Chennai, India Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Chennai, India

Chennai, India 05/18/19

Background:

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

No.

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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.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

Government.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic pouch.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Yes.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, very. Uber is cheap and used extensively among foreign residents.

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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?

Buy local.

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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.

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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.

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Pets:

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.

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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.

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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.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Chennai is very safe.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Expat Life:

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Yes, Chennai is amazing.

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

Coats and winter clothing.

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4. But don't forget your:

Umbrella, shorts, and sandals.

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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.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

If have ever thought about living in India, Chennai is the place to do it.

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Chennai, India 08/05/18

Background:

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

I lived in Europe previously working for a Fortune 500 firm.

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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?

East coast of USA. About a full day of travel with a connection in the gulf (shortest route) or via Europe.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Since 2016.

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

International assignment with my organization.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

150 square meter flat with 3 bedrooms. The building is new but poorly constructed. No green space. Noisy (never-ending street horns) and cave-like inside. frequent power outages. commute times vary depending on when you leave home (most folks seem to work 9-18 or 10-19, so if you avoid those times -- not too bad). folks living in the expat areas along the ECR can have longer distances to cover depending where their work place is.

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

Cheap if you shop where the locals go and stick to local food which is all sorts of rice and spice dishes. Tropical fruits are fresh, wonderful and available depending the season (mangoes, jack fruit, guavas, pineapple, papaya, and banana). I never knew I liked mango or road coconut water so much! Vegetables are not popular and harder to find. Besides chicken, meat is hard to obtain and beef or pork almost impossible to obtain. Eateries and shops advertising "beef" are usually selling water buffalo (aka -- Bangalore beef). Lovers of vegetarian and spicy Indian food will be very happy here. Meat-atarians and those who don't like the local cuisine will suffer.

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

Wine and spirits, as the selection is poor, expensive and limited to state-run TASMAC shops. Be sure to hit duty-free when before connecting to Chennai.

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

You have 3 general choices for restaurants in Chennai - 1) South Indian, 2) North Indian, 3) Pan-asian (Chinese/Malaysian/Thai/Vietnamese/Indonesian with an Indian twist). Some places advertise themselves as "multi-cuisine" and offer all of the above including South and North Indian, and pan-asian.

That said there are some American fast food chains are available -- subway, burger king , pizza hut, and even Krispy Kreme donuts are all popular. Only places at 5 star hotels will offer overpriced alcoholic beverages. No one really offers beef.

Swiggy is a popular food delivery service, if they can find your home.

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

Ants, lizards, and mosquitos at certain times of the year. All are controllable.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Courier. Fedex. Local post is slow and a bit challenging and best for domestic use.

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

Inexpensive and about $300 a month for a full-time employee. I had hired a maid, but had problems with theft and absenteeism and have been managing on my own since with a part-time maid only. I prefer to drive myself or use Uber. Some folks manage on their own and other expats I know (particularly families) are running "Downton Abbey" at their residence with nannies, gardeners, drivers and maids at some significant expense. Don't be surprised if hired help asks you for large loans as you are the wealthy expat. Any hired help will likely require some hands-on training.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are some gyms available, some hotel offer packages as well. I know a few people who run on the beach.

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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?

I use ATMs and credit cards. Amex seems to work best online. Be sure your cards do not have international transaction fees. Also be wary of businesses offering "dynamic foreign exchange" - which is a total scam; just pay in local currency never choose dollars or Euros.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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

You are good to go with English. Probably best to learn a few words of Tamil for fun and as a courtesy.

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

Absolutely. There are no sidewalks and few elevators. I do not have a disability and find it challenging sometimes.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Uber and Ola are great and cheap and highly recommended. Tuk tuks are also good but you need to know how to bargain. The new metro is very cheap and safe but still under construction with limited stops. I have not used the buses.

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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?

Best to buy a car in Chennai. Best bet is the popular Toyota Innova or a local model; Tata or Mahindra which is easy and cheap to service. Not a good idea to buy an expensive car here, as imported cars carry HUGE import duties. With any luck, your company will supply you with a company car and driver as part of your package and you don't have to worry much about this.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes but frequently cuts out after a storm. After the Cyclone of 2016, I only had internet access at the office for about 2+ months. Be sure to pay your bill on-time as the internet company will not extend you credit and will cut you off right away.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I kept my home phone and plan and use my work phone which has a local number.

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Pets:

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?

I have heard some horror stories about animals in quarantine for months.

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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?

Spouses are typically stay-at-home or do remote work by internet.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Volunteer opportunities abound but you have to seek them out.

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

Business suit and tie. Outside of work men and women tend to be covered and dress conservative and loose. Shorts are a no go unless you are at a resort.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Very little. Chennai is a very safe place compared to my home back in the USA.

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

Tropical diseases such as dengue, zika, malaria. Food poisoning is also a big concern. You will likely be sick at one point when you first come here as you are not use to the local germs. Be sure to carry hand sanitizer with you as bathrooms do not always have soap.

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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?

It varies throughout the year but is never great. I can usually smell the air pollution everyday.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Be very careful with your food and come inside when the air pollution gets bad.

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

Cabin fever and nowhere to go. Be sure to get of town once in awhile; trips to Bangalore, Hong Kong, Singapore, or Dubai particularly if you are here without family. I had one friend based here by his company for a year who was miserable; his wife refused to come and he ended up in a divorce by the time he headed home.

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

Always hot. January through June are the worst and hottest months. Monsoon rolls in during November and sticks around through December.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I don't have kids that go to the international school but heard its really nice and VERY expensive.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small. Despite all the international companies here, there are not a lot of expats. Bangalore seems to have a better expat scene. A lot of car companies here and some consulates.

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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?

I know a few expat families but there is not a lot of socializing for me in Chennai. Best to just have friends come visit or take lots of trips out of town. Most of my local colleagues from work do not want to go out after hours and there isn't really anywhere to go. You will feel odd being alone at a restaurant.

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

There is no nightlife or scene for singles here. Everyone is in arranged marriages. The culture is very conservative. You can go out to eat, go to the mall and catch a movie, maybe the odd cultural event or so and that's about it. Netflix is a God-send. Couples and families tend to do much better.

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

It's as good for the LGBT crowd as it is for the singles. This place is best for families and couples regardless of preference.

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

Very conservative and homogenous Hindu area. Overall, there seems to be some inequalities and prejudices within the local community but I have not been exposed to it nor understand it very well. In general, I avoid talking about religion or politic, but the same could be true anywhere.

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

Wonderful and interesting ancient culture. Tons of opportunities for travel within South India or in the neighborhood of South and SE Asia. Lots of low-cost airlines. Many folks frequently go to Sri Lanka, Bangkok and Singapore.

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

Trips to the beach resorts on the ECR. A few nice restaurants in some of the 5-star hotels. Cheap spa services.

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

Yes. textiles, silks, oriental carpets, wooden furniture galore - stock up here!

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

Ability to save money. Cheap travel within the region. Nearby beaches. Awesome local motorcycles: Royal Enfield.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Be sure to negotiate your expat package carefully. The taxes and bureaucracy are significant here.

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

I was assigned and didn't have a choice. It's ok but I can think of a lot of places I would rather be.

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

Taste for beef, thirst for a good glass of wine, and desire for a nightlife.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, Netflix and sense of adventure.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

There is a lot of great literature and movies about India; I'm not sure where to start.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

The people of Chennai are incredibly friendly and despite the difficulties here, I have enjoyed my time. memories for life.

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Chennai, India 05/07/18

Background:

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

Not first expatriate experience.

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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?

It's about a 24 hour trip to the D.C. area, and further if you're flying into a smaller airport. Most flights to the U.S. go through Europe or the Middle East, but there are some direct flights from New Delhi, too. However you go, it's a long trip.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

For the USG community, housing varies quite a bit. Singles, couples, and some families with one small child live in fairly nice, modern apartments that are leased. The options for such units have gotten steadily better over time. Larger families, however, live primarily in government owned homes--some SFHs and some former SFHs that have been split into upstairs and downstairs units. These are clustered in different parts of town, so you will likely be near at least a few other consulate families. There are a few nice options, but by and large these homes not great (sometimes because they are small, other times because of shoddy construction, smells, frequent maintenance issues, strange layouts, etc.; all seem outdated and unattractive). Many say the housing in Chennai is the worst they have seen in the foreign service. However, as these homes are USG-owned, unfortunately they aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

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

Groceries are a lot more expensive than you might think! If you eat like a local (primarily starch-based vegetarian options), then it's very cheap, but vegetables, fruits, chicken and other meats, cheeses, yogurts, etc. are more expensive than in the U.S. Be warned that in the hot season, we've had a lot of trouble with spoiled food even at the fanciest grocery stores.

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

More liquids! Dry products like pasta, cereal, etc. you can order through the pouch, but liquids are hard to come by here either because they're much more expensive or much lower quality than you'd like. Ship plenty of cooking oils, nut butters, dish and laundry soap, toiletries, etc.

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

There are a lot of restaurant options and most deliver. A number of apps like Zomato, Swiggy, etc. offer food delivery. It's not quite as seamless as in the U.S., but it usually works if you're somewhat patient and flexible. KFC, Dominos, lots of Indian restaurants, Subway, lots of Asian restaurants, etc. all deliver.

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

Ants, roaches, lizards and other pests can be a problem depending on housing. Most people are able to get infestations under control, however.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic pouch takes 2-4 weeks. Be warned, however, that during the hot season anything remotely meltable (kids chewable gummies for instance) will likely arrive melted and ruined.

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

Household help is available and affordable (200-400 USD/month for full-time work, depending on the job, hours, etc.) but not the same quality you are probably used to at previous posts. Expect to spend quite a bit of time and energy setting expectations and giving direction, and expect for that to be only 50% effective. Many expats employ a driver and housekeeper and/or nanny full time, and a gardener part-time. Part-time housekeepers are also available.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The consulate has a small gym. Private gyms, personal trainers, spinning studios, yoga studios, etc. are all available at reasonable costs.

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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?

Most stores and restaurants that expats frequent accept U.S. credit cards. We've used ours often with no security issues. Most online Indian vendors (movie tickets, sports tickets, food delivery, etc.) only accept Indian credit cards. The consulate will help you apply for one if interested. We didn't do this and have been fine using cash, etc. There's an ATM at the consulate and at reputable banks around town; we've found them safe to use but primarily get money from the consulate cashier.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are several Catholic churches, etc.

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

Basic pleasantries would be appreciated, but you can get around fine with English most of the time, as long as you accept that there will be occasional miscommunications.

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

This would not be an appropriate post for someone with mobility issues.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Uber (and Ola, a local Uber-like company) plus auto rickshaws are reliable and affordable around town. However, expect some frustration (much longer waits than your app shows, drivers who don't know how to read the map, rickshaw drivers who don't speak English and charge you triple what they should because you're a foreigner, etc.).

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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?

