Chennai, India Report of what it's like to live there - 05/22/15
Personal Experiences from Chennai, India
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. I've lived in Cape Town, Bangkok, Singapore, and Tokyo.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Chicago. Varies, depends on your layovers. It can take anywhere from 14 to 36 hours to reach Chennai.
3. How long have you lived here?
2 years, and still going strong
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Huge mansions, modern condos, derelict apartments, you have it all here. Commutes are mostly short, traffic actually moves.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get everything if you know where to look. That said, some people find it hard to get anything. There's lots of fresh produce on the local market.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Plenty of eating-out options.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
If there's an insect, it's here. No snakes though.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Fedex, USPS, even India Post is not bad.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Cheap and reliable.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Lots, cost varies.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
ATMs are ubiquitous. Credit cards are accepted everywhere and not unsafe to use.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Uber and a host of other radio taxis are safe and affordable.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
You cannot import vehicles into India. Buy a car locally.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, costs about US$60 monthly plans.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
It is a hassle trying to get a cell phone connection here. The amount of paperwork required to get one is enormous. But once you get it, it's cheap and very reliable.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
There are plenty of expats, they all seem to be employed in one of the many transnational firms.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
None. Chennai is very safe. As in most of India, the 'establishment' is everywhere. They keep a discreet eye on everything and run a pretty tight ship. It is not unusual for criminals to be badly beaten up to 'extract' confessions.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
World class hospitals exist (Indian doctors are good), as do abysmal ones. Ask around, and you'll be good.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Moderate, nothing serious.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Avoid dusty places.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
H O T.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
A-plenty. Ranging from exorbitantly expensive to reasonable.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Some have programs for special needs kids.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Again, a-plenty. Alphabet play school is one of the best out there.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Many, but I am not really aware.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Very bad to very good.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
It can be depressing at times, India is a very insular country.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Families and couples- yes. Singles- stay away. The locals are warm and welcoming yet wary of letting anyone in in their inner circle.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No. Enough said.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
None that I noticed.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
India is a beautiful country, most Indians seem to take it for granted though.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
The beaches and hills are real gems. It is fun to be able to visit exotic destinations like tea gardens and all every other day, when you find the time for it.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
I was shocked to see such contrast all in one place. Poverty exists, as does opulence. There are tons of nice beaches, and the hills offer respite from the oppressive summer heat (and there are many hilly areas).
9. Can you save money?
Yes, if you try.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, but with a bushel of salt.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
ideas about India as a liberal country where people come to do soul-searching. Government is everywhere and you gradually accept the fact 'they' know lot more about you than you think they do.
3. But don't forget your:
Morale and DEET spray.
4. Do you have any other comments?
India is what you make it to be. Religion is a way of life, so avoid religious conversations. Focus on what you like best, and you'll be alright.