Thanks for visiting Expat Heather! I’m an international teacher, writer, and expat mom currently living in Vietnam. On this site you’ll find things about raising kids abroad, teaching in international schools, travel, writing, and expat life.
With temperatures hitting 121 degrees Fahrenheit (49 C) and at least eight hours of power cuts daily, it can be difficult to deal with the heat in Lahore. Here are some practical suggestions to stay cool when it’s scorching hot and there’s no electricity.
Who says you need to buy anything when you go out shopping? There are many shopping centers in Lahore that are always air-conditioned, even when there’s loadshedding (power cuts). When the power goes out head to your nearest Pace shopping center or other shopping mall.
Keep a list of errands you need to do in air-conditioned locations. For example: 1) Deposit checks at the bank, 2) Buy cake from Gourmet for tomorrow’s party, 3) Visit the eye-doctor and pick out new glasses. When the power goes out, jump in the car and start doing your errands. Usually loadshedding lasts for one hour, so try to time your errands so that you’ll be out long enough to miss the entire hour of loadshedding.
Alright, so this one might sound crazy, but don’t knock it until you try it! I was complaining about loadshedding, and my friend suggested that I try this method of staying cool. First, take an old lawn or cotton dupatta and wet it just a little bit. It should be damp, but not soaking. Twist it up or roll it into a ball and put it the freezer. Within a few hours, your dupatta will be frozen. When the power goes out, take out your frozen dupatta and drape it over you.
If you have a bathtub, keep it full with cold water. If you can’t bear the heat, put on your swimsuit and jump in the tub. You can settle down with a good book and relax until the power comes back on. If it’s nighttime, light some candles and pretend you are at a spa. Give yourself a facial while you’re at it. An hour spent relaxing in the cool tub will be much more enjoyable than an hour spent sweating and passed out on the floor.
Cafés have been springing up all over Lahore for the last couple of years. Don’t want your work to be interrupted by loadshedding? Grab your laptop or study materials and go to the nearest air-conditioned café. A cold coffee or a smoothie will cool you down and give you an energy boost to continue your work.
Can’t afford a generator or a UPS this year? Keep a list of friends who have generators and don’t live too far away. When your power goes out, make an impromptu visit to your friends. If you live in an upper portion, chances are that your dwelling place will be significantly hotter than a lower portion. Go visit someone who lives on the ground floor rather than melting in your upper portion.
Take cold showers regularly to keep your body temperature down. At night, you can jump into the shower with your pajamas on and come out soaking wet. Even if it’s loadshedding, your wet clothes should keep your cool for at least an hour so that you can get some sleep. Just make sure you’re wearing colorfast clothes. It’s not nice to wake up and find that you’ve turned blue and tie-dyed your sheets during the night!
In order to cross the border from into India from Pakistan, you need to have valid visas for both countries. If you are planning to return to Pakistan, make sure that you have another entry left on your visa before you leave the country, unless you are planning to apply for a new Pakistan visa in New Delhi.
There are often buses that go straight from Lahore to New Delhi, and sometimes there is a train service operating across the border, but these services are vulnerable to the state of government relations between the neighboring countries. Not only that, services that join the two countries directly are seen as symbols of friendship and cooperation, and these services are accompanied by heavy police escorts due to the fact that not everyone thinks friendship and cooperation are the best policies to pursue. It’s safer and faster to stick with local transportation on each side of the border rather than to use a special service that operates between the two countries.
Lahore to Wagha Border
Depending where you are in Lahore and what level of comfort you like to travel in, you can take a local bus, a rickshaw or a taxi to the border. If the weather is pleasant and you don’t have a lot of luggage, you can save money by taking the bus or an auto rickshaw. For the most comfort, you can take a taxi. At the time of writing, taking a taxi from the Defence Housing Authority in Lahore to Wagha cost about 700 Pakistani rupees ($8.50). Make sure you negotiate the price before you set off for the border. The border is not open 24-hours a day. It is usually open from about 10:00 am to 4:00pm, and it can take from one hour to three hours to cross the border, depending how busy it is and if all of your paperwork is in order or not.