Buying a car from an outgoing officer will be significantly easier for you than any other option. You can also buy a car on the local economy, from another expat, from another post, etc., but expect many months of bureaucracy before you can drive it. SUVs, mini-vans and sedans are all common--just depends on your needs. More and more singles and couples without kids are opting to rely on public transport and not buy a car. I don't think this would be feasible with children, however.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

High-speed internet is available and affordable. However, internet lines are strung in an ad hoc way through trees, etc. It's not uncommon to lose internet for days (or in some case weeks) after heavy rains or other weather events. Some families have tried to guard against this by having two internet providers; it's unlikely for both to be down at the same time.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an unlocked phone and get a local pay-as-you go SIM card. The consulate can help you set this up; it's cheap.

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Pets:

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?

Vets and kennel services are available. There's definitely bureaucracy around importing pets, but it's possible. Many people do it.

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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?

Most EFMs who want to work find jobs at the consulate or telecommute to a previous job in the U.S. There are volunteer options on the local economy, but employment would not be lucrative.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty! Local staff at the consulate or local friends could likely help you find volunteer work in whatever area interests you.

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

Business attire is normal at the consulate, with some opting to wear lighter-weight Indian clothing purchased locally. Women typically don't show knees.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Take the same precautions you would take in any city. That being said, we have never felt unsafe.

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

Dengue, malaria and chikungunya are real threats and members of the consulate community have gotten these diseases. Local medial care is sufficient for minor issues, but you will be medevaced (likely to SIngapore) for anything serious. Local dental care is very affordable; many choose to get braces, veneers, etc.

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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?

Air quality in Chennai isn't nearly as bad as in New Delhi or Mumbai, but it's still not good. It's in the unhealthy range most of the time. Many in the expat community feel generally unwell a lot of the time, likely due to poor air quality. For someone with asthma or respiratory issues, I would not recommend this post.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Food allergies are not commonly known there. This would be a hard place to be unless the allergy is minor.

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

Locals describe the seasons as "hot, hotter, and hottest." That's pretty accurate, with a rainy season thrown into the mix too.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The American International School (AISC) is where most consulate kids attend, and it is truly a remarkable place for all levels. A few families are at a smaller French School. There are a number of preschool options as well. Most families describe AISC as the highlight of a tour in Chennai.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I don't know firsthand but believe that AISC would likely be very accommodating. I would suggest reaching out directly to the school.

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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?

Nannies and preschools are both readily available. Most families do a combination of both. We pay about $300/mo for a full-time nanny and about $150/mo for a part-day preschool. There are a lot of preschool options, but most are very formal and serious academically; it's harder to find one that's play based. AISC has after school activities every day but Wednesday.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, mostly offered through the school. Pretty much any activity you can imagine.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Medium-sized, although most other expats live on the other side of town by the American School, so far enough away that we are fairly isolated from them. Morale overall is fair. There are a few people who love Chennai and a few people who hate it; most find it some combination of interesting and frustrating depending on the day.

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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?

There is a lot of home entertainment, brunches and dinners out, playdates, etc. There are malls and movie theaters, laser tag, a few small theme parks, a bounce park, surfing lessons, etc. Nothing is quite the same quality as in the U.S. (with the exception of some restaurants which are great).

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

With arranged marriages and conservative alcohol laws and norms, this would probably be a hard post for singles. For couples, it would be best for homebodies. Due to the strength of the school, it's probably best for families, but there are plenty of struggles and frustrations for families as well, including a lack of green space, a lack of activities for kids of all ages, etc.

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

There have been LGBT members of the consulate community who have fared fine. There's a small local LGBT population. South India tends to be more liberal than elsewhere in India, but it's still not the same atmosphere as a coastal U.S. city.

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

The regional travel opportunities are incredible! In just a few hours and for a few hundred dollars, you can get to: Goa, the Maldives, Dubai, Bangkok, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and more.

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

People tend to buy textiles, woodwork, etc. There are some beautiful rugs, but they're quite expensive.

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

Amazing regional travel and the exceptional American International School community.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wish I had known how difficult it would be to not have the autonomy to go where I want when I want. The combination of right-hand drive, stick shift (which most cars are), and Indian driving norms means that most expats do not drive themselves. A few brave ones do, but I am not in that category. It has been harder than I expected relying on someone else to drive me around. As mentioned previously, Uber and rickshaws are options too, but they aren't without their frustrations.

I also wish I'd known about the quality of household help.

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

We have made some great friends and enjoyed traveling and learning about India, but no, we would probably not move here knowing what we know now.

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3. Do you have any other comments?

Don't bother shopping for clothes in advance. I bought a lot of new lightweight clothing before coming, but there are cheaper and better options available once you arrive.

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Chennai, India 05/25/16

Background:

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

Not my first, but my first in Asia. I've lived in Europe before.

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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?

Washington, D.C. I've traveled back and forth via London on British Airways. It's about 23 hours each way.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2015-2016.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

A mix of housing types. Typical commutes from ten minutes and up.

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

Very cheap and you can find what you need. You may have to hunt a bit, but you can find it. Lots of people shop at Amma Naana. I used Big Basket a lot.

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

Anything liquid. Oils are available, but low quality and expensive. Vinegar is the same and can be hard to find. Believe it or not, I found myself wishing I had more hot sauce.

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

Mosquitoes. They carry malaria and dengue fever.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic pouch.

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

Widely available and cheap. They will come to you and ask to be hired.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, and they are cheap, but I don't recall the exact price.

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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?

I didn't do it often, but had no issues.

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

Most people speak English, but everyone is impressed by you being able to speak Tamil. The ability to speak English is seen as a sign of class, so often if you great someone in Tamil, they will respond in English and not appreciate the Tamil greeting. I learned to greet people in English, talk to them in English, and then say farewell in Tamil.

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

If those issues affected mobility, it could be difficult. Sidewalks are uneven and in poor repair. I have impaired arms and had no issues.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We weren't supposed to use the buses. Trains and taxis were safe. They are cheap, but they also try to overcharge you. Negotiate a price before getting in.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

It is available. Fiber Internet was good quality and highly reliable for me. I heard complaints from others. Costs were around $30 per month, but the download limits were not generous.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an unlocked phone.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Wearing Indian attire will be appreciated by locals, especially if you are a woman. Wearing Indian attire also causes rickshaw and sale prices of goods to fall.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Chennai seems very safe to me.

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

Medical quality is poor. We were medically evacuated for anything substantial.

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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?

If you focus only on fine particulate matter, the air is better than most places in India. But if you are looking a bit more broadly, then by some measures the air is worse the New Delhi. I had respiratory issues. Friends were hospitalized with air quality related problems.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

The local populace is not aware of food allergies.

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

Three seasons: hot, hotter, and hottest. Monsoon tends to hit from October to December. It's wet then. Otherwise mostly dry.

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Expat Life:

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

I'm single and was very happy. Most singles complained about finding little to do. But see above comment about how getting to know locals can help avoid boredom.

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

The people. There are amazing Hindu temples. There is really good food. Marina Beach is a hoppin' place to go at night. But at the end of the day, it's really about the people. Get to know local people and Chennai will not be boring at all.

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

Depends on how adventurous you are. Ash Vita was my favorite restaurant. For the adventurous, there's a little restaurant on the side of a rice paddy with a pond where you catch your own fish and they cook it for you. They also make a great BBQ chicken. But don't expect them to cater to western tastes. They don't. It's great. Street food abounds, but don't eat it unless it is steaming hot. I drank coconut milk out of the shell almost whenever I went out.

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

Puja supplies.

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

Some of the most amazing people I've met anywhere. They truly take you into their hearts immediately.

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6. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How safe it really was.

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

In a heartbeat.

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

Spices.

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Chennai, India 05/13/16

Background:

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

No.

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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?

Washington D.C., New York. No direct flights. Options available through London, Frankfurt, Dubai, Doha, and others.

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3. How long have you lived here?

First of two years.

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

Family member of a government employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There's a variety of housing, from single-family homes with yards to spacious apartments. I can't count the times I've heard the refrain, "this is the worst housing in the State Department I've ever seen." Quality does vary. It's all extremely spacious, though.

Traffic is heavy in the evening, but less so in the morning. Commute times vary from 10 to 30 minutes on average. Driving is crazy -- not traffic per se, but driving.

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

Produce is readily available once you find a good vendor, though seasonality greatly affects what's available. Imported produce is all but non-existent. Aside from paneer, cheese is extremely limited, and imported cheeses are often of low quality. Other imported products are available at two or three specialty stores, but goods are often expired.

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

Nothing worth shipping. The things I miss most are either not allowed in the pouch (alcohol) or perishable.

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

Restaurants run the gamut from very inexpensive (US$1.50 per person) to expensive (US$75 per person, usually in the finer hotels). Food safety is a major concern when eating out. Western chains are minimally available. Expect non-Indian cuisine to have an Indian flair: heavy sauces, and plenty of vegetarian options. Only rarely will beef or pork be served.

I do not care about fast food chains, but I enjoy exploring food, and Chennai doesn't have much. Restaurants tend to serve the same dishes. Cuisines here are not inventive. Compared to other major cities in India, there is very little diversity. Quality is often low.

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

Mosquitoes. Ants. Snakes.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic pouch. No liquids over 16 oz. No flammable material (e.g., nail polish, cologne). No alcohol. Aluminum cans are okay. It takes about 2.4 to 3 weeks on average for mail to reach Chennai through the pouch.

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

Very inexpensive. People generally hire a housekeeper/cook, driver, and nanny if they have children. I generously pay a part-time housekeeper/cook approximately US$225 per month. Domestic help often appreciate overtime pay.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Gyms are inexpensive but pretty dismal. One-on-one personal training is also inexpensive, but the quality is mixed.

The best deals come from paying for 12 months' membership in advance. Expect to pay anywhere from US$200-$350 for an annual membership. Equipment tends to be old. Changing rooms, especially for women, are in poor shape. Towels are not usually included. Expect a lot of employees to be standing around staring while you work out.

There are no rock-climbing gyms. There is no CrossFit. One knock-off Spinning studio recently opened. Yoga is available.

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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?

Not nearly as difficult as I had expected. Credit cards are widely accepted. Sometimes online retailers don't accept non-Indian-issued credit cards, but most brick-and-mortar stores take MasterCard and Visa, and sometimes Amex.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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

Language isn't usually the barrier. You can get by totally fine with English. But there are customs for navigating the city and India at large. It will be frustrating no matter what languages you speak.

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

Yes. Extremely.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Uber and another similar company, Ola, are very affordable. Both take some time to learn how to use with local customs, and both require a good deal of patience. Auto-rickshaws ("tuk-tuks") are cheap, but foreigners get gouged until you learn tricks for how to pay. Auto-rickshaws contribute badly to pollution and I would recommend people avoid them for that reason alone. I do not use other forms of public transit.

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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?

