possible move to Kolkata

#1 Sep 27th, 2011, 23:10
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  • ksan10 is offline
#1
My husband and I may be moving to Kolkata with in the next 2-4 months for then next 3+ years. I have been doing internet searches on expats living in Kolkata that have been very helpful but was wondering if anyone could help answer some questions I have.

First a little background. We have two kids both school age and are pretty sure we will be enrolling them into the Calcutta International School. Like any mom I am worried about them making the transition, safety (our youngest is only 6 and I still worry about her even here in the states, America). Yes I know, I know ;0) I am also wondering about transportation to/from school, to markets/shopping etc.

I have also done some research (including reading threads on this forum) about places to live. So far I have read that I should look at the Salt Lake, Rajahat(sp?) and EM Bypass areas. Some of the threads I read stated that rent ranges from 15000-25000 but that was back in 2009. Looking now at the http://classifieds.sulekha.com/ website I am seeing rent prices from 25000-85000 with most being in the +/- 50000 range? I have questions on a few things I have seen listed in the ad's and I am not sure what they mean/are. Like what does "water supply", "lift" and "RO water system" mean? I should also mention that my husband is seeking employment with an NGO (non governmental organization) and as such will not be making a large salary like some in the business world who make 100k or more. We will likely be bringing in half that and will still have a hefty mortgage back home as the housing market in our area is not conducive to selling right now.

I am also not sure what to expect when purchasing food/products in a market and getting transportation is in India with negotiating prices and such (it's kind of intimidating as I am not familiar with that).

Sorry for all of the questions, I just feel like we have very little time to prepare for an across the world move, selling most of our belongings, securing housing/transportation/schooling in India and learning a whole new culture and language. So thank you all in advance for any help you can offer :0)
#2 Oct 2nd, 2011, 11:08
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  • dillichaat is offline
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Quote:
I am seeing rent prices from 25000-85000 with most being in the +/- 50000 range? I have questions on a few things I have seen listed in the ad's and I am not sure what they mean/are. Like what does "water supply", "lift" and "RO water system" mean? I should also mention that my husband is seeking employment with an NGO (non governmental organization) and as such will not be making a large salary like some in the business world who make 100k or more. We will likely be bringing in half that and will still have a hefty mortgage back home as the housing market in our area is not conducive to selling right now.
I'm an expat but not based in Calcutta so have no idea about house prices there.

Water supply: means exactly that. There is no such thing as guaranteed access to tap water in India. In many cases you get water by underground tanks, filled by a water tanker and then pumped up to a rooftop reservoir.

Lift: elevator

RO water system: no drinking water that comes out of the tap is guaranteed safe, more often it's guaranteed unsafe. So you need to purify it and one of the way is RO (reverse osmosis). Many systems but what we use here is a wall mounted unit which uses filtration, active carbon filtration, UV-irradiation and finally RO.

The 50000 your husband will be making are rupees/month I assume? Cutting right to the heart of the matter: that's not a lot at all, certainly not if you want some semblance of western comfort and convenience. You mention expats making 100k+/month but frankly, if al I got were 100k I'd be on the next flight out. There's a reason expats in India make more than expat in Tahiti. If you still have a mortgage back in the states I can't see how you'll make it. Cutting right through to the core of the issue: I think it's a lousy deal and I'd pass. YMMV but I'd strongly urge you to come over to India for 2 or 3 weeks and having a look around in Calcutta before making the jump. Look at houses and visit the school for your children etc. Apologies to anyone taking offense at my post, I just tell it like I see it after living/working in Delhi for more than 3 years.
"It is preferable to have a criminal for a servant rather than a fool because a criminal's actions are predictable and you can protect yourself against them, whereas there is no telling what a fool's next move will be.
#3 Oct 3rd, 2011, 06:27
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Thank you dillichaatn for your reply. The $50,000 is in USD so it would be approximately 2455307.8 in rupees a year according to one currency converter I found online. Still a big pay cut for us though as he made between $80k-$90k (k = thousand) last year.

Unfortunately it is not possible to move for 2-3 weeks to look at all of those things. I wish it was though. It would make trying to figure all of this out much easier :0) The move would be sometime mid-late January. Not much time to figure this all out. If it were just my husband and I this would be much easier. but you throw two kids, schooling etc in the mix... I think I saw that the school year is run on a year round model in India is that correct? That would be a big change for my kids as well because they would be moving in the middle of our school year.

The water stuff is so foreign (no pun intended) for us as we live in Seattle Washington and our tap is some of the cleanest in the nation, so thank you for the explanations on that.

Thank you again and any and all advice is very much appreciated!
#4 Oct 3rd, 2011, 10:09
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  • dillichaat is offline
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50000 USD a year works out to about 200k Rs/month, if that's before taxes then you'll have to deduct about 25% or so (can't say for sure as I don't pay taxes in India) and you'll have to find a CA to handle your declaration in the US. As you said, it's still a far shot from a princely salary. Many expats arrive here thinking living will be cheap, which it can be, but only if you are willing/able to live like most local people. Looking around me I see precious few expats doing that (my wife and myself included). Practically speaking I spend about the same on day to day living as when I was living in Europe (excluding rent, see below).

