Hyderabad is very much a city where two ways of life — ancient and modern — exist side by side.
Sophisticated five-star hotels, shopping centres, eating places and entertainment facilities sit next to a maze of markets and tiny houses while large vehicle-choked roads meet narrow ancient lanes.
You’ll find the people here are very warm and friendly and, since becoming involved in the booming IT industry, Hyderabad is starting to become much more cosmopolitan.
If you are heading for Hyderabad, hold on tight: this is a city on the move. Nicknamed "Cyberabad," the city has taken major strides since the early nineties in establishing itself as an Indian hub for the IT, pharma and biotech industries. The city is also now a major centre for higher education, boasting a staggering 13 universities and business schools.
The capital of Andhra Pradesh is cleaved in two by the River Musi and crowned by the magnificent lake Hussain Sagar. Hyderabad is flanked by its twin city, Secunderabad, which lies immediately north of the lake.
Prior to partition, Hyderabad was the capital of one of the largest and richest princely states of India. Its cultural heritage from this period strongly persists today and is one of the city’s major attractions. The city is an expat heaven; here you can find literally hundreds of gyms and yoga centres, a gratifying selection of pubs (such as 10 Downing Street) and, famed for being a city of literature, it boasts a decent smattering of foreign bookstores and book vendors on the streets. The shopping here is fantastic; whether you are seeking out organic produce or Guess jeans, you’ll generally always find what you are looking for.
India’s 4th-largest city has its fair share of slums, poverty and pollution. Hyderabad’s streets, positively choked with motorbikes, rickshaws and buses, are a constant peril. But its downsides are more than compensated for by the city’s dynamic tapestry of local, mouth-watering cuisines, colourful cultures and by its warm, welcoming residents. Hyderabad is a forward-looking, dynamic city that is easy to regard as home.
What is special or unique about your city?
Hyderabad is famous for its biryani (a dish of rice), pearls, bangles embellished with sparkling semiprecious stones set in lacquer and the Charminar, an iconic monument and mosque.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
The first impression newcomers typically have is of a fascinating combination of the ancient and the modern India. Sophisticated five-star hotels, shopping malls, eating places and entertainment facilities on the one hand, contrasted with a maze of markets and tiny houses representing a bygone era. Hyderabad is a city, which is a busy, noisy place where narrow ancient lanes meet large vehicle-choked roads. The two layouts of buildings, way of life of the people and the varied atmosphere exist side by side.
Are these impressions likely to change?
Not likely. Most expatriates have been lucky enough to experience the charm of Hyderabad and report fond memories that will last a lifetime.
What is the local language?
Hyderabad is a melting pot of various Indian cultures. The main languages spoken are Telugu, English, Urdu and Hindi besides the famous Hyderabadi Hindi/Urdu. Unlike other areas, Urdu spoken in Hyderabad is unique, as it has a blend of Mumbai and Deccan accent. In hotels and restaurants, staff speak English as well as Hindi. One can easily communicate with the minimum knowledge of Hindi or English.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
As mentioned above, English is well understood and one can easily get on with life without knowing any of the local languages.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
The predominant religion followed is Hinduism. As such, following the customs and culture followed by Hindus and not offending their sentiments will be appreciated. For example, you should remember to wash hands after touching footwear. No footwear is allowed at places of worship. Most locals would like you to keep your shoes out of the house entirely, especially in the kitchen.
The following are some other tips to avoid offending the residents of Hyderabad:
- Status is often determined by a person's age, university education and profession. Be aware that government employment is considered to be more prestigious than private business.
- It is acceptable for men and woman to wear trousers. However, on more formal occasions the trousers should be dressy.
- Shorts are acceptable for men only when jogging. It is preferable that women who jog wear tracksuit trousers but that is not mandatory.
- If you host a meal, keep in mind that Indians have a variety of dietary restrictions. Generally, Hindus do not eat beef, Muslims do not eat pork and many Indians are strict vegetarians. But these are not hard-core rules. Some do eat beef.
- Alcohol should be avoided until you are certain that your host approves of it. Even if it is okay, do not get drunk.
- If you're invited to dine at somebody's house, a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates is the common gift to bring. It is typical for guests to arrive late regardless of what the invitation says.
- It is impolite to help yourself to second servings. Wait to be asked and for someone else to serve you.
- Be respectful when visiting holy sites, no matter what condition they are in. Smoking and drinking are prohibited in holy sites. Always speak in soft tones. Some sites do not allow non-believers to enter.
- Indians of all ethnic groups disapprove of public displays of affection between men and women and most Hindus avoid public contact between men and women.
- Standing tall with your hands on your hips is perceived as aggressive.
- Pointing with your finger is considered rude.
- Whistling in public is unacceptable.
- Never point your feet at another person as feet are considered unclean.
- To tip a taxi driver, simply round off the fare.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
The climate is generally tropical with summer temperatures reaching 45 C and the winter temperatures ranging from 13 C to 22 C. The monsoon is from June to September. The best time of the year to visit Hyderabad is winter, from the beginning of November to the end of February.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
People are quite friendly, although more so to expats because of a sense of curiosity. They frequently go all out to help.