Must buy local. There is a trade-off between getting a big car that will survive the crashes you will most definitely be in and a small car that is more maneuverable. Many people told me before arrival that a car is a must, but it's not true. You can get by with Uber, Ola, auto-rickshaws, and hiring weekend drivers with cars for longer trips.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. We paid a few hundred dollars for a year upfront. I don't remember the cost. I'd estimate it's less than US$20 a month. Power outages cause the most Internet disruptions. The Internet goes down every few weeks, but we can reliably stream, make video calls, etc.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

An unlocked phone will work here with a local SIM card. Data is very cheap. You can pre-pay or post-pay for data at kiosks. I use Airtel and it has been pretty reliable all around India.

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Pets:

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?

In-home pet quarantine, 30 days. Surprisingly easy. I have managed to avoid vets and kennels, but if you ask around, you can find one or two decent options. Household help are sometimes keen to take on pet care for the overtime pay.

I had heard that "Indians are afraid of dogs," and that's just not true.

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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?

No. There is a bilateral work agreement, but don't expect anyone to assist you in leveraging it.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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

Western men mostly dress in Western clothes. Women typically cover their legs fully and shoulders. Local women's clothes are saris or kurtas and pants (similar to a pajama set). Western women almost never wear shorts, skirts above the knee, dresses, high heels, tank tops, or spaghetti straps. Men's street clothes can be whatever they want.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Day-to-day doesn't feel worrisome from a security perspective, but data show violence and terrorism remain high in India in general.

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

Food illnesses and mosquito-born illnesses are the biggest concerns. Expect to get a lot of vaccinations before arrival. Chennai is the only post in India where Americans don't typically take anti-malarial drugs, however. Dentistry is very good and cheap. A lot of people get braces, Invisalign, and other dental work done because it's so inexpensive. Other medical care varies. If you need surgery, you go to Singapore.

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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?

The air quality wavers from moderate to very unhealthy. Be sure to view all available data and not just that collected by the U.S. government. The air quality is a major issue and limits our ability to exercise outdoors, walk outdoors, or bicycle. I can taste the pollution and feel it in the back of my throat if I'm outside for more than about five minutes.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Despite the steadily warm weather, there is a pollen season that can affect those with allergies. But the air pollution is a much bigger concern. It's easy to be vegetarian. Eggs are considered meat and aren't used widely in baking. Nuts are often blended into sauces. Anyone with a shellfish allergy will be fine if s/he eats vegetarian -- no surprises there. Food tends to be very oil-heavy. Fresh fruits and vegetables must be disinfected, and they are rarely served at restaurants. Most food is cooked.

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

January to March is pleasantly hot (80s to low 90s Fahrenheit, maybe even 78 degrees at night), and always humid. April to July is very hot (100s, with "feels like" temperatures from 120-130F), and very humid, with occasional thunderstorms later in the summer. August and September are still very hot. October to December is monsoon season, with heavy, persistent rains and high temperatures. The temperature does not cool off at night.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Medium sized, and morale waivers a lot. This is tough place to live. Management and operations staff at U.S. government offices are not the best, which affects morale.

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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?

Making your own fun. Movies are cheap, but English-language films and subtitles are only available on certain days.

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

Families with young children seem to do best (that's a highly relative "best"), but there are continuous health issues for little children due to poor water quality (rashes and infections from bathing, swimming). Singles should avoid Chennai. It is not LGBT friendly either. The culture is very conservative with all arranged marriages and no dating scene. Couples need to make their own fun. Childless couples will find more to do in Mumbai or New Delhi.

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

Nope.

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

Yes. Gender segregation is visible. Media portrayal of women is awful. That said, street safety for women is much less of an issue here than in other parts of India. Women generally do not get harassed. Staring is rampant, but it may be more a product of being a foreigner than being female.

Foreigners stand out big time. Chennai is not diverse. The region is at least 80% Hindu, with some Christians and a very small Muslim population. Buddhists are all but non-existent, and there is no synagogue.

If you are used to a diverse environment, Chennai is a real shock.

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

Saving money. Proximity to beaches (1.5-hour drive) with easy surf for beginner surfers. We also get massages regularly because they are cheap and reimbursable through certain U.S. health insurance providers.

India is great for photographers. It is not great for cyclists.

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

Chennai does not have much to do. Driving 1 to 1.5 hours south there are beaches that are clean enough for swimming and surfing. Beach access is often available through hotels if you eat lunch at their restaurants, book an appointment at their spas, or pay for a day pass.

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

If you like to shop, you might as well furnish your whole house while you're here. Fabrics (table cloths, bedspreads, sheets, towels, clothing), hand-made furniture, rugs all cheap.

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

it is inexpensive. Availability to travel within India, but out-of-country regional travel is more difficult than it may seem.

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10. Can you save money?

Easily.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Whatever anyone tells you about India (comments in this post included) is both true and not true at the same time. India is full of contradictions. The people are so nice; the people are awful. The weather is unbearable; the weather can't be beat. The food is terrible; the food is amazing. You need a car; you definitely don't need a car.

Plan your overseas travel ahead of time. You'll need those out-of-country trips to look forward to when things get rough.

Nothing makes sense. Don't try to understand it. Locals don't know what's going on either. You can't change India.

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

No. (It wasn't really by choice in the first place.)

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

Sense of fashion. Love of beer.

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Chennai, India 05/22/15

Background:

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.

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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.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years, and still going strong

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

Corporate.

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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.

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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.

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

Sour cream!

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

Plenty of eating-out options.

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

If there's an insect, it's here. No snakes though.

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Daily Life:

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.

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

Cheap and reliable.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Lots, cost varies.

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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.

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

None.

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

Don't come.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Uber and a host of other radio taxis are safe and affordable.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

None.

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

Anything goes.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Avoid dusty places.

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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.

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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.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Some have programs for special needs kids.

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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.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Many, but I am not really aware.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very bad to very good.

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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.

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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.

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

No. Enough said.

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

None that I noticed.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, if you try.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, but with a bushel of salt.

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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.

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3. But don't forget your:

Morale and DEET spray.

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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.

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Chennai, India 03/23/15

Background:

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

No, we lived in Sao Paulo, Dubai, and Dhaka.

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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?

We flew from DC to Chennai through Frankfurt-about 20 hours total.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years (July 2012- July 2014).

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Consulate owned houses are split into 2 units. Apartments are rented. Commute is usually 15-20 minutes to the Consulate, 30 minutes to AISC.

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

Western cereals, peanut butter, chips are much more expensive. Fruits and vegetables were very cheap and need to be cleaned very well before eating. Cleaning products are locally available and inexpensive. Toilet paper was not good quality so we ordered it through amazon.

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

All the liquid stuff.

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

KFC, Papa Johns, Domino's, McDonald's, California Pizza Kitchen, Hard Rock Cafe, Pinkberry...

Leela place hotel has good brunch, lunch and dinner. Their dimsum lunch on weekend was pretty good even though it was pricey. And Leela place also has Thanksgiving and Christmas special lunch.

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

Mosquitoes. Be aware of dengue, malaria and chikungunya. We always used non-DEET mosquito repellent, and during November-Jan used DEET repellent (because of the dry/lower temperature there are more mosquitoes).

And we also used mosquito bed net while sleeping. When we arrived in Chennai, we hired someone to make a customized bed net to fit our king-sized bed because the bed net from local store was too narrow and short.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch-takes about 3 weeks.

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

We paid US$200/month each for a full-time nanny and driver. It is not easy to hire a honest worker though.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Consulate has a gym. And local gyms are also available. Lots of people from the Consulate go to yoga places-low cost.

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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?

Big stores take credit cards, and we only used the ATM machine at the Consulate and cashed checks at the Consulate cashier. We have heard some Consulate people had their credit card information was stolen, so we tried not to use credit card.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes.

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

No need.

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

Yes, there are no sidewalks and many uneven surfaces.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We used auto Rickshaw when we arrived or our driver called in sick. Rental cars are pretty expensive. Uber is popular and cheap.

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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 cars so people buy a new car (which can take a few months) or buy one from someone leaving post.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Available but the connection is very poor.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Just bring an unlocked phone; the Consulate will help you to get a SIM, and it is inexpensive for unlimited 3G/4G service.

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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, but the salary is pretty low and the paper work takes time.

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

Business casual for work. For women, if you cover your shoulders and knees you'll get less staring look from local people, and it's also good for not getting mosquito bites.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

We felt extremely safe here.

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

Singapore is the medvac place for serious issues. Basic care was ok.

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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?

Chennai's air quality was not bad comparing to other cities in India. We traveled to New Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra, and we appreciated Chennai's air.

During Diwali the air quality was horrible where we lived since all the local people burn firecrackers for days (day and night).

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Some people suffered from mold allergy. It is very humid in Chennai, so the entire city is filled with mold.

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

May/June are the hottest months, July-October is hot, and November-January is not hot, but there are more mosquitoes than other months. And heat comes in February.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is the American International School of Chennai, the German school, and a few other local international schools.

I have no experience with those schools.

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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?

When we arrived in Chennai, our oldest daughter was 3.5 years old, and younger one was 1.5 years old.

The older one went to local preschool called Alphabets. There was another preschool called Sprouts, and this school did not have A/C, only a fan in the classrooms. We were happier with Alphabets' facility, so decided to send the kids to Alphabets, and we were happy with the teachers.

Alphabets school has an annual recital in early December. Once the new semester starts in September, all the students are expected to participate/memorize the dances. Older students will have more than 1 song/dance (average 2 songs), and kids spend pretty long time to practice during the school hours.

And all kids are required to pay $$ for the costume (even if you don't want your kids to participate ), and buy the specific accessories (shoes, stockings, boots etc).

They will record the show and take pics and sell it for $$ (you are not allow to use camera or phone during the recital).

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, there was a private place (can't recall the name) offering all kinds of sports for kids..we heard about this place when we were about to leave. We usually took the kids to swim and used the playground at CGR.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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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?

Eating out, movies, going to a bar at a hotel.

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

Since childcare is inexpensive, it is a good family post... Not many places for nightlife....

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

Travels within India and internationally (Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia).

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

Mylapore temple, Saint Thomas Church, Story trails tour, Cooking class by local celebrity chef, Sari shopping (fabric shopping), and going to the beach (one hour away from Chennai city).

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

Furniture, fabrics, local arts.

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

Traveling throughout India and region, rich culture, friendly people and good Indian food.

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8. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, it was a good family post-safe, kind people, good Indian food, lots of traveling opportunities and low cost of living.

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

Winter clothes and spices.

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3. But don't forget your:

Mosquito repellent, sunglasses and sunscreen.

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Chennai, India 10/14/14

Background:

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

No - Mexico and Tanzania.

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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?

DC - about 20 hours total, connecting through Frankfurt or New Delhi.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years (2011-2013).

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is located in the city mostly 15-25 minutes from the Consulate and 30-40 minutes from the school. Combination of free standing homes and apartments, and most were clustered so you had consulate neighbors nearby.

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

All the basics available locally and inexpensive. More familiar western brand foods (cereals, peanut butter, chips) are much more expensive and harder to find. As a consumable post you can plan for many of the things that you really want from the States. Fruits and vegetables were plentiful and incredibly cheap, but do have to be cleaned before eating. Refrigeration is questionable in almost all of the grocery stores but a few suppliers of meat were pretty reliable and used by everyone.

