Moving abroad is no easy process. The planning involves visas, accommodation and often new jobs. But, once you’re settled in your new community and the country’s buzzing culture, it’s all worth it.
Once the novelty and ‘holiday feeling’ wears off, it might be an idea to look into the ways in which you can maintain a healthy lifestyle. From understanding India’s healthcare system to maintaining a balanced diet and getting involved in the country’s latest fitness trends, here are four ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle in India.
Get to grips with the healthcare system
In India, you can eat as healthily as you like and exercise daily, but ill health can strike at any time and to anyone. To make sure you’re prepared for these eventualities, take some time to research your options for healthcare and find out what steps you need to take if you fall ill – whether you become seriously sick or simply feel under the weather.
India has a varied healthcare system. Expats should be able to find an English-speaking medical professional or doctor in major cities such as Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. For those living in more rural areas, note that you may need to travel long distances to see a doctor. Most people choose to go private in India due to a lack of governmental funding. In order to avoid escalating costs, expats often invest in international health insurance. Pharmacies tend to be cheap compared to western countries, with most types of medicine readily available.
If you find yourself requiring emergency assistance, you can call for an ambulance by dialling 102. However, traffic congestion is a major issue in highly populated Indian cities, and motorists tend not to take the siren of an emergency vehicle as seriously as drivers in the West. Taking private transport can be a faster way to get to the hospital.
Take care when you indulge in the flavours of India
India’s food culture involves some of the most iconic and diverse cuisine in the world, with a distinctive palate between the north and south of the country and a vast array of flavours to try in any one trip. Now that you’re an expat, you’re going to have the time to get down to some serious exploring of the taste buds! India has influenced a huge range of global cuisine, but there’s far more to know about a typical Indian diet than simply what you’ve eaten as a takeaway on a Friday night; every region has its own traditional dishes.
Much of India’s cooking is plant-based meaning that traditional dishes are often vegetarian, and usually use fresh and healthy ingredients. For instance, a fresh vindaloo from Goa (west India) is a fiery mix of healthy spices, wine, garlic, chillies and vinegar, offering a fantastic source of protein. It therefore may be easier to stay away from processed foods than it is in the west, great news for your health.
It’s no secret though, that many traditional plates involve deep frying (often in ghee – clarified butter) – samosas, dosas, papadums are all delicious additions to your spicy dish. Embrace them, but it is important to enjoy them in moderation. Balance these types of foods with fresh or boiled foods.
Take primary precautions to avoid ‘Delhi Belly’
With a change of culture is likely to come a change of diet. Sometimes your body may struggle to handle this, particularly at first. It may be a good idea to gradually develop a habitual taste for traditional Indian food and always try to drink bottled water, to ensure that your body isn’t given a shock it doesn’t want. Buying packaged food items that are fresh can be a good way to ween your body into the cuisine; later you may feel ready to explore street food and markets.
With between 20% and 40% of India’s population opting for a vegetarian diet – the lack of clarification due to the fact that many Indian Hindus do not consider those to eat eggs to be veggie – there are plenty of tasty options around without the risk of bad meat and fish. If you’re not a vegetarian you may eventually want to eat meat, but it may be an idea to stay safe to start with. You will soon suss out the ‘clean’ stores, stalls and restaurants.
As long as you are regularly using sanitiser and washing them before and after, eating food with your hands can be a more hygienic way to eat than using a restaurant’s fork and spoon – particularly if you are eating in a more obscure local establishment. It’s also a fun way to participate in Indian culture. But remember, eating with your right hand is very much the norm as the left hand is considered unclean.
Get onboard with India’s latest fitness trends
Historically, fitness was all about the will to survive through hunting – we therefore saw the likes of wrestling, bodybuilding and powerlifting as key parts of Indian fitness culture. Today, the industry has extended primarily to a focus on well-being, health and confidence. Think yoga, kickboxing, resistance training, pilates, aerobics and the relatively recent craze of Zumba and you’ve got a good idea of the current fitness scene in India.
An increase in incidences of obesity and related conditions such as diabetes has led to the growth of gym and health club memberships, with many global corporations installing in-house gyms within their office premises. Boot Camp training is becoming increasingly popular for those who wish to really hit the exercise hard, and many use wearable fitness devices to set themselves daily goals.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle in India is all about learning what’s healthy and where you can get it, and staying aware – whether with regards to your immediate health or your long-term wellbeing. India is vast and diverse so there’s lots to learn – but once mastered it offers an incredible expat experience.