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A Delhi survival guide by expats for expats

Many expats in Delhi have been taking private tuitions in Hindi to deal with demanding maids and overcharging autowallahs. Now, they have a first-of-its-kind Delhi survival guide — The Shanti Delhi Guide — which gives insights into the city, its people, police, traffic, and culture, from the perspective of the expats. Manoj Sharma reports.

delhi Updated: Oct 31, 2010 01:11 IST
Manoj Sharma

Many expats in Delhi have been taking private tuitions in Hindi to deal with demanding maids and overcharging autowallahs. Now, they have a first-of-its-kind Delhi survival guide — The Shanti Delhi Guide — which gives insights into the city, its people, police, traffic, and culture, from the perspective of the expats.

The guide, launched on Saturday, has been brought out by Shanti Travel, an Okhla- based travel company run by two French expats Alex Le Beuan and Jeremy Grasset.

While the guide has the usual listings of restaurants, malls, schools and hospitals, what makes it 'different' are the cultural and behavioral lessons it imparts to the city's growing expat community.

Take this bit of advice on what headshake by Indians could mean: "Making an up-and- down nodding motion means 'yes' in most culture and countries. A headshake from left- to- right most often will mean 'no'. Indians, however, have another, unique gesture, namely shaking their heads in a semi-circular motion. This 'rotational headshake' can mean anything such as 'yes' 'maybe' 'understood' or even 'I could not care less' or simply 'no'. The same chapter under the head 'looks and stares', advises: "Women and some men will find Indian eyes insisting and even oppressive. The best way of getting used to the looks and stares is to think you are a well-known model, walking the ramps...."

Under the head, 'dressing and undressing', he guide advises women to be modest and not expose their cleavage or shoulders as it is perceived by Indian men as erotic.

"It's not a travel guide. The idea behind the guide is to look at the expats' problems and needs. Our aim has been to project the true picture of the city and its people. This guide will help new expats understand the city," says Arnold Duijzer, lead author of the guide.

The guide also advises expats to not put too much faith in the guards guarding shops, ATMs, offices, as many of them are "old and overweight and they sometimes have big, rusty guns that probably have not been used since India's Independence". The guide, being distributed free of costs among expats, also offers real life experiences of expats living in Delhi, an auto-rickshaw rate chart, distance chart, and rental values in various part of the city, a compilation of FAQs about Delhi by expats, a lesson in Hindi alphabet, useful phrases in Hindi. The author believes the guide will help beat the blues of an expat's life.