friends here think I’m insanely spoiled when I mention having had housekeepers/drivers in the past but as obnoxious as it sounds it’s just the norm in Bahrain. And I love having the convenience of calling up your local supermarket or baraada (“cold store”) as we call them in Bahrain. A world of difference from a country where the shops close at 5:30.

Mumbai snack options sound awesome though – those dhoklas look amazing!


Khushboo Thadani November 8, 2011 at 5:44 pm

ah i always feel so snobbish when I mention my driver or cook on my blog but it’s not like that at all in Mumbai…everyone has one! I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that way! Also I try to roughen up my lingo when I speak to locals (like cab-drivers) otherwise they really try to rip me off!


snapshotsofhappiness November 8, 2011 at 8:40 am

I went on Semester at Sea and got to travel around the world. It’s funny, cause I ate sooo much when I was traveling but I lost weight! Since a lot of the local food was unprocessed and street markets/vendors also had fresh things like fruits and veggies! It’s ashame we have to pay so much for ‘organic’ food so we can be healthier in the US.

If I could, I would definitely love to live in Hong Kong or Japan for a few years!


Khushboo Thadani November 8, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Unprocessed foods are also a lot more digestible which I’m sure helped you lose weight! I have never been to HK or Japan but both are on my “To-Travel” list!


Parita @ myinnershakti November 8, 2011 at 4:47 pm

So the other day I was out and about and someone I came into contact with made a comment about India being so full of poverty and sadness. I had to take a few deep breaths because I was about to lose my temper. I corrected her and said that yes India has poverty, so does the US, but regardless of what income bracket people are in, they always look happy. They smile, they live, and they enjoy. Needless to say, I don’t think she expected that response. But truly, that’s what I love about India, regardless of where you go, people (for the most part) are enjoying whatever life is offering them at the time. You don’t see that as much in the West…and I’ll admit, I’m guilty too.

And I’m pretty sure after typing all this out, you didn’t refer to any of the above in your post, so I guess I’m just venting about the woman I met the other day. 🙂 Sorry!

Great post! I want to come visit you the next time I come to India! 🙂


Khushboo Thadani November 8, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Ah these ignorant comments do my head in so I’m not surprised with how you feel..vent away, my friend! I’ve actually been asked the dumbass question if I ride elephants here! Er, ever heard of a car? And you better come visit me sooon! 🙂 We have GREAT selections for wedding outfits!


Tara November 8, 2011 at 6:12 pm

This was such a great post!! I’ve never lived anywhere else in my life, not even another house, so I can’t really compare things like that. It’ll be interesting to look at differences when I (hopefully) get a chance to live somewhere else. I wish our shopkeepers would deliver us what we need! That sounds nice.


Khushboo Thadani November 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Haha for real…I miss a lot of things about about London but carrying grocery bags isn’t one of them ;)!


caloricandcrazy November 8, 2011 at 11:51 pm

I’ve never been to Mumbai, but I can relate to some of the things you mentioned. Housekeeping and the “madam/sir” thing is still quite common in South India where my relatives live. Although, when I’ve gone to the movies, I haven’t heard the Indian anthem play. Maybe it’s cause I saw Hollywood movies? Haha


Khushboo Thadani November 9, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Now they’ve started playing the anthems before the Hollywood films too!


Sig November 9, 2011 at 5:41 am

Love this! I know Mumbai is one of the more cosmopolitan cities in India so probably a lot more similar to London? I have cousins there and have visited but I imagine living there is completely different!

It is funny though – I get it the other way around that because I live in Aus that *I’m* spoilt because I go out, speak my mind and travel etc. It’s weird.

I think each place has it’s own pros and cons – I love India but don’t know if I could ever live there due to a hundred different reasons that you haven’t mentioned there and I won’t go into in the comments. But never say never too 😛


Khushboo Thadani November 9, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Yeah I’m sure to the locals I would be considered spoilt too because of the difference in mindset. And definitely never say never…I hated visiting India as a kid!


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