“I originally intended to come for one or two years,” she explains. “The thing with Beijing is that opportunities keep coming up. You work on a project here and think to yourself, I’ll go home after this is over, but then just when you’re getting into that mindset, someone puts another job on your plate.” Aitken notes that even though “the true golden days for foreign opportunity are gone, there really are still so many opportunities here that you might not get back home.”
The result is a highly diverse expatriate community that ranges from families who come on diplomatic posts to entrepreneurs, university students, and executives. Most foreigners stay in the city for around three years, but Aitken says, “I no longer find it surprising when I meet someone who’s been here for 10 to 15 years.”
Like China, India’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the world, and it has also attracted professionals and entrepreneurs looking for opportunity outside the United States and Europe. Margot Bigg, a freelance journalist and Moon Travel Guides author who lives in Delhi, has noticed a change in the types of foreigners seeking opportunities in India. After the 2008 financial crisis, Bigg says, “Suddenly, there were a lot more mid-career people eyeing India as a possible place to start over, many of whom brought their families with them.” Of these, some were new to the country, while “others had Indian parents or ancestry and knew a bit about the culture already.”
The new influx represented a notable shift from the type of expatriate that chose India in the past. The previous expat population was made up of generally “young, single people looking for an overseas adventure, most of whom were willing to put in long hours for low wages in return for the experience of living in such an awe-inspiring country.”
Since 2008, the climate has lost some of its sheen for foreigners: India’s GDP growth has slowed, and the government made any foreigner earning less than $25,000 ineligible for a legal work visa—“a fortune by local standards,” explains Bigg. Despite those stumbling blocks, there are still many opportunities for executives and other skilled foreigners continue seeking jobs in India’s information technology, manufacturing, and finance sectors, adding their numbers to the entrepreneurs, adventurers, and writers typically drawn to the country.