Chennai, India Report of what it's like to live there - 05/02/23

Personal Experiences from Chennai, India

Chennai, India 05/02/23


1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I've lived abroad before in other countries. Second time to India.

View All Answers

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. It's a long trip to get home via New Delhi, Doha, Dubai, or Europe. In my opinion, airports in India are really bureaucratic and slow and dirty, so you just what to knock yourself out so you can wake up in a more civilized airport stopover after a few hours en route to the US.

View All Answers

3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

View All Answers

4. What years did you live here?


View All Answers

5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

first diplomatic assignment

View All Answers

Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is terribly difficult to get used to because it's always dirty, something is always falling apart, crumbling and things just stink. Commute from anywhere in the center is not too bad. People should not expect high standards for housing and maintenance.

View All Answers

2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

It's rather inexpensive to get veg and fruits. There's always something to discover here in the small groceries. In my opinion, it makes no sense why India cannot have a proper grocery store, but has these hole in the wall closets stuffed full of products and people. No butchers anymore either so buying fresh meat from a real butcher is challenging and you end up buying bagged meat or frozen meat.

View All Answers

3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More bleach and cleaning supplies, alcohol, beer, wine, air fresheners, meat, cheese, and sausages.

View All Answers

4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Everything was widely available except good live music and outdoor restaurants with a vibe. You'll tire of Indian food and there was plenty to make up for that.

View All Answers

5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Yes but not super unusual for a humid place like Chennai. Bugs are everywhere and rodents of all types and sizes in the streets, restaurants. Ants in your food products. Mosquitos in your beds.

View All Answers

Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Cheap but not worth the work they do and the stress they caused. In my experience, the housekeepers consulate staff employed were not hard workers, had juvenile cleaning sense, and came up with bad excuses all the time for why something was not done or why they could not work but wanted to get paid. People got screwed because they trusted household staff too much and were shocked when suddenly they had to fire someone for cause. It seemed that housekeepers mostly gossiped behind everyones' backs and tried to get jobs for their relatives by getting someone else fired.

View All Answers

2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Several time fraud on my credit cards. Hard to use cards here.

View All Answers

3. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None. English is fine.

View All Answers

4. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, absolutely impossible to navigate this city.

View All Answers

Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

No formal dress as this place is very casual. Men do not wear suits and women wear saris or traditional clothes. Not a great style conscious place by any means. If you like getting fancy, not your place.

View All Answers

Health & Safety:

1. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Yes. Everything is dirty and unsanitary so you pick up germs everywhere. Firs time in my life I can remember getting two completely different sicknesses in a week and it happened several times. Hospitals and clinics are bureaucratic and crowded and unsanitary.

View All Answers

2. 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?

Just dusty and bad air quality, not like Delhi but enough to bug you and make things filthy.

View All Answers

3. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Yes, people get depressed here as the city is depressing and ugly and watching people suffer is really hard on the soul every day.

View All Answers

4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Extremely hot, humid, and oppressive most of the year. A few weeks of rain contribute to Chennai being known for terrible floods.

View All Answers

Expat Life:

1. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It's so lonely for singles. Indians don't understand because they marry young and their questions about family are just annoying. You may have a few friends at work, but mostly you are lonely and need to be creative with how you spend your time. People date, but not people they'd probably normally date if not stuck here.

View All Answers

2. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

No. It's very conservative.

View All Answers

3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No. Indians are not very understanding of LGBT issues no matter how open some try to pretend they are. Even at work staff were still childish and judgmental about LGBT.

View All Answers

4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Of course. It's terrible and all of the above existed socially and at work. No one addressed it so it was just sad to see religious minorities being treated so poorly in India and Americans did not do anything about it at work. It's hard to witness so much religious hypocrisy in India, especially in the workplace by our own leadership.

View All Answers

5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Definitely leaving and realizing that I was done with the work and would never have to work in those conditions again.

View All Answers

6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Not really. I would not want to give the impression there were hidden gems. Definitely leave to visit some real hidden gems.

View All Answers

7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not so much. I heard people used to buy things here, but maybe they picked them up in their travels around the country, but not south India.

View All Answers

8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It never gets cold and you have a big giant beach that you can run on sometimes, if you're a runner.

View All Answers

Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

People who said they liked it probably lied. It's not really a great post and it was not really a great place to work. The work and heat were oppressive and the bad work environment made me want to quit. People understand that it's bad.

View All Answers

2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?


View All Answers

3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

mental health.

View All Answers

4. But don't forget your:

sense of humor.

View All Answers

5. Do you have any other comments?

This place, both India and work, in my opinion, ran on weaponized incompetence. Staff attempted to avoid doing unpleasant tasks by pretending not to be able to do them, doing them poorly, or just being incompetent. You always felt like you had to do it by yourself and pick up the slack. Over time, this created a lot of additional mental baggage and workload, which caused relationship tension, friction, and stress.

View All Answers

Subscribe to our newsletter

New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More