The biggest issue for you will be housing. Can't really help there because I have no idea about the real estate market in Calcutta but to give you an idea: we live in a spacious and nice (but by no means luxurious in western terms) apartment in a good (meaning quiet at night, safe, spacious, greenery, ok electricity supply, relatively central) area of Delhi and it costs about 5800 USD/month in rent (paid by my employer). A friend who lives in Mumbai with his wife and 3 kids pays about 8k/month. Calcutta will be less but the big question is of course how much less for something nice. You can't trust the real estate ads, the only way to know is to go there and visit places yourself. I would strongly advise you to find an expat who knows the ropes who can help you when looking for a place to stay and with the negotiations. Else you'll be fleeced and you won't know which questions to ask (about electricity, water etc). Caveat emptor.

I don't mean to make you guys worry too much but coming from Europe and also having lived in the US (TX and D.C.) for some time, living here is like landing on a different planet, absolutely nothing is the same. Some stuff that would take 10 minutes in the US takes half a day here (e.g. going shopping for groceries, there are virtually no supermarkets in India, and none that fit the western concept). Especially with kids I think it would really be better to send someone on a scouting mission first if at all possible. Better to spend 1500 USD on a ticket now than to find out in 8 months that you can't stand the place and have to pull out or go crazy/divorce. Trust me, it happens. We don't have children but from what I understand the school year runs (at least in Delhi) from somewhere in June until I think April. I assume your children will go to an international school with a western curriculum? Ask them some references from expats that sent their kids there and talk to those people.

Anyway, I don't want to sound too doom and gloomy, after all I'm still here after 3 years and (equally important) my wife didn't pack her bags either. We've gotten used to the way things work here but I do stand by my opinion (cfr my profile info) that there are many places on earth where you can live better/easier than in India (there's also plenty worse ones of course). Also -at least in our case- money soothes many aches. Good luck!
#5 Oct 3rd, 2011, 23:44
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No worries about "doom and gloom". That's what we need to know. We have not entered the negotiation process for pay and benefits yet so all of this is quite helpful. The company does provide housing for at least the first 30 days (maybe more) and the rest of the office (about 30 people) are all native to India so we will have some help once we get there. The $50k is after a cost of living adjustment and taxes and is about $70k before all of those adjustments. We will have a driver for my husband for work and people from the company taking care of getting our kids enrolled in the school. They will also be covering the tuition for both kids as well. On that note what would you suggest we trying to negotiate for a salary (in USD)? What would be a reasonable amount to cover the cost of everyday living and such with a rent in the $50k-$60k (rupees) per month range? This would be quite helpful as we enter into negations with the company.

We have done our share of travel to international places for volunteer work (like Nicaragua and some of the most impoverished areas of Mexico) but only for a few weeks at a time. Obviously there will be a big difference between a few weeks and living there. And India is I'm sure, much different than the others but at least we are not totally unfamiliar with living conditions outside of the US :0)

All of this really does help. I don't want things sugar coated, I want to know exactly the things you are telling us, so thank you for your honesty. It is greatly appreciated.
#6 Oct 4th, 2011, 14:11
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For the salary I don't know, you/your husband will be best placed to judge how much the competition in the same sector make and adjust accordingly.

My own yardstick has always been that whatever happens and wherever I'm posted, it needs to be a good financial deal compared to what I'd make sitting at home else they can count me out.

In my outfit the premium paid to expats takes into account the following elements:

- Geographical distance from 'home'-->obviously this will be maxed for you.
- Standard of living adjustment --> a big bone of contention, make sure you don't sell yourself short there and don't accept the reasoning that this factor should result in lower overall expenses and hence a pay cut. As I said, that only holds true if you want to live like a local. I'd try to negotiate on this and point out that you want to maintain a western standard and way of living. Also, get some prices for electricity, consumer goods etc and point out that those are not so incredibly cheap (where I am in Delhi, electricity is actually more expensive than in my home country and here you need to run A/C 24/7 for 8 months a year).
- Hardship allowance: takes into account societal differences, climate, safety etc. Also a major point of discussion. In my case India is scaled quite high but I know that for instance certain US companies do not consider it a hardship posting at all.

Anyway, don't fall for arguments like 'it's a developing country, household help is cheap, your costs will be lower there' to accept a reduction in pay. Not only is that reasoning only valid under a very limited set of circumstances, what you also need to keep in mind is that what ultimately counts is your saving capacity and that will be measured in USD (am assuming you're not planning to stay indefinitely in Calcutta) and represents purchasing power at home when you go back. India is temporary.

The easiest for you (if acceptable to the employer of course) would be to negotiate a total net package, that's sometimes done and it basically means that you agree on a net salary, free of costs that are paid for by the employer and free of any and all taxes and social security contributions. Make sure the employer also pays for a top-grade medical cover, preferably with a US based company. And agree on the number of paid for plane tickets back home every year.

A last thing: it's hugely helpful if local staff can assist with finding a house or a school. But know that their standards are -for a variety of perfectly honorable reasons- perhaps not your standards so don't delegate too much in the beginning. If you dig around a bit on the site you'll find benchmark amounts for living costs, cost of household help etc.
#7 Sep 25th, 2012, 00:16
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  • dattaaj is offline
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Have you moved to Kolkata yet?? How are you finding it there??

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