How do we experience living in Delhi, India?

How do we experience living in Delhi, India?

We are halfway into our India adventure, and therefore we believe it is time for an update! We are posting a lot of stories and pictures of our trips and beautiful hotspots, but we should be honest with you: that is not what our daily life looks like at all! So, why aren’t we posting more about our daily lives then? Simple answer: it is just not that interesting. The main reason why we are to India is because Stephan is conducting his thesis research here. So, unfortunately we are not full-time travelling and most of the time we spend working in Noida*. In this blog post we tell you more about how we experience living here and about our feelings of Delhi. Also, we included some pictures which are not very beautiful, but will instead give you a better impression of the city and our lives here!

*Noida is the city we live in and where Stephan’s office is located. It is part of the Delhi National Capital Region, and because Delhi is more well-known we prefer to use that name.

The view over Khora Colony in Noida

What do we think of Delhi?

We like it and we don’t like it at the same time. Delhi has many beautiful places to discover, way more than most tourists think. It’s nice that we have more time around here to explore all those places, which we often do in the weekends. There are several touristic places which are always very crowded, but there are also many which are not that well-known, and are thus very pleasant to explore.

There are several major touristic hotspots, like Delhi Gate, which are often crowded with tourists!

But on the other hand, the city is big, busy, chaotic, and dirty – an environment that is completely the opposite of where we both have grown up and where we prefer to live in. The city is very overpopulated, and has to process all the people commuting to work, school, family, or other places. These people all use bicycles, motors, rickshaws, horses, tuktuks, taxi’s, cars, busses or the metro, and the infrastructure is not really adapted to so many people yet. If we go to the centre of Delhi by taxi, it often takes an hour because the distances are quite large and because the roads are always crowded. Also, it’s never quiet! We live next to a busy street and you will always hear the horns of cars and motors. In our first blog (which you can find here) we already wrote about the crazy traffic in Delhi, and we are still amazed about this craziness. 

You will see many things while driving in Delhi, like these horses who were also stuck in an enormous traffic jam. Poor animals!
Delhi metro during rush hour is also very busy! Do you notice there are only women on this picture? Every first couch in the metro is reserved for women only!

Then there is the dirt. You don’t only experience this on the street (where you must watch out not stepping into cow dung, rotting waste, or dirty water from the sewer) but also inside the house. You’ll find dust and smog everywhere! We don’t live in a very luxurious apartment, so the windows don’t shut properly and there are cracks and holes in several places. Cleaning should therefore be a daily business; it is only too bad we don’t like cleaning that much. So instead our feet are always dirty when we walk bare feet. We always need to double check a plate when we take it from the cupboard in the kitchen, because most of the time there is some new dust on it. Also, for some reason we are not able to properly clean our kitchen table, as it stays greasy and dusty. And every now and then we have a sudden attack from a huge colony of small ants in our kitchen, of which we have no idea where they are coming from (and we live on the third floor, so they cannot come from our garden as we don’t have one).

This is what we found in our kitchen after we came back from our 2-week trip. So much dust!
These street views are very common here. People dump their waste on the streets, which street sweepers will sweep to one place, where waste pickers will collect everything that can be re-used and sold.
Many of these slums can be found throughout Delhi. The people who live here often come from the countryside, eager to earn money to sustain their families. They are often waste pickers – people who collect waste, segregate it, en sell everything that still has any value. They keep the collected waste near their houses, and therefore literally live on a dump.

In the meantime, we prefer not to think about the impact of this environment on our health. It sounds cliché, but when you are in a different place you always start to appreciate what you have at home. When we lived in Utrecht we complained many times about the bad air quality of that city (which feels like a village now), but that was nothing compared to Delhi! The air quality here is literally dangerous, which this interesting but also alarming YouTube video shows. Many people in Delhi also suffer from health problems which are caused by this pollution (check out this article if you want to know more).

Sunset from our rooftop. Do you notice that mountain in the distance? That is 1 of Delhi’s 3 landfills – the city literally produces mountains of waste!
The landfill from up close, the smoke was caused by a small fire. People often burn their waste in India, which does only reinforce pollution levels even more.

What are we doing, besides travelling?