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

Olive oil, peanut butter, maple syrup. You can get just about anything you would want but it will cost you.

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

Domino's, Papa Johns, KFC, a very questionable McDonald's in one of the malls. Best fast food was dosa and idly at preferred local restaurants (even for kids who don't like spicy food, the plain dosas are a big hit)! I believe a few more chains have made it since we've left (Hard Rock Cafe and California Pizza kitchen.) A fair amount of good restaurants with varied menus, mainly at the nicer hotels in the area, but can be pricey.

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

Mosquitos! Dengue was a particular concern. We always slept with mosquito nets and the mosquito "bat" was our best friend. Ants were insidious, and you quickly learn to keep everything they might get into in sealed tupperware, zip locks, and in the fridge or freezer.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch - usually took 2-3 weeks to get mail.

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

Household help is inexpensive. Many people had a housekeeper and/or nanny, and a driver. Salaries were increasing but when we were there it was about US$200 for a full-time nanny or driver. CLO keeps a list of people that have worked for consulate families in the past, and many employees hire help based on these references.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Small gym at the consulate, many people do yoga here.

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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?

Credit cards were OK at the big hotels. Mostly cashed checks at the consulate and used cash whenever possible. Only used the ATM at the consulate.

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

None. Knowing a few introductory phrases is nice to know for every culture, but most people know English. Your nanny or driver are wonderful translators if needed.

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

Definitely - no side walks, and lots of uneven surfaces. Even if there is an elevator, there's not a guarantee they will be in working order.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Auto rickshaws OK for short distances, but know your route and bargain beforehand. Taxis also OK when needed but most don't have seat belts or AC. Safety is always a question but everyone uses taxis.

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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?

Cannot import cars so have to buy a new car (which can take a few months) or purchase one from someone leaving post.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes - of varying quality and cost.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring a cell phone if you can. Even basic phones are pretty expensive on the local market.

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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?

It can be and was done but salaries are really low and paperwork can take time. Definitely doable if you really want to but not that common.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Yes. A few local organizations can point you in the right direction to a reputable organization.

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

Business casual for work. For women, covered shoulders and knees was a good rule to follow when out and about around town but you could wear less conservative things at expat gatherings if you wanted to.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

We felt very safe here. As with any city, you should always be aware of your surroundings, and use common sense.

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

OK for basic care, but for anything serious people were med evac'd to Singapore.

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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?

OK - better than some other cities in India, but still lots of dust and vehicle pollution.

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

Hot, and hot and wet. The weather is decent from November - January but this also overlaps with monsoon season when mosquitos abound (see below).

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

American International School of Chennai (AISC) - we had a great experience with the elementary grades.

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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?

A few decent local preschool options. Our youngest attended a local preschool (Alphabet) that we were happy with. Compared to the facilities at AISC, all the preschools paled in comparison but the children were happy and they were relatively inexpensive (by U.S. standards). Most people with young children had a nanny as well.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Good experience with elementary level after-school activities, not sure about more organized sports at higher levels; some friends tried local classes but quality and reliability varied greatly depending on the day.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Mid size, mostly from Japan, France, and Korea. Majority of expats (other than consulate families) live outside the city closer to the school. Morale varied greatly during our two years there - fluctuated from high to relatively low - depending on the time of year/people around.

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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?

Dinners out at nice hotels and some restaurants (since Chennai is dry, alcohol is only available if a restaurant is attached to a hotel). Lots of house parties and pool gatherings. Movie theaters are really nice and inexpensive (American and Indian movies shown).

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

Families with young children and couples seemed to do best. Singles had a hard time due to lack of dating scene (South India is a very conservative culture and hard to break into, most marriages are arranged). Social life revolved around house parties and dinner/brunches at nicer hotels around the city.

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

Regional travel opportunities - within India and internationally (Thailand, Singapore, Sri Lanka), friendships made within the expat community.

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

Drive about an hour south for swimmable beaches, visit Mylapore Temple, take a tour with Story Trails.

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

Lots of crafts and fabrics.

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

Travel in India and region, rich culture, friendly people.

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8. Can you save money?

Yes, but that can easily be spent if you travel a lot.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. India is not the easiest country to live in, but if you go in with an open mind and accept that there will be inconveniences, it can be an incredible adventure. We enjoyed our 2 year assignment, and were happy to leave when it was done.

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

Winter clothes, spices.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, mosquito repellant.

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Chennai, India 10/10/14

Background:

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

No. I have also lived in the UK, Greece, and Korea.

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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?

The U.S. The trip was about 20 hours with connections.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Lived in Chennai for 1 year.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The housing was large. It's a very small city so everything was within 20 minutes away. There is no public transportaiton so almost all expats had a car and a driver.

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

Foreign goods are expensive. Other food is not.

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

Any specialty American foods - peanut butter, candy, chips etc. Foreign food is expensive.

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

No Starbucks or McDonald's. But the food scene is improving and there are some nice new malls. Everything is inexpensive. You do have to be careful where you eat but I rarely got sick. Overall, it's much better than other parts of India.

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

There is a bad mosquito problem in the cooler months. We never left the house without mosquito repellant. Malaria exists but is not a huge problem. You learn to live with it.

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Daily Life:

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

Very inexpensive.

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. They aren't very upscale but they are available.

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

ATM's exist and I did not have problems with credit cards.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I did not check but there are a lot of churches.

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

You don't. Everyone speaks English

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

Someone with a physical disability would find it very difficult to live in this city.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

I would not take them. I did occassional take the local open air type cabs but only for very short distances.

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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?

A regular car is fine but I would not get anything fancy. Driving is crazy in India.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes - not expensive. It's not 100% consistant but it's ok.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Just watch your bills. The phone works fine but there seems to always be discrepency in the billing. It's hard to get a cell phone as a traveler.

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Pets:

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?

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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?

I don't think so.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty.

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

Not very dressy and always sandals. It's very hot.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Overall Chennai was very safe.

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

Medical care is not great but ok for the basics. For serious issues I would leave India. There are health concerns

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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?

Not great but better than most Indian cities.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

A lot of people developed allergies here.

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

Hot, hot and more hot.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Yes - my daughter was young so only attended a part-time daycare. It was good but only 3 hours a day. Everyone had nannies. The international schol had a good reputation.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

Yes. There are several part-time daycare options. There is one full day daycare as well that some individuals used. Most sent their kids to a part of the day daycare and had a nanny for the rest of the day. Household help is very inexpensive.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small but close. Most people are ok with the place.

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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?

Restaurants in hotels. Chennai is a dry city so drinking is hard to come by. You can drink in the hotels though so that is where most expats go.

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

It's great for families. There isn't a ton to do so I think young couples and singles often found it dull. There is enough for families though and the cost of living plus the relative ease of commuting makes it great for families.

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

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

India is an amazingly diverse place. You see everything here. I'm sure prejudice exists here but there is so much diversity here that it would be hard to say who is most discriminated against.

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

I have loved the travel. I have also loved the wonderful friends. Chennai is a small city so it is very easy to get around. There is not a very active night life so we often had to make our own fun. We spent a lot of time at each others' houses and really got to know each other very well. Our kids got to spend alot of time together.

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

It's easy to travel around India so the choices are endless.

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

Fabric, furniture, Indian souvenirs.

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

Chennai is inexpensive so shopping of all kinds is great. Household help is also inexpensive as are services. Traveling in India is not difficult and there are so many interesting things to see all over India.

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10. Can you save money?

YES.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

The beach is not a beach so don't come here thinking you'll get a beach resort. Also, when they say hot, they mean hot. But I also wish I'd understood that living in a place that is hard to live in makes for a very close knit community.

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

Totally. I loved it.

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

Winter attire.

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4. But don't forget your:

Swim gear.

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Chennai, India 06/18/14

Background:

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

No, fourth assignment and we have lived in East Asia, SE Asia and Europe.

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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?

Washington, DC; about 20 hours with a connection in Frankfurt or London.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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

Diplomatic assignment.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most people live between 15-30 min from the Consulate. A mix of houses, apartments and duplexes, many significant and recurring maintenance issues. Most of the properties are old so just plan on spending a lot of time dealing with maintenance.

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

This was one of the worst parts of our tour. You can get veggies and fruits for cheap, they need to be washed thoroughly but if that's all you want you are in luck. Everything else is a nightmare. There are two main expat stores (at least) one of which Amma Nana. The shopping experience is terrible here: crowded, dirty, imported goods that are overpriced and often out of date. Their cold section clearly isn't cold during the frequent power outages and as such we don't buy any meat or dairy there. In reality, if you want to eat something other than veggies and rice, you need to stop at at least three different places and hope you can find a good protein supplier that you trust. It's not easy so use your consumable shipment.

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

Consumables, syrup, black beans, cereal, sun tan lotion.

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

KFC, Subway and Dominoes are all readily available. There are local places that sell dosas for next to nothing and are worth a try. Food poisoning is a real risk no matter where you eat.

There are more and more five star hotels who have great offerings, but of course are pricey. Very little in between basic food and luxury. South India cuisine is heavily dependent on rice and getting good, quality protein is a real challenge.

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

So many ... the most dangerous are the mosquitoes; we had a serious dengue problem a few years ago, which seems to have abated for the moment. Our house has ants in the hot season, mosquitoes in the rainy season and all kinds of spiders and other interesting creppy crawlies throughout the year, including wasps!

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Consulate pouch takes a few weeks.

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

This was another challenge, readily available but extraordinarily specialized. We had a gardener, driver, nanny/cook and housekeeper. Oh the drama, be careful who you hire, say good-bye to your personal space and boundaries and buckle up for an adventure. Depending on the size of your family you will need some staff to help you navigate the daily grind of living in India. My advice, find good people, pay them well (find out the average wage and pay more), pay OT and listen to them, they have seen countless foreigners flounder in India and they have good advice if you take the time to listen, many people don't. Also expect drama, fights among the staff, requests for loans and all kinds of other things, it's all part of the package.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Very basic one at the Consulate. Hotels have them available but are fairly costly.

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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?

No problem; Citbank ATMs are around the city and safe and easy to use. No problem with credit cards.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, just about all.

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

None, a few words are appreciated but this has to be the easiest country to live in without speaking the local language.

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

Yes, people without physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city. Infrastructure is horrendous, no sidewalks, trash everywhere, power outages are common, so when there are elevators you might get stuck!

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Trains are fine, cheap and a fun way to see the country. The stations themselves can be chaotic but once you do it, it's easier the second time. There are taxis, most people hire personal drivers. Auto rickshaws are everywhere and cheap (although they will try to charge foreigners more), they are not the safest but easy for short trips. Buses are not recommended.

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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?

It has to be right hand drive and by far the easiest thing to do is buy one from a departing expat.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

No, another big headache, some people are lucky, we were not. Internet was incredibly unreliable and slow, it was not too expensive, maybe US$25 per month. I hear things will change for the better but I'll believe that when I see it.