Wagha Border Crossing
Once at the border, you enter the Customs/Immigration building on the left side of the road. Here your luggage and passport will be checked. You may be interviewed as to how long you have been in Pakistan and what you were doing there.
After you clear customs, proceed out the door and start walking towards the gate. You will have to stop a few times to fill in some information on paper registers. When you go to the gate, you will have to show your passport to both Pakistani and Indian border guards. The atmosphere is usually very friendly, and the jovial guards will salute you and tell you how to say hello, thank you and you’re welcome in Urdu (Pakistan) and Hindi (India).
Once on the Indian side you continue walking until you reach the Customs/Immigration building on the left side of the road. The building is older and a bit more confusing than on the Pakistani side. There are separate lines for locals and foreigners, so make sure you stand in the lines for foreigners. It can be quite busy unless you go early in the morning. The workers are not always very helpful, and you may need to push and shove your way to a window to get the forms you need.
Once all of your forms are signed and you have been stamped into India, continue walking along the road. The road is long, hot and dry, so make sure you pack plenty of water to keep from becoming dehydrated. The Indian side of the border is much longer than the Pakistani side, so you need to be prepared for a fair amount of walking. There are coolies available if you need assistance with your luggage.
Attari to Amritsar
As soon as you leave the gate, you arrive in the border town of Attari, India. You are likely to be accosted by taxi and rickshaw drivers. The main taxi stand is in front of the gate on the right side. It’s best to walk straight to the taxi stand, because the drivers operate with set rates. They should be able to show you a government list of tariffs. In 2009, the tariff to Amritsar station was 500 Indian rupees ($10). The tariff to any hotel in Amritsar was 550 rupees ($11.50).
If you want to save some money you can share the taxi with other travelers or take an auto-rickshaw instead.
Once in Amritsar, many travelers proceed straight to the train station. If you some extra time, make sure to see the Golden Temple before you head onward to the other delights of India!
Thanks to the Thesis Theme for WordPress, ExpatHeather has undergone a major redesign. After using iWeb for six months, I decided it was time to swap over to WordPress before putting more work into the site. I love the look and functionality of the new site and am much more motivated to blog now!
A few kinks are still being worked out. If you use the custom search bar you may get results from the old website that have been deleted. Since I swapped blogging platforms, all the old urls are no longer valid. If you had bookmarked any particular page from the old ExpatHeather you will need to swap the reference for the new links.
I’m still working on the Pakistan, ESL, Links and Photography pages, as I’m actually planning to publish over a 100 informative articles about expat life in Pakistan and dozens of free ESL lesson plans on the new site. I’ll also be blogging regularly about travel, expat life and world issues.
Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy the new ExpatHeather!
The traditional Pakistani outfit is made up of two parts. The shirts, ‘kameez’, are long and loose fitting with two slits on the sides. The slits should be even with the waist or hips, and should not allow any skin to be shown. The pants are called ‘shalwar’ and look like what many of us think of us as ‘genie-pants’ or ‘harem-pants.’ A full outfit is called a ‘shalwar kameez’ and is consider one suit.
For women there is also a large scarf, or ‘dupatta’ that is always worn when wearing Pakistani clothes. It usually serves as a drape to cover the body, particularly the chest, but some women merely wear it as a fashion statement thrown over one shoulder.
You can buy readymade clothes in many areas, but not everyone can find the size or style that they like in clothes that are already stitched. Good places to buy ready-made shalwar kameez include Pace shopping malls, Fortress Stadium and Liberty Market. At Pace, you can browse dozens of boutiques, in both men’s and women’s clothing, to get a suit for upwards of 600 rupees ($7.50). In Liberty and Fortress, ready-made clothes are bit pricier. Designer suits for ladies go for 2000 rupees ($25) or more.
