- Cost of Living: As we expect a lull before generating income from our vocation (few years possibly), it was critical that we stretch our money as far as possible. To this end, Kochi won hands down - as we had a place to live (which needed remodeling) the day-to-day expenses should be low on an ongoing basis. Kochi along with most other second-tier cities in India does very well in this regard, for many of the recurring costs such as property taxes, utility rates, labor charges, etc. are low compared to global standards.
- Education: Kerala has a well-developed school system (literacy close to 100%) with numerous choices. Costs vary depending on the type of school (public vs private) and on the value-added services offered. Though public schools are free they were not an option for us given their limited facilities. Private schools usually conduct an entrance examination even for lower grades - sometimes having connections can help get an admission. We chose a newer private school around ten miles away from our residence mostly because they offered admission without an entrance test and partly because from friends we learnt that the school catered to expatriates like us. Despite being one of the more expensive private schools in the state, costs are only about one-tenth of the average cost of sending kids to private schools in the US.
- Language: When considering relocation to a foreign country, language skills (or its lack of) can be a major impediment. Many schools offer alternate language options but it can be hard if the medium of instruction is in a new language altogether. Kerala was a good choice for us in that regard as our kids were in the beginning stages of becoming literate in Malayalam.
- Logistics: Proximity to family is priceless.
We relocated towards the end of May and our things arrived a month ago none the worse for the move. Of this relocation experience, we have to say that while there were many surprises, overall it has been net positive. Kids are happy at their new school, house remodeling is progressing albeit slowly, and this blog is falling into gear with the frequency catching up to the time when we were in Alameda. Working on our vocation had been in the back burner for some time now, although we should be able to reverse that trend in the coming months.
Above all, it is a great feeling to be freelancers – no one to report to, no stress of deadlines, taking the time to ensure that kids are doing well at school while also trying to do well at our commitments. We will update this series on a regular basis from now on focusing on our experience being expatriates.