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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?

No, with the big caveat that if you can work from home and get a good internet connection then maybe.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many - help is needed in so many ways.

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

Business. Given the climate, men can often get by without a tie and jacket.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Personal security is fine, the biggest threat is traffic and dengue.

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

Oh so many, dengue is a serious issue and as mentioned earlier our community was struck hard a few years back. Food poisoning is also a major threat and happens quite often. Malaria is an issue in the rural areas but not so in Chennai. Sanitation is lacking in general, and diseases spread quickly, especially during the rainy season.

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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?

It's fine, nowhere near as bad as Delhi and probably as good as DC.

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4. 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 few months out of the year are bearable (Nov-Feb), the rest is misery.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

AISC has been great. Like any school there are a few downsides but for us it was one of the main positives of our tour. The school is continuously getting better and facilities are top notch. Teachers, on the whole, are good and academics are very good.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Some but not the school's strong suit. They do try.

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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?

Yes, many options, some people enjoy the local formats (strict, route learning, cheap) we did not, we would recommend AISC if you can afford it.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, through the school - basketball, soccer, track and field and swimming to name a few.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

If people have a connection to India (family or otherwise) or if they are fascinated by Indian culture then typically their morale is good. If people don't have those anchors then generally speaking morale is not so great. This is not an easy country to live in, constant noise pollution, garbage, weather and illness are all a challenge, plus it's far from home and there is not a lot going on here. If you come in with the attitude that it's going to be tough then you might pleasantly surprised.

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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?

House parties, pool parties, going to five star restaurants.

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

For families it's good if having a good school is important, saving money, having a large living area etc. It's not great for people who love the outdoors and there are real health concerns. For singles, I think it's pretty rough, nightlife here is not good, but if you love to travel you can always escape. I think married couples who are interested in India or who have a family connection to India, do the best.

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

Yes, big time with gender. Plenty of material to readily available to read up on before you arrive.

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

We have loved the regional travel opportunities and saving money. We have also enjoyed the school, AISC, which has improved quite a bit in the past few years.

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

Travel to Kerala and take a houseboat tour or go to the beach. Plan escapes, they are needed. If you are interested in Indian culture, South India has a lot to offer.

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

There are antiques and shopping in Pondicherry and Southern Tamil Nadu; we spent a lot of money on travel and were still able to save.

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

You can definitely save money here, that is a big advantage. There is also a lot of regional travel opportunities, such as SE Asia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Gulf. If you are interested in Indian culture then of course there is a lot to see and experience. Chennai is also on the ocean (Bay of Bengal) and there are a few decent beach resorts that make for good weekend get aways. Kerala is an easy flight away and should be visited as well.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, definitely.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wish I had understood the health challenges a little more.

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

Absolutely not.

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

Skis.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sun tan lotion and anything you think you'll need, you cannot get everything here. Also bring your patience.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

I wrote this review to contrast some of the sunnier previous reviews. Some people come here and love it, but most who I have known over the past three years have struggled with serious up's and down's. There were some great times but life here is hard and people should know that coming into it and not expect it's going to be easy. The people who thrive here either have an India connection or have just come from somewhere worse, and those places are few and far between. Don't get me wrong, not everyone here is hating life every moment of the day, people adjust and follow their hobbies, or get in shape; they cope. It's just not a place where most people want to come back to, the frustrations are many. I am glad my family and I were here and admire the persistence of the people who live here. We have made some great friends both among locals and expats and learned a lot about the culture which we appreciate.

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Chennai, India 05/19/14

Background:

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

No, I have also lived in France and the United States.

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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?

Home base is either in U.S. or United Kingdom. Chennai to London direct is about 9.5 hours. Also possible to connect in Frankfurt or Dubai. Chennai to the Eastern United States is about 20 + hours including a layover in Frankfurt.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I have been here for 1 year.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The government provides both apartments and houses in a central location. Most are happy with their housing assignment. Many of the apartments have balconies. Houses will have a garden, some with fabulous fruit trees! Commute time is 15 - 30 minutes, depending on traffic and where you live.

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

There are many options for groceries. Amma Naana is handy for just about everything you need, but you'll pay a high price for anything which is specifically tempting to the expat - for example parmesan. Gourmei Market (no, that's not a spelling mistake) is similar to Amma Nanna but it's smaller, generally quieter and a more pleasant place to shop. Spencers and Nilgiris (great for staples and cleaning products) are small groceries which you'll find all over town, and can be cheaper than Amma Naana for certain items. There are also some hypermarkets- French-owned Auchan, and a few branches of the Indian hypermarket Big Bazaar. There are also a few specialist shops, such as Nuts n Spices and N2H Nutrition to Health, both of which are excellent for all the staples.

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

Tinned tomatoes, maple syrup, good cereal, eco-friendly cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues, good quality chocolate, jars of pesto, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, gluten-free flour, chocolate chips, aluminium foil, clingfilm, apple sauce, hand sanitizer wipes, contact lens solution, sulfate/parabens/etc-free shampoo & conditioner, nail polish, natural food colouring, pecans.

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

Lots of fast food options - Subway, McDonald's, KFC, Pinkberry, Dominos, Pizza Hut. Usually a bit cheaper than in the U.S. or UK. All will offer more choices for vegetarians than in the west - McSpicyPaneer, anyone? If you want really good, affordable and yet somewhat nutritious fast food, Sangeetha (a South Indian diner) is great.

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

Mosquitoes are a constant pest. Dengue is a risk here, but among our community we have heard of very few cases. Vigilance is key! Ants can be a problem but if you're very careful about food storage and keeping things clean, they will stay out of your home.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We use the diplomatic pouch to receive and send mail. Sometimes we will use India Post for international mailing. It is affordable and, in my limited experience, reliable.

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

Lots of domestic help available - drivers, gardeners, cooks, nannies, cleaners... and all very affordable.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Lots of gyms are available. Costs vary, but you'll find some which are a lot cheaper than gyms in the States or UK. Lots of yoga and dance studios, also of varying cost and quality.

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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?

We use cash most of the time, and sometimes we use credit cards. We are careful about where we use cards. ATMs are generally fine.

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

Most people speak English, and most signs are in English, so you really don't need any Tamil to get by. That said, if you can learn a few basic words and phrases you will find the locals will really warm to you. I have often been in situations where I've been glad to know some Tamil - when talking to auto drivers or to shop staff, for example.

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

Yes. Pavements are generally either non-existent, in very bad shape, dirty, clogged by tea/fruit/vegetables/snack stalls or a combination of all these things. Buildings are mostly older and sometimes hard to access even for people without physical difficulties.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Autos and taxis are generally very safe and affordable. The only snag with autos is there is usually a song and dance about fare price, as the driver will claim the meter doesn't work and then quote you the foreigner fare. Sometimes the driver will try to take you to certain shops where he will collect commission for bringing you. All this can be infuriating, so nowadays I personally avoid using autos. However - this is a personal choice - generally you can get around OK. We don't take buses or trains. Uber has recently arrived in Chennai and it appears to be reliable.

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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 can't bring a car, so try to think ahead of your move and buy from someone who is leaving. Don't buy a car which you care about keeping pristine - bumps and scrapes are a given here.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Cost is low - we pay about US$120 a year for pretty good and reliable internet.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You can bring an unlocked cell phone with you and buy a local SIM. Phones don't seem to be any cheaper here than in the UK or the U.S.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

To name but two - for animal lovers there is Blue Cross of India, and if you're interested in social welfare, the Overseas Women's Club is very active in that department.

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

At work it is semi-formal. In public it is fairly conservative, especially for women, who should dress fairly modestly. No short skirts, shorts or low cut tops.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Not particularly, but I feel India is a country where you just never know. If you use your common sense and stay within safe areas of town and don't act flashy or walk the streets late at night, you will be very safe here. I would say that Chennai is one of the safer big cities in India.

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

The one major concern is dengue, probably closely followed by food-borne illness. Generally the health care here is good - great dental care and I have seen an opthamologist, but I cannot comment on hospital care. The health unit within our consulate is great.

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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. When I take a lot of autos and spend time in traffic I definitely notice it. However, for the most part, the air quality here is fine, especially compared to other large cities in India.

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

It's a tropical wet and then dry climate. The 'cooler' time of year is from around November to March, but the heat never really lets up. Monsoon season is around October - December, but last year the rainy season was pretty mild.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

AISC is by all accounts a great school.

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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?

Several good options for preschool & daycare are available, though I cannot personally comment.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

It feels like a fairly large and varied expat community - Americans, Australians, Koreans, British, Japanese... Morale? That's a mixed bag. Like anywhere you'll find people who are unhappy and people who are happy. Others who are unhappy but 'making lemonade.' India is so polarising you will find all kinds of attitudes towards life here.

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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?

Eating at great restaurants, drinking at hotel bars (the only places in Chennai which serve alcohol). There are a few good cinemas here, and tickets are cheap. The first IMAX cinema in Chennai just opened in April. There are social events organised by the CHEX (Chennai Expats group).

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

This is a good city for families as there are plenty of good nannies, daycares, schools, and it seems there are a lot of activities geared towards children here. As previously mentioned, families can feel quite safe here. Singles may have a harder time if they are seeking a great nightlife - there isn't much of one here. However there are private members clubs - for example the Madras Club and the Gymkhana Club, and the less-exclusive Madras Hash House Harriers and OWC (Overseas Women's Club), to name but a few. Many in the diplomatic/other expat communities here organise expat events, such as pub quizzes, concerts, etc. For photographers there is the friendly Chennai Photowalk group. It's a good place for couples, particularly if you enjoy trying new restaurants - tons of great places here.

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

Regional travel. Tailor-made clothing and housewares. South Indian food. Visiting Hindu temples. Visiting a tea plantation in the Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu - stunning and a great break from the heat and hustle bustle of Chennai.

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

Walk around the pretty grounds of the Theosophical Society. Take a tour with Storytrails - a great way to get to know the city. Explore the crumbling but charming Government Museum which houses exquisite bronzes and a quirky Zoology department. Visit the ancient stone carvings in nearby Mamallapuram. Hidden gem: go to Ram's Farm for incredible pizza in a unique atmosphere (Google it) - just remember to book ahead.

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

Silk, cottons - so many beautiful fabrics of any colour you can think of. Scarves - cashmere, embroidered, you name it. Antique wooden furniture. Gold and silver jewellery. Pottery.

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

Fascinating culture. Delicious food. Lovely Madras filter coffee. Affordable cost of living. Fresh fruit and vegetables, many of which are available year-round. Traveling within the country and region is fairly easy and affordable. Proximity to Singapore, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Andamans and of course all of India. Yes, it's hot and humid in South India, but year-round sunshine is a bonus for many. Shopping is fun here and you can get some great bargains. As an avid reader, I particularly appreciate how affordable books are here. Availability of household help. All kinds of beautiful crafts here - paintings, pottery, silks, etc. As for saving money... it is possible, if you don't spend it all on travel and beautiful Indian things!

