Known as Bombay until 1995, Mumbai is situated in the southwest of India and is the capital city of Maharashtra state.
Being the financial and commercial hub of the country, you’ll find that Mumbai is a truly multicultural city where people of almost every religion can be found.
One of the first things you’re likely to notice is the vibrant energy the city exudes, closely followed by the extreme differences in living styles. But what you’ll find is a ‘live and let live’ attitude among the typical Mumbaikar (native Mumbaite).
Mumbai (Bombay), home to Bollywood, an impressive number of billionaires, and the luxurious Taj Mahal Palace, is India’s largest city and economic hub. It is the capital city of the highly industrialized Maharashtra State, and was immortalized in the iconic film "Slumdog Millionaire." Like any other major Indian city, Mumbai has its share of slums. The only difference is that here, the literacy rate among slum dwellers is much higher. Its large, polyglot population speaks predominantly Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati and English with 12 other dialects spoken throughout.
The city boasts an impressive bus transport network that spans the entire city, but you’ll need sharp elbows if you hope to secure a seat. Similarly, the Mumbai Suburban Railway is said to be the city’s commuter lifeline. The 4,500 commuters crammed daily into trains with a rated capacity of 1,700 bring heightened meaning to the phrase "rush-hour hell."
In this densely populated city, space is at a premium and rental prices often rival those of major western cities. Fortunately the modern apartment complexes that house expat enclaves are designed with a range of facilities, such as gyms, clubhouses, gardens and playgrounds.
Steeped in tradition and culture, Mumbai’s cultural calendar is packed to the gunnels and expat residents often join in the festivities throughout the year. Living here is a rich, colorful and rewarding experience, particularly if you have a young family in tow.
What is special or unique about your city?
Welcome to Mumbai! Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay until 1995, is the capital city of Maharashtra state. It lies in the south western part of India and occupies a peninsular site originally composed of seven islands lying off the Konkan coast of western India. It is the leading financial center of India, as well as a major national commercial, transportation and manufacturing hub. It also has one of the world’s largest harbors: a broad, sheltered bay between the city and the mainland.
Mumbai's cultural life reflects its ethnically diverse population. It's truly multicultural and a city where people of almost every religion can be found. Bursting with the self-confidence of a maverick moneymaker and "bindass" (carefree) attitude, Mumbai is also the country's financial and commercial hub and is a principal port on the Arabian sea.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
The first impression newcomers typically have is the vibrant energy that the city exudes; it's even nicknamed "The New York of India." There is a joi de vivre (carefree feeling) to Mumbai. People are usually taken aback initially by the extreme contrasts in living styles. There are the most modern apartment blocks on one side, with the nouveau rich rubbing shoulders, and on the other side, in the midst of skyscrapers, are the slums with extreme poverty. And yet, there is a "live and let live" outlook to the typical Mumbaikar (native Mumbaite).
Are these impressions likely to change?
Not likely. Most expatriates that experience Mumbai speak of fond memories that will last a lifetime.
What is the local language?
Being the cosmopolitan place that it is, there is no single local language. Marathi is the official language of the state. English is the business language and widely spoken and understood. Hindi, Gujarati and Urdu are also widely spoken.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
As mentioned above, English is very 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 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. Footwear is not 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 Mumbai:
- Status is often determined by a person's age, university education and profession.
- It is acceptable for men and woman to wear pants. However, on more formal occasions the pants should be dressy.
- Shorts are acceptable for men only when jogging. It is preferable that women who jog wear track pants 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.
- Alcohol should be avoided until you are certain that your host approves of it. Even if alcohol is acceptable, 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 with 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 weather is generally humid except for the months of December, January and early part of February. The months of April and May are hot and very humid. The rainy season in the months of June, July and August can be a test of patience as the roads are invariably jammed and commuting time can be extensive.
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. Locals like to be very helpful.