Stephan is mostly at the office from 9-18h where he works on his thesis research. Besides writing and analyzing data, he needs to get in touch with people from businesses and government institutions to retrieve his data – a task that is not easy at all in India! Not only does he encounter communication problems, but often when you want to reach out to big companies or institutions you must know people who can introduce you to others. This takes a lot of time. For example, one day he took a taxi to a university where he would meet 2 people, with whom he would visit another company. One person worked at the university and was therefore present, but the other one did not show up until after 3 hours. Meanwhile, it was so late that there was no time anymore to visit the other company, and they decided to make a visit there some other day. So, it took Stephan 3 hours of travelling, and 3 hours of waiting to receive absolutely NOTHING! One other time he managed to get a meeting in a company, but only after the father of a colleague from Stephan – who is retired now but used to have a very important function within that company – managed to get an appointment. This all shows how difficult it is to get work done here!

A sewage treatment plant which Stephan visited for his research. 

Heleen is involved in the school we live next to. This is a private school, but only 5 minutes from here they have another location where they give free education to people who are not able to pay for good quality education themselves. At first, the school asked her to teach English, but as she is only here for several months and she is not qualified as a teacher, she denied that. Several other young ladies were already involved in researching and developing new projects for this school, so she joined them. However, almost similar to Stephan, it doesn’t always go as planned. There are a lot of communication problems, and just recently there was a rather big conflict between some of the ladies and the school, which lead to a halt of the project. Therefore, Heleen is now trying to conduct a small research herself for the school, but because of language- and cultural differences this is going slower than expected.

The school Heleen is involved with tries to reach out to people from the slums, such as this little girl whose parents are waste pickers. 

And what do we do when we don’t work?

Well, Noida is not a very interesting city to live in, as it is actually meant to be an industrial city and therefore contains many businesses and office buildings. The only nice things you can visit are big shopping malls, so that is what we do every now and then, to drink coffee, or have a haircut, or eat something, or just cool down (in the past weeks the temperature hits 40C degrees every day!). As mentioned before it takes us quite long to reach Delhi centre, so we don’t go there too often unfortunately. We are lucky to have a good hotel next to us where we can have a drink and nice food. And otherwise, we just enjoy ourselves with netflix series or reading books!

This all sounds a bit negative… Are there also positive things?

Sorry about that! We don’t want to be negative at all, and we are also enjoying this whole experience a lot. Concerning our work and projects we were rather disappointed in the beginning that it didn’t go as planned, but we soon accepted it and are now enjoying and appreciating every small step forward. However, concerning Delhi – we just need to admit that it is not the city where we could spend some more years. India in general is very beautiful though! We have seen many beautiful places, and we would have loved to travel around more as we believe that there are so much more amazing places to discover. In two weeks, we will go to the north for a weekend, where we will visit the holy Ganges. And in May, just before we fly back home, we will visit Nepal. Both trips are something that we are very much looking forward to, and we will of course share our stories and pictures of those trips here as well. Stay tuned!

Love, Heleen & Stephan

Be careful when walking around train stations, because it’s easy to trip over people! You may think that this is just a large package, but it’s actually a person sleeping on the platform.
You will find streetdogs everywhere in the city! At first we were a bit afraid of them, but these dogs are so used to people that they don’t bother anyone.
And we shouldn’t forget the holy cows… They are the kings of the road – everyone stops for them!


4 gedachten over “How do we experience living in Delhi, India?

  1. We hebben natuurlijk al veel gehoord en via whattsapp gelezen, maar als je het verhaal zo leest… Mooi geschreven Heleen!

  2. Hi Heleen & Stephan,
    I appreciate your observations and views about India and its society. but as an Indian, I’m really feeling very painful that you both are facing many problems here.

    As you know, India is a country of 1.3 bn people. It’s very difficult to manage the whole system like a populous city Delhi. We know that many people are living below poverty level. for them, Govt is managing free education and food for there children.
    You are here for few months so I want to suggest that you should focus on positive things. There are also many amazing places in South India that you’ll like to visit.

    There are lot to tell but I want to say sorry for the problems you are facing. It’ll be my pleasure if I help you.

    1. Hi Rajan,
      First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to read our blog. We really appreciate that!
      We are sorry that you feel that way after reading our story, though we need to emphasize that we don’t feel completely negative about India! We have seen (and still see) that India has many beautiful places, and we hope our other stories and pictures (please check our instagram account!) will also show you that. We also see that the government does many things to help the people and develop the country, but it is a very difficult task and they cannot tackle every problem yet (especially as the population keeps growing rapidly). Furthermore, we would have loved to visit the south! We heard so many good stories about Kerala, but unfortunately we don’t have enough time to go there. Next time when we visit India we will definitely go there! Thanks a lot!
      Heleen & Stephan

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