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8. Can you save money?

Yes, you can definitely do that.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How challenging it would be to get around on foot.

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

Yes. India has been very, very challenging for me, but it's been a fascinating experience and I've found there's a lot to enjoy here.

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

Skimpy clothing.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunglasses, mosquito repellent and your appetite.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Madras Rediscovered and

Degree Coffee by the Yard


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Chennai, India 08/05/13

Background:

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

This is our second. We have also lived in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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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?

Home base is Washington, DC. Traveling under U.S. government orders through United/Lufthansa from Chennai-Frankfurt-DC takes about 30 hours with layovers. Each flight is about 9-10 hours long. Other choices include going first to Delhi and then straight to DC. Or going through Dubai.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing includes Consulate owned and rented. Many of the 'houses' are split into two units that are Consulate owned. All true apartments are rented. Commute is usually 15-25 minutes to the Consulate. Nearly everyone lives near other U.S. Consulate folks.

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

Local varieties are inexpensive. Fresh produce is extremely affordable. Spices are too, so don't ship them if you don't already have them! Import items are very costly. Get them through the mail or put them in your consumables shipment.

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

Toilet paper, pasta sauce, tomato paste, pancake sauce, mac n cheese, cereal (by mail), baby foods and smoothie pouches, jam, molasses, apple cider vinegar (or other non-white vinegar), plastics wrap, ziplock bags, cat litter and food, wood furniture cleaner, apple sauce, corn meal, cocoa powder, olives, artichoke, heart of palm, maple syrup, corn syrup, refried beans. I would ship liquids and order others by mail. You can get a lot of those things here, but if they are Western-specific, you will pay a lot.

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

Domino's, McDonald's, California Pizza Kitchen (brand new), KFC, Pink Berry (brand new). There are other sit-down restaurants that offer good Italian, Greek, Korean, and American food. The selection has grown greatly since we moved here last year. Still has room to grow.

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

Mosquitoes carry dengue and malaria here. That being said, I don't know anyone taking malaria prophylaxis, including my family. We sleep under bed nets and use non-DEET bug spray when going outside, which is everyday. I switch to DEET family-type sprays when the mosquitoes are thicker than usual. Also, ants are a big problem. We are constantly in a battle trying to keep them out of the house.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We use Diplomatic Pouch. So, we have to mind the 16 oz. liquid limit.

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

Household help is easy to find and inexpensive. You can hire a nanny or housekeeper or driver for about US$200-250 a month. We were lucky enough to find employees we were happy with from the very beginning. However, some people take a while before finding the right fit.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, but I haven't used any of them. There is one at the Consulate that is OK. There are tons of places to take yoga classes. Many people also hire instructors to come to their house for yoga or personal training. This is a very affordable option.

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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?

I use my credit card and ATMs throughout the city. However, the best exchange rate is cashing a check at the Consulate. I haven't had any issues, but I know a few people who have had their information compromised.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I know that there are Catholic services in English at several churches, but the Basilica has reasonable hours (aka not 6am). Also, there are English services at the Mormon church. Not sure about others.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

We have satellite TV (Tata Sky). It is OK and we keep it because one year costs what one month would in the U.S. But, we stream a lot of shows through our TV using an IP address blocker and netflix or amazon.

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

You can get around with English, but I frequently need to use our driver or nanny to translate in Tamil.

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

This is not a disability friendly city at all.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

I use taxis for longer trips and autorickshaws for short trips when I need to. Taxis are safer I suppose, but usually don't have working seat belts. They are safe enough for me to feel comfortable using them. Always use the meter in taxis and negotiate a rate with autos before taking off.

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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 can't bring a car, so you either have to buy from someone who is leaving or buy on the local market and wait a few months to get your car.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes...ish. It depends where you live. We have 2 Mbps through BSNL. I know another family who has 8 Mbps through Airtel. That is about as fast as it gets right now. We pay about US$60 for home phone and internet.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I have an iPhone and got a local SIM to use it here. If you want a cheap phone just for calls and texts, buy something here. Otherwise, buy it in the U.S. Smart phones are extremely expensive on the local market.

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Pets:

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?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are a couple of vets I feel comfortable with for basic care. We have neighbors or our housekeeper come to watch our cat while we are gone.

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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?

Yes. I worked at an NGO for 7 months. If you have skills to offer, you can find a job. However, you must understand that the wages are much lower than U.S. equivalents.

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

Dress is conservative. At work, it is casual in the sense that you don't have to wear a suit everyday. And in public, most women I know don't wear short shorts or tank tops or the like.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Crime is very low here. I feel extremely safe here, especially compared to major cities in the U.S. Traffic is super crazy though and sidewalks (when they are there) are usually used for hawkers. This means people walk in the streets. Not pedestrian friendly at all.

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

Respiratory issues are common here. The doctors seem competent that I have visited, but the infrastructure is lacking. The lab testing facilities are clean, but the quality of results is questionable. Any significant health concern is taken care of via Medevac to Singapore. All women giving birth go back to DC or Singapore.

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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?

The air quality is moderate to unhealthy. There is a lot of car pollution. And when it is dry, the dust is everywhere. Upper respiratory problems are common among expats. That being said, it isn't as bad as other major cities in India. The winds from the ocean seem to clear out a lot of it.

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

The weather is almost dreamy from November-January. Of course, that is when the mosquitoes come out in droves. Otherwise, it is hot or hotter with small monsoons in June/July and October/November. The hottest months are May/June. Many people (especially locals) head to hill stations for cooler weather or get out of India during that time period.

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Schools & Children:

1. 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?

Our son is 2.5 years old. He stays at home with our nanny. However, many children at this age are going to play school for 2+ hours a day. Sprouts and Alphabet are popular. There is a daycare (Grandma and Grandpa's) that I know one family is using and is happy with.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Sizable. There are quite a few Consulates and the car companies bring in a lot of expats.

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2. Morale among expats:

It varies. Some people always have low morale. Some always have high morale. And most people go between those points at various stages. It often isn't an easy place to live, but there are positives about living here.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

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

This is a good family post simply because childcare is very inexpensive and good. There isn't really much of a nightlife. Nearly all marriages are arranged, so it is difficult for singles to date locals.

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

There is an LGBTQ presence here in Chennai. However, it really isn't out in the open other than the Pride parade and the film festival held every year.

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

Yes, yes, and yes. There are tensions between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka for example, which is racial/cultural/religious based. There are occassional protests and sometimes isolated cases of violence related to these tensions. However, it hasn't been a huge issue since we moved here. Also, this is a very conservative and overtly patriarchal society compared to the rest of India. You have to keep that in mind...

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

For me, the food has been one of the biggest highlights. I love South Indian food. And now I can cook some of it!

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

Visit the local temples and San Thome Basilica. There are swimmable beaches about an hour away. Trying south Indian food at different local restaurants is fun. Story Trails is a great tour company to learn about local things here in Chennai.

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

Rugs, fabric, antique furniture, jewelry, framing.

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

The cost of living is extremely low when you are living on a U.S. salary. You can save a lot of money here. We travel quite a bit and have still managed to save. Also, the culture here in Southern India is so different compared to the rest of India, let alone the U.S. Also, it is swimming weather year-round, so all the Consulate kids learn to swim really young.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I think if you ask me this question on different days you would get different answers... Am I glad we came here? Yes. Would I live here forever? No. It is a hardship post and you have to sift through the bad to get to the really good stuff.

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2. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Tamarind City by Bishwanath Ghosh
Mother Pious Lady: Making Sense of Everyday India by Santosh Desai

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Chennai, India 07/09/12

Background:

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

No. I have lived in Tokyo, Japan and Heidelberg, Germany.

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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?

My home is in the USA and the trip is LONG. You can connect through Europe or through the Middle East to get to America from Chennai. The Middle eastern Airlines are nicer.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

Spouse of a foreign service officer.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is comfortable and most people in our community live very close to the US Consulate. The American School is a little further away, but still within a 30 min drive from most residences.

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

Fruits and vegetables are the best that I have ever had and unbelievably cheap. We do wash everything in a dilute bleach solution before we eat it though. You can usually what you want in Chennai, but you may have to really look for it.

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

American white flour and brown sugar as well as good chocolate chips. All are available here, but the quality is not as good as in the US.

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

South Indian restaurants are cheap and the food is generally good, though cleanliness is sometimes an issue. The big hotels in the city are more expensive, but have a variety of good restaurants.

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

The mosquitoes are numerous, so we sleep under mosquito nets. Both my spouse and I tested positive for dengue fever last winter. After the monsoons the mosquito population increases and mosquito-borne diseases are more prevalent.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

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

Domestic help is both available and inexpensive but don't expect the same type of service that you would get in the western world. That being said, we have really enjoyed having household help. Salaries are rising rapidly.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. There are gyms throughout the city and several good yoga studios.

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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?

Places that cater to foreigners usually take credit cards, but don't expect that they will everywhere.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There are four daily English newspapers that I know about, and they cost only a few cents.

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

Knowing Tamil makes life easier, but English is very widely spoken.

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

Yes, sidewalks are not common and not well kept where they exist. Walkways are not often smooth.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There are trains and buses, but I have not taken either locally. They are both crowded and inexpensive (I don't know about safe). Auto-rickshaws are everywhere and will take you wherever you want to go after you negotiate a price.

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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?

Buy a smaller, cheaper, car here. You have to see the driving style to believe it.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, but ours kept going in and out so we purchased a second internet service in order to have a back-up.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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Pets:

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?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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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?

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

Women should dress fairly modestly. Avoid shorts and short skirts if possible.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I feel very safe in Chennai.

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

We have had several stomach illness and dengue fever, so health has been our biggest issue here.

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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?

The air quality is moderate. We are near the ocean, so the sea breezes clear out a lot of the pollution, but the traffic and industry is increasing in Chennai and the air quality is growing worse.

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

Hot and humid, but you do get used to it. May is the hottest month and the weather is generally very pleasant Nov-Feb.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

My children were 1 and 3 when we arrived and are now 3 and 5. They have attended and been very happy at Alphabet Playschool in Alwarpet. We will miss the school very much when we leave. There are several other Playschools nearby that seem very good. There are also a few good Montessori options available.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

At the American International School there are many sports programs. We have had some trouble finding good programs for children under 5. We did find a yoga program and a karate program, but only after a lot of looking around.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Growing and friendly.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally very good, but it depends upon who you talk to.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

We entertain in our home and we go out to fancy restaurants in the big hotels. We've definitely had a good time here.

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

It is a good place for families as many Indian people love children and many of the Americans here have families with young children. There are not very many outdoor places to take young children during the day, but there are lots of children available for playdates.

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

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

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

The south Indian food, the preschool that my children attend and the laid back attitude of the South Indian people.

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

There are often cultural exhibitions held at different halls and hotels in the city, and it is a lot of fun to shop for Indian fabrics and jewelry. It is also nice to go to the beach. You can go right in the city but if you want a clean, swimmable, beach then you have to travel about 1 hour south of the city.

