Chennai, India Report of what it's like to live there - 05/18/19
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?
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?
United States. Chennai to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to United States. It's a full 24 hour travel day.
3. How long have you lived here?
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?
If you are coming to serve in the U.S. Consulate the housing has improved considerably. It seems to have been a priority to let go of old apartment units and find modern, new construction apartments. Commute ranges from 10 minutes to 25 minutes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Depends on where you shop. Everything is available, but for a price. Lots more here than I expected, but then Chennai is a large city. If it is a local product then it is relatively cheap. There are supermarket apps that allow you to have groceries delivered.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Lots of people say oils, but in general I don't feel like we are lacking anything. Meat in general is of lower quality than you would find in the U.S. or Europe as a result we eat a lot more vegetarian dishes and south Indian food in general is great.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Way better than we expected. Lots of new restaurants are opening all the time. There are several great Japanese and Korean restaurants, Italian, etc. South Indian cooks have trained and lived abroad are coming back and working at restaurants here. Anything can be delivered using Swiggy.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Nothing out of the ordinary, lots of mosquitoes during the rainy season, ants.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very reasonable. Depending on your situation any type of help is available: gardener, driver, cook, nanny, housekeeper, etc.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Some newer gyms have opened and people have been happy with them. Othewise, I don't know much. The US Consulate has a very small gym but it is equipped with everything you would need, treadmills, rogue fitness weight set/bench, free weights, showers.
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?
Yes, however it is best to get a local bank account to really be able to function.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Most people have some English language ability.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes, very. Uber is cheap and used extensively among foreign residents.
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?
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet is super fast and reliable. We used fiber-optic internet. Less than a week to install.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Use a local provider.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Yes, lots of good vets.
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 ample jobs available for eligible family members (EFMs) of those serving at the US Consulate, otherwise the American International School would be your best bet.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual, with local employees wearing local dress.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Chennai is very safe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Mosquitoes and dengue fever. Medical care is top notch however people may go to Singapore for a more complicated procedure.
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?
Compared to the rest of India, Chennai has great air quality. That being said there are days where we would not want to be outside.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Random viruses and bacteria that will knock you out for a day or two.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot, hotter and hottest + a rainy season.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
AISC is amazing and one of the reasons that many if not all who are eligible extend.
2. 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?
There are many different types of preschools available. From just let the children play, to structured play to something that more resembles a preschool with a curriculum. Something for everyone.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Lessons are cheap and easy to come by. Tennis lessons, chess, piano, swimming, etc.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Small to medium. Most seem very happy here.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Chennai is best for families due the the outstanding American School and lots to do for children. Singles still find it fascinating and find lots to do. However, the dating scene seems limited. There are dry days and not that much night life.
3. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Traveling to all the fascinating temples, the American School, cheap in country flights, basically everything!
4. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Traveling a little bit south of Chennai and doing surf lessons, visiting Pondicherry, flying to Kerala and visiting Munnar and the backwaters.
5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes, carpets, paintings, Chola bronze sculpture, so many cool things.
6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Cheap, easy living, a great hub to stage travel throughout India and Southeast Asia. Direct flights to Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, and more.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Bring a sense of adventure and you won't be let down.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, Chennai is amazing.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Coats and winter clothing.
4. But don't forget your:
Umbrella, shorts, and sandals.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
A South Indian Journey by Michael Wood.
6. Do you have any other comments?
If have ever thought about living in India, Chennai is the place to do it.