The question is so common since our repatriation that we’ve joked about creating business cards summarizing our answers in an easy-to-read bulleted format. It’s the ice breaker du jour—a convenient, six-word sentence uttered by virtually everyone familiar with our recent two-year hiatus from U.S. residency. It’s a crowd-pleasing, comfortable, mildly depressing party question that evokes a fair bit of stammering, questionable statements, and creative explanations on our part. It’s a question you shouldn’t ask lightly—because you might just get an answer that surprises, or delights, or possibly sets one off balance in a way that leaves you wondering why you asked in the first place.
Among domestic help, maids are arguably the second most important member of the expat staff. India is a breeding ground for bacteria, ash, pollution, and dust, all piled atop normal wear and tear like heaping mounds of peanuts on an environmental ice cream sundae that sends Oscar the Grouch cowering in the depths of his garbage can. The best way to keep up with the tidal wave of needed cleaning is to hire the right maid.
A driver is not just a driver, he is an expat’s Indian ambassador. Finding a good driver takes effort and a fair bit of luck, but it’s worth every minute spent preparing, interviewing, evaluating, and praying on the off chance Ganesha will remove any obstacles to hiring the best of the best. Unfortunately, even the most diligent expat can end up with a dud that is far more trouble than he’s worth. But once the right driver is hired, everything India is easier.
House hunting in India is an exhausting mix of sightseeing, assessment, and ultimately, decision-making. Some organizations provide guidance in the form of a handler to ensure the would-be expat doesn’t cause an international incident, while other people will arrive with nothing more than an outdated map and best wishes. Both use-cases provide an opportunity to share some hopefully beneficial information.
This short article was published several months ago in My Times, a special Times of India edition dedicated to cities. It is shared here for anyone who missed the hard copy edition or just wants another perspective on Hyderabad life.