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

Fabric, jewelry and furniture is beautiful and inexpensive.

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

Chennai is a relatively safe and friendly city with a laid back life-style.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Definitely.

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

Skimpy summer clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Chennai, India 08/05/11

Background:

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

Beijing.

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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?

Connect in Brussels or Frankfurt to get back to Washington or New York. Do Brussels, as it's a nicer airport and with the USG that will get you on AA and Jet Airways. United does the Frankfurt run, and the flight service is mean and nasty. Jet Airways is a dream, but unfortunately, you cannot fly them all the way in to New York on USG funds.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

A 20-minute commute for USG folks to the consulate. For corporates, there can be some long drives. Traffic heats up fast.

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

You'll spend more on these things than in the U.S., if you want U.S.-style quality.

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

Loads of stuff... breakfast cereals ($10/box locally), beef of all kinds. the list is long

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

A few McDonald's and KFCs around. Pizza Hut and Domino's are ubiquitous. Prices cheaper than in the U.S.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Did you say meat substitutes for vegetarians? "Non-veg" is the alternative option in this town, if it's offered at all.

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

Better than you'd expect, given it's India. Mosquitoes, but apparently none so far that have had any bad diseases. One individual in our community, who traveled very widely, did catch a mosquito-borne illness.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Through USG pouch. Slow, but 2-3 weeks just isn't as bad as it sounds.

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

It is easy to find domestic help. They're typically not as reliable as some other nationalities we've worked with.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes.

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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?

The ATMs at one or two banks still don't like my U.S. bank's ATM card.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Catholic, mainline Protestant, evangelical Christian. Many Hindu temples and mosques, though I do not know whether they pray in Tamil, Hindi, English, Urdu, or Arabic -- maybe all of the above. I think Jewish folks in the expat community end up organizing their own events at appropriate times of the year. LDS is building something here and is already active in Bangalore. For Pete's sake, the Apostle Thomas is even buried here.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Loads of English language newspapers. If you like tabloids you're in for a good time. English-language satellite- and cable-TV is commonly available at a little less than you'd pay in the U.S.

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

You can easily get by without Tamil.

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

I expect it would be difficult. While some western cities are putting in sidewalk cut-outs for the disabled, Chennai is not even putting in sidewalks. Period.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We take autorickshaws when necessary, though they're physically unsafe. The drivers are pushy, but not dangerous. Intercity trains are safe and ok, especially the Shatabdi to Bangalore. Some have taken the local rail transit without complaint, though just one look at those doorless wonders has made me wonder at their sanity. Local buses are crowded at a level that would make me worried about pickpockets.

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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?

Do not bring a car. Get it here. India insists that it will only allow importation of right-hand drive vehicles; moreover, there is a tightening of environmental restrictions that is affecting even folks who try to import cars from Japan and the like. Also note that some cars cannot be repaired here. On the other hand, either start learning stick-shift, or look hard for an automatic when you get here. Consider buying an Indian car, they are nothing like the old Ambassadors that you'll still occasionally see.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, at a little less than you'd pay in the U.S.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cheap here.

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Pets:

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?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, good vets.

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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?

I hear mixed reports. I have known several lawyers and others, whose services back in the West could have been outsourced, working locally with, well, outsourcers, at Western rates, nearly running the show after a very short time.

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

Expat men wear shirts and slacks, maybe blazers, maybe suits. Women have it tougher, they need to dress conservatively. Local women wear saris but you do not need to.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No. Touch wood, that's more of a problem in the north.

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

Adequate.

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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?

Have had no problems. I understand it has the best air quality of India's Big Four cities.

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

The temperature is 70-80F. and pleasant from November to maybe February. Other than that, hot and tropical. But strangely, not as hot and unpleasant as Washington in August. You'll get used to it. There has never been a day when I could not wear shorts if I chose.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

AISC has amazing facilities. Teachers are good, maybe not Philips Andover-good, but good.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

It's worth consulting with AISC about.

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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?

Yes, though I have not experienced it directly.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

At AISC, yes.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Not huge at the Consulate, but there are many expat workers here as well.

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2. Morale among expats:

Strong among families.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Locals socialize among themselves, in their extended families. Expats with families socialize with each other, it's about the kids; single expats have an OK time, but this is not partying India, Mumbai and New Delhi are on a completely different planet.

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

Great, great, great for families with small kids, up through grade school -- great school, community pool, after-school activities, your driver can pick the kids up after school. HS kids get bored quickly. Singles get bored quickly: only one recorded instance of a USG person dating a local, in the 2-century history of the Consulate (kidding, but not much).

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

Surprisingly, quite accepting of folks on all parts of the LGBT spectrum. A leader in India. I am not clear, though, what the actual dating possibilities are in those segments.

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

Well... they like whites, and they like males. Indian-Americans with north Indian ancestry may need to unlearn some of the things they heard about India before they came. Women will have an unusual, not to say difficult, time, as western skirts, shoulder-baring, etc., is all too much for Tamil culture.

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

Beach, beach, beach, but not all go. It's a 45-minute drive. Bangalore is great. Great place to tour India from. Chennai is not scenic in itself, but it's very liveable, and great for families.

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

Beach, swimming, food of a quality and range of cuisines that I understand exceeds even that of Mumbai, visiting Pondicherry, surfing lessons at Pondy.

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

Good food. Westerners often come and want to buy local South Indian clothes, though we have tried to resist -- the moment folks leave here, they realize they'll never wear the stuff again.

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

The food is great -- if you like South Indian food, which is actually a range of unique cuisines, household help is abundant. The Consulate is well managed and well-resourced in contrast to five+ years ago. Locals are friendly, though keep to themselves on weekends.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely!

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

winter coat. Seriously. I made a mistake in packing, and mine is here.

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Iruvar. (look it up.)

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Chennai, India 06/05/10

Background:

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

No, lived in Kyiv, Ukraine July 2005-April 2007, Niamey, Niger March 2004-July 2005, Misawa Japan 1982-1985, Hahn Germany 1970-1974.

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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?

Home base is Fort Smith Arkansas, Long trip, connection AR-Atlanta(2 hrs)-Chicago(2 Hrs)-Delhi(14 hrs)-Chennai (2.5 hrs).

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3. How long have you lived here?

Lived there from Sept 2007-August 2009.

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

Foreign Service Officer.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is spread out in the nice neighborhoods around the city. I lived the farthest from the consulate but closest to the school. It would take be 15 minutes before 830 in the morning to get to work. Then 30 minutes before 600 in the evening. After 600 the commute would take more than an hour. Other housing is much closer to the consulate. Most are homes, single family or duplex. There are nice apartments as well. All concrete construction.

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

There are local markets in every neighborhood. It is all local food and supplies, decent and good prices for the local items. Anything imported is twice as high as what you would pay for the local items. The fresh vegetables and fruits are seasonal but fresh and good. You have to go to several different shops to get all you need but you learn your neighborhood. You can find American items but be prepared to pay double. We learned to just live on the local pasta and sauces and spices. Beef is hard to find as the city is predominately Hindu. Chicken and Fish are plentiful. Pork is very hard to find as well.

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

I would ship more Diet Dr Pepper. Other than that, we were happy with what we could get on the local economy.

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

There is Pizza Hut, Dominos, McDonalds, KFC, Subway. The best food is getting out and sampling the local cuisine. At the branded restaurants you will pay America like prices. But I could take my family of 5 to a good local diner and get full for under $20.The hotels have fancy restaurants but the prices are high as well, $10 or more a plate.

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

Lots of bugs, mosquitoes abound, little bitty sugar ants in everything, geckos in the house, some quite large but at least they eat the other bugs. My children even named a few of them.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

There is Fedex and Ups in the country. We had pouch privileges at the consulate. It would take 2-3 weeks for mail to arrive from the states.

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

Domestic help is plentiful and inexpensive. Under $200 a month for a full time maid/cook. A little more for a full time driver.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Gold's Gym is all over the city. There also gyms in the nicer hotels that allow memberships.

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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?

I had no problems using ATMs. It is a cash based society so we paid for everything in cash although the locals would use debit and credit cards even at the grocery store. But all your markets and local stands are cash only and small bills.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are English masses at the Bascillica, Catholic. There are some Christian services available in different neighborhoods. Hindu temples are all over but in the local language or Hindi.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There is satillite TV with a good amount of english stations: BBC,CNN Britian, ESPN (all cricket all the time), Disney Channel, HIstory Channel, Discovery CHannel, Cartoon Network, Starz movie, and some others. There are several local papers in English as well

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

I did not learn any of the local language. Most people speak broken english in the markets and all understand money.

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

This city is not set up for someone limited to a wheelchair. There are virtually no sidewalks, ramps, and few elevators in most buildings. Even the places where there are sidewalks, they are cracked, broken and uneven making walking difficult. Most people just walk in the street. At least it is level, for the most part.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The taxis are the auto rickshaws which are safe to take. The buses are scarry. Too many people and leaning to one side, not safe because of pickpocketers too. Travel by train is common and safe especially if you get reserved seating in 1st class (cheaper than it sounds). You have to bargin for your rickshaw ride before you get in but they are very cheap.

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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?

There is every kind of car on the road from small to large. The Government does not allow importation of Left hand drive any more and it is difficult to get them fixed and to drive thre anyway. Most people would buy a car from Japan and have it shipped in or just buy one when they arrived. Having some ground clearance is good. I would not take a new car or fancy car as traffic is bumper to bumper to motorcycle to autorickshaw to giant buses to mass of humanity on the roads.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, High-speed and wireless internet access is available. We paid about $50 a month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phone service is all done by sim cards. They are plentiful and easy to get.

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Pets:

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?

No

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are vets, one or two good vets. I don't know about kennels.

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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?

The school again is the place where most expats work. There work agreement laws are different for each country but some spouses were able to work on the local economy. Don't know much else.

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

Dress code is business/local. It is a hot climate so attire is more laid back. Especially for women, local attire works well and is acceptable. In public, men wear pants and short sleeved shirts, woman - very conservative - most do not wear anything low cut, no short skirts or shorts in public. Children - shorts and t-shirts and sandels.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Chennai is very safe. I never felt threatened in any way. It is one of the safest places in India. That being said, my purse was stolen in another city where we went to see the temples. That was surprising and a hassle. It was just taken off the back of the chair while we were all sitting at the table.

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

There is good health care available. There are many health concerns - typical of a developing country, malaria, dengue, girradia, intestial and stomach issues.

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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?

For the most part, the air quality in Chennai is moderate. We had no problem. Other cities in India are much worse.