The benefit of readymade clothes is that you don’t have to find a tailor and get it stitched. Many readymade outfits have exquisite embroidery or beaded designs that will cost more to get done at a tailor. The downside of readymade clothes is that usually there’s not a dressing room to try on the clothes. When you get home, you may find out that your suit doesn’t fit. Then you’ll have to bring it to a tailor anyway for alterations. More upscale stores have fitting rooms and in-house tailors, but these suits are not in the under 1000 rupees range.
If you want to buy unstitched cloth, this is easy for both women and men. For men, there are several stores on Model Town Link Road with very affordable cloth. You can also visit a Sunday market, such as the Defence Sunday Market, to get cheaper, yet good quality cloth. For higher quality, and higher prices, you can check out some of the boutiques at Liberty Market. For women, the best place to buy unstitched cloth is Aurega Center in Gulberg, next to Main Market. There are hundreds of other places in Lahore to buy unstitched cloth.
For women, you first need to decide if you want to buy 2-piece or 3-piece suits. 2 piece suits will need a third piece, such as a matching dupatta or matching shalwar, to complete the outfit. 3-piece suits will include pieces for shalwar, kameez, and dupatta. Cloth is usually sold in sets, so you can’t just buy the dupatta and not buy the shalwar and kameez that goes with it.
There are many types of cloth that are appropriate in different seasons. In summer, most people wear lawn, a thin cotton fabric. A 3-piece lawn suit for ladies goes for 250 rupees ($3.10) and up. Men’s cloth is usually more expensive because larger pieces are cut. Nicer lawn suits, that will last for more than one season, will cost at least 400 rupees for a 3-piece ladies suit ($5). Winter clothes are more expensive as the fabrics are thicker. Silks, chiffons, and nice georgette cloth will be more expensive than cheaper synthetic cloth.
Before bringing your cloth to the tailor, make sure to shrink it and let it dry. Visit a trim shop to buy any ribbon or beading for your suit. Try to find a tailor who is recommended by a friend and not too far from your home. Tailors are notorious for not having things done on time, and if you have to go to a far away location again and again, you’re more likely to get frustrated.
Get measured by the tailor, but bring a sample for sizing if you have one. Tailors tend to do better when copying rather than drawing the designs themselves. Choose the design you want for the neck and sleeves, and let the tailor know how long your want the kameez to be. A safe bet is to go with knee length or a few inches below. Once you start to learn about the styles, you’ll be able to know which patterns are trendy and keep up with the local fashion.
It usually costs about 200 rupees per suit ($2.50) for stitching in a middle class neighborhood. Depending where you go, the cost may be cheaper or more expensive. Tailors may not sew the loose ends of your dupatta, as there’s special men with sewing machines who do the easier work. They are called picowalas and can be found outside ribbon and trim shops.
Make sure to set a day when the tailor expects your clothes to be finished and finalize the price. You don’t want any surprises when you go to pick up your clothes. Write down what cloth you gave the tailor and keep a small swatch of each in case they get lost. You might not be able to try your clothes on at the tailor’s shop, so you’ll have to wait until you get home to see if anything fits!
Deciding where you will live and work abroad is a major decision no matter what stage of life you’re in. Going over these factors will help guide you in making the decision that’s right for you.
What is the local language used outside of the workplace for daily transactions? Chances are that you’ve been offered a job where you’ll primarily be speaking a language you are comfortable in, but what about when you’re doing your banking or grocery shopping? You may it frustrating to use hand motions to make yourself understood, or on the other hand you may be moving to a foreign country in order to learn the local language. If you want to immerse yourself for language learning, it would be advantageous if less people spoke English so that you’d have adequate opportunity to speak the target language. If you aren’t interested to learn the language, but you want to be able to do your errands without much confusion, it would be better for you if a higher percentage of people spoke a language that you can also understand.
Is your company providing a car or a driver? Is the public transportation good, and is it safe for foreigners to travel by? In suburban areas of major cities worldwide it is generally an advantage to have a car. How do the people drive? It is too chaotic and crazy for you to drive safely? Do they drive on the same side of the road as you? Would you be able to afford buying and maintaining a car on your proposed salary? These are important questions to ask if you want to be able to get around in your new hometown.
