The hard part is done. You’ve booked your airline tickets to Mumbai, picked a great spot, scheduled time off work, organised the kids to stay with the whānau and conducted enough research to support a small novel. Here is what they don’t tell you in the guidebooks to enable you to let go of your reservations and live like you’re one of the locals.
Let That Genuine Kiwi Nature Shine Through
Indians are known to be very friendly to tourists, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself in a friendly conversation with a group of locals. Relax, and openly answer the queries about your wage, your spiritual beliefs, your family and all things Kiwiana. Engage wholly in conversation, and feel free to ask questions of a similar nature. Your new Indian friend will be pleased you’ve taken such an interest in his/her life. Indians are very hospitable, and you may even find yourself being invited home for lunch!
Book Out Time to Breathe!
The pace of Mumbai life is the opposite to that of New Zealand. “Space” is a fictitious notion and “peace and quiet” is a pipedream achieved only in religious ceremony. It’s hard to imagine until you are in the thick of it. Imagine Queen Street Auckland in peak hour and multiply the amount of people by 20. Mumbai is an entirely different beast. The laid-back Kiwi nature will serve you well once you are immersed in the hectic pace of the world’s fourth most populous city.
While the city is an experience in itself, you might plan day trips out of the city for a slower pace. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park, located 40 km out of Mumbai, is a stunning place to escape for a walk or quiet picnic. Kihim Beach and Kolad Village are two other beautiful spots that are removed from the hustle and bustle of the big city. As well as getting exposure to some gorgeous local scenery and intriguing wildlife, you’ll appreciate the craziness of Mumbai just that little bit more when it’s time to jump back into it.
Think “Maori” Culture
Typical Mumbai culture blends traditional festivals, music, food, dance and drama — similar to Maori culture. It’s a two-way, participatory experience, so let go of your inhibitions and get involved. Try everything on offer, feel the music and live the moment. You’ll only feel silly for the first few minutes. And the world doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. The nightlife in Mumbai is abundant, so set aside time to wander the vibrant city streets and be open to whatever opportunity presents itself.
Pack for the Hottest New Zealand Summer
When you walk out that hotel door, think mozzie repellent, layers and plenty of H20. Kiwis can take some time to acclimatize to the tropical climate of Mumbai. Loose and flowing clothing is also appropriate because Indians are conservative dressers. Consider cotton T-shirts, maxi dresses, sarongs, sandals and, of course, your jandals. Take bottled water wherever you go and seek sanctuary in restaurants for a cool place to sit down and unwind.
Force Yourself to Haggle
Kiwis typically trust in others and fear of being seen as “ripping someone off” makes us easy prey for smooth-talking market salesmen. Ask a friendly local, like your hotel host, for a personal lesson on bartering, or step back and observe other tourists in action. Ensure you are paying 20 to 50 per cent of the initial asking price of any item. Bear in mind that most shopkeepers not only expect but enjoy the bargaining process. Do it twice and it will become second nature.
Don’t Get Emotionally Involved
In New Zealand there are few homeless people, so few that they often become famous (e.g. Bernard “Ben” Hana, aka “Blanket Man”); we have strict regulations around animal rights, and as a nation we are renowned for our honesty, authenticity and empathy. In Mumbai, you will enter an entirely different world and it can be a bit unnerving at first. There are beggars to be found on many corners, and stray dogs, cats and (sacred) cows line the roads. Observe these differences with interest, but don’t let them get you down. Be street smart, keep safe and maybe share a packet of bikkies with a homeless person.
About the Author: Laurie Candy is a passionate guest blogger, marketer, musician and explorer. She is a genuine lover of life and travels the world for at least four months of every year.