When you move abroad, do you plan on spending the majority of your free time with other expatriates, or with locals? Either way, you should look into how large the expat community is in your city. You may not be able to have a very good social life with merely three other foreigners, and you may be overwhelmed if foreigners outnumber the locals. Is it easy to interact with and socialize with locals? How different is the surrounding culture? In some places, like Saudi Arabia, it can be difficult for foreigners form intimate friendships with locals. Foreign workers may also be restricted to life on a secure compound.
Make sure your company gives you detailed information about your proposed living arrangements. Are your utilities paid? Is your rent paid? Is your place completely furnished or partially furnished? Is there a settling in allowance, and how much is it? Is there a shipping allowance so you can ship your personal effects abroad? Does the school provide housing, or are you expected to find it on your own? How many bedrooms will you have? How many bathrooms will you have? What exactly does the kitchen look like, and do all the appliances work? If you’re a single, will you be expected to share with other singles or will you have an independent flat? What does security look like?
You should also find out what types of leisure activities are available. Is there a gym, a pool, or a riding club nearby? Are there any people interested in playing soccer? The job may be the most important thing, but leisure activities should also play into your life overseas. If you love ballroom dancing, but dancing is considered taboo in your overseas home, you may feel like you’re missing out on one of your favorite hobbies.
Even if you’re a single male, this is a question you’ll want to consider. How easy is it for women to travel independently in the country? Can women drive and take public transportation easily? Are there any restrictions on dress? Can single women and met meet up casually in public or in private? In some countries, a man could be jailed or even killed for meeting up with a woman in public! If the meeting takes places in private, the consequences could be even more dire. Local women in some regions have been killed by their own family members for so much as a sideways glance at a man who was not her husband. Men as well as women need to be aware of any cultural or legal restrictions on women that you are not used to abiding by.
This may seem like a silly question, but can your body handle the 50 degree C (122 F) temperatures of much of Asia and Africa? How about the extreme cold of Siberia? Will you get monsoon rains, and does the city flood? Are roads blocked in winters? Do weather conditions create breeding grounds for malaria bearing mosquitoes? Think long and hard about a city’s of region’s weather before you decide if it’s the right place for you. Don’t assume you’ll always have electricity or power to keep you in your comfort zone!
Are you a name brand type of guy or gal who never goes generic? Well, know now that your favorite brands and products may not be available everywhere in the world. If you’re planning to move to Europe, Australia or major cities in South America and Asia, you can be pretty sure that most products will be available at the local supermarket or a specialized import store. Outside of main cities, you may not be so fortunate. Some products, like tampons, are unavailable in the entire Middle East region, save major cities and places where there are large expatriate communities. If you absolutely must have your special hair gel or your favorite cereal, it may be better to bring it with you.
What is the average cost of living in the city you plan to move to? What is not covered by your salary package that you will need to pay for out of pocket? Is your goal saving or just making ends meet? If your goal is to save, you may surprisingly be able to save more in Asia or the Middle East than in a European country where the cost of living is considerably higher. Do a little research to see average prices are and subtract that from your budget to see how much, if any, you’ll be able to save while overseas.
For most applications, this is probably the most important point. There are many expenses incurred when settling and living abroad that you may not be counting on. Ask potential employers if the following aspects are covered, and if yes, how much cash value they have.
Housing (Rent & Utilities)
Settling in Allowance
Medical & Dental Insurance
Life Insurance (Does it apply to you only, or your whole family?)
Return Airfare or Travel Reimbursement
Local Transportation – Work Related and Non Work Related
Annual Salary (How is it paid and in what currency? Is it tax free?)
Education for Children
By discussing these questions with your family and researching the different factors, you should be able to make an informed decision is living abroad is the right choice for you. You should also be able to compare two or more options in order to see which is the best choice according to your lifestyle. If you’re not quite sure why you want to live overseas, it’s a good idea to have a clear answer to that question before looking at the above factors.