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

The climate is hot, hot and wet, then hotter. The monsoons being heavy rain and it cools off to a nice 80 degrees for a couple of months then hits over 100 and very humid in May and June.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is the American International School of Chennai. We were very happy with the facilities and the experience. I had a high schooler, middle schooler and elementary schooler. All at the same school. The school provided bus service. There is IB and AP.Last year tey had over 800 students. The sports program for the older kids is great - basketball, volleyball, track, swimming team, soccer. All are competitive and travel for tournaments around the region. There are plenty of after school activities for the elementary kids as well. The class sizes are medium size - 15-20.Most classes had teacher aides. The school is building and expanding their facilities. The school is over 50% Korean now with the car copanies moving into Chennai. That has it's challenges in the elementary grades but did not seem to affect the older kids.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

There were several special-needs children in the school. I don't know the specifics on accommodations but it seemed to work out.

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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?

I personally did not use preschool but several others used a nice preschool called Parent's Choice and were very happy with it.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

All the sports programs are thru the school and are good - see above under School.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The Expat community is large. THere are consulates from all over the world in Chennai.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mostly good. Everything seems to center around the school or the nicer hotels.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Everyone entertained in their homes. That is where the social life centered around. There are several nice hotels with bars and clubs.

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

Excellent city for families. Not much to do for singles unless they like to travel. It is definitely a family oriented community.

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

Chennai is very conservative. That being said, there was no outward hostility toward anyone gay or lesbian that I heard of. There is no community for them either on the local economy.

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

CHennai is very laid back. Blondes stick out and are stared at (not considered rude in the culture) but we did not experience any racial, religious or gender prejudices. Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Buddists all lived together in the city.

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

Highlights-traveling to Kerela by plane and taking the houseboat down the backwaters being cooked fresh tiger prawns we bought right off the side of the boat. Traveling to Kolkata for Christmas, walking down the street and seeing all the christmas lights and decorations, almost like NYC.

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

San Thom Bascilica is in the city right on the beach. It's claim to fame is having the relics of Saint Thomas. Beautiful and interesting. There is also Saint Thomas Mount on the way to the airport where Saint Thomas was killed. About an hour drive south is Mahaballapuram where there are stone temples that were carved in 754 still standing. Nice drive on a decent road. There are also several resort hotels on the beach in Mahabs where many people would take a weekend get-a-way.

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

24 karat gold everything!

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

The Indian culture of South India is unlike anywhere else in India. It is very traditional Hindu. The emphasis is on family and vegetarian food.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Most definitely!

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

winter clothes, your spices, your pasta and rice, your jewelry (because there is so much more to buy!).

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3. But don't forget your:

bug spray, sun screen, favorite drink.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

We loved our two years there and will go back if given the opportunity. It is hot, crowded, driving is crazy (yes I drove there), dirty, but the people are open and friendly, the culture is amazing and of all the cities in India, I think it is the easiest to live in.

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Chennai, India 09/11/09

Background:

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

No. Prior experience living in Europe, Asia.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2006-08.

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

Government.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

British Airways, UA/Lufthansa and Air France operate to Europe. Check out routes on Jet Airways as well.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Various options.

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

There is a bit of everything but not all of the time. If you have favorite brands and recipes, you may find some specific things hard to find Good cheeses/meats are hard to find & expensive. Wine/alcohol is also extremely limited and expensive.

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

Really, there was nothing I needed. But, I might add wine, liquor, good shoes/sandals, cotton dresses/dress shirts. Also, maybe liquid laundry detergent. Cereal if you have kids. Snack food for when you are on the go. TVs, etc., are expensive in India with few choices on brands, but small 220V appliances (iron, juicer,kitchen items, etc.) are all cheap.

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

Indian food can be very inexpensive. The major hotels have Western-style meals and buffet bunches --all for a cheap price compared to home.

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

Mosquitoes. I didn't have any other pests, but it is a good idea to keep your place spic and span.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

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

Plentiful -- approx $150/mo for a housekeeper. $200 for a driver.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, plenty.

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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?

No problem.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, I think so.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes, inexpensive.

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

Not needed at all, but it helps with rickshaw drivers.

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

It may be difficult to get around because of the poor infrastructure, lack of accessibl buildings, high/crowded side walks or no sidewalks in areas,

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Auto rickshaws are safe and cheap. Taxis are hard to find except at the airport. Buses are crowded.

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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?

Landrovers tend to fall apart here easily. Ford/Toyota/Hyundai would probably be okay for parts.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, starting at $20/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get a cute one.

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Pets:

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?

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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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?

IT, teaching, voluntering are probably the main options.

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

Conservative in public but informal. Cotton to keep cool. For the ladies, lightweight pants often go over better than skirts and dresses in public (unless you are hanging out with the young and trendy crowd). Indians dress up more than Americans do when they go out for an evening event, party, etc.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

I took vaccines before I arrived for the basics, but nothing there. Ask your doctor.

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Not really. Petty theft, pick pockets.

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

Ok. There are a couple of good major hospitals if needed, and they have wards for foreign patients.

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

Humid and hot. Tropical & sunny almost year round. April - June are the hottest months, so a good time to plan a vacation away.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I hear they are good.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

Lots of household help, day care, nannys available.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Not sure, but it is growing, and there are quite a few expats. We all tended to go to the same few major hotels and restaurants, so you get acquainted easily. There is a Facebook Group, for starters. Alliance Francais has cultural programs.

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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?

You can have great parties at home catered for a low cost. There are a few bars/small dance clubs, too, but you'll have a much livelier social life once you make Indian/expat friends who invite you to celebrations, parties, dinners, and openings.

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3. Morale among expats:

In my group of friends, excellent! Everyone has their moments of feeling overwhelmed, though, but you would at home, too.

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

Can be a great city for anyone. Dating in the Western sense is difficult in Indian society, but the friendships will last a lifetime. Decent number of young, fun expats too.

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

No overt GLBT scene.

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

Expats will not expeience much of this. If you are of Indian origin, you may receive far worse service than "Western" looking colleagues!

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

Mahaballipuram is a great temple to visit and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. St. Thomas's Cathedral is also interesting. Beaches nearby are more like busy city parks, but are a nice, colorful, breezy break. The beach resort in Temple Bay is a nice place where you can swim. There are so many places to visit near by - Pondicherry, a three hour drive is -- is a good weekend destination. Flights to many historic cities are low cost.

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

Textiles, antique furniture from Pondicherri, TRAVEL!

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, especially if you eat Indian food and take rickshaws.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely.

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

winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

camera.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Chennai, India 03/15/09

Background:

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

No--I have lived in Western Europe many times.

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2. How long have you lived here?

July 2006 - June 2008.

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

Government work/Foreign Service.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

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

View All Answers


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

Mosquitoes and the fun diseases they carry.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

View All Answers


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

Full time cook/maid/housekeeper - INR 5000/month = US$125/month.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

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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?

Never had any problems.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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

Very little, but just knowing a few greetings, thank you, etc. goes a very long way in building rapport.

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

High curbs, sidewalks that end suddenly, narrow streets with houses built right up to the pavement.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Highly variable by neighborhood and service provider. Difficulties getting Vonage to work.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

Hot and sweaty.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


3. Morale among expats:

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

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

With some adjustments to expectations, Chennai can be a good place for gay or lesbian expatriates. South Indian culture has no place for non-married persons; marriage is a fact of life for 20somethings of any economic/social/caste class in Chennai. Approx. 90% of marriages are arranged. So, some label Chennai as "conservative". However, this is not a militant conservatism a la Saudi, so there is room in society for independent women-owned businesses, for example. Because of the focus on marriage, there are very few singles with a Western concept of dating in general. Specifically for gay men and lesbians, there is no public space or forum for sexual minority issues. Young men holding hands is non-sexual and is never considered so. Those Westerners with partners have few problems in this setting, and several Western diplomats have brought their partners with few issues. For singles, it's another matter.

Almost all gay/lesbian communities--sexual, political, social, or otherwise--are online. The best non-dating online group is Movenpick, dominated mostly by the college-age crowd, good for local information and occasional meet-ups: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/movenpick .There is also a fairly new community/information center with programs and film nights: www.shakticenter.org . There is nothing resembling the gay/lesbian communities/neighborhoods of major Western cities, but friends, dating, or finding small groups of gay/lesbians are available and growing.

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

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

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

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9. Can you save money?

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, yes, yes. Any discomfort or frustration at the hot sticky weather or unfamiliar customs were far outweighed by the travel and shopping opportunities, freedom of movement, access to culture, history, local families & friends, and the open approachable nature of Tamils on the whole.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Chennai, India 08/20/08

Background:

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

No; Guangzhou, China.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

Assigned to the U.S. Consulate.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

There are no direct flights from the U.S. Travel time is around 16 hours from the East Coast. Most people do a stop-overs in Frankfurt or elsewhere in Europe.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

For consulate families, people without children are assigned to spacious apartments normally and those with children usually get houses. Other expats usually have very nice houses.

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

Vegetables are cheap and abundant when in season. Most things can be found at a price. I have become vegetarian since moving since there is no place that I trust to buy meat. It is not killed, cleaned, or distributed in a sanitary manner.

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

Olive oil and any specialty items.

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

Fast food includes a new McDonald's, KFC, and many Pizza Hut and Subway. None are especially convienent. There are several good restaurants that are generaly cheaper than you'd find in the States.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DHL or Indian Post. DHL is quite expensive but reliable. Indian post is the opposite.

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

Most expats hire a gardener (US$50-$90 depending on the size of the yard), a driver (US$120-$200), and a maid/housekeeper (US$100-$150).

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

The bigger stores will take them. I've not heard of any credit card thefts or scams.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, Catholics attend services at the Tomb of St. Thomas-one of only three church built over an apostle of Christ. Protestant churches are also numerous. There is also a Mormon church.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Many newspapers available for pennies.

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

You can use English to speak to almost anyone. This is true of much of India but especially Chennai where people learn English not Hindi as a second language.

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

There are no sidewalks but you would have a driver to drive you wherever you needed.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Left side-English style.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Trains are fine. Buses have people literally hanging off the side of them, so no expat I know has ventured onto one. Taxis are almost exclusively tuk-tuks or auto rickshaws. They use no meters. You can go anywhere in the city for under $5 but the pollution is quite bad in these things.

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3. 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?

I would suggest something small for parking but with clearance. The local government erects huge speed bumps to control motorists speed. I frequently scrape bottom in my car.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, the quality varies greatly depending on where you are. The 3 companies are Airtel, BSNL, and Tata. I would check with neighbors to find the best one. They will likely have switched at least once (like me) and found the best one. Cost is around US$40/month for decent broadband.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Quite cheap. Normal usage is around US$5-$15. I'd bring an unlocked one (they can do it here, too) rather than buy one.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype, home phone, or cell phone. All are cheap. I recently made an hour long call to the U.S. on my cell phone for US$10.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Top-notch vet here. Dr. Priya.

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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?

Several family members have taken jobs at huge paycuts which means earning 20-25% of what you would make in the U.S. for the same work. It is rather easy, though, to find a job here.

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

Very casual. Most don't wear ties.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

If pollution means air quality, I'd say moderate to unhealthy. If pollution means trash strewn about the streets or gentlemen urinating on the sidewalks, It would have to be very unhealthy. A recent study came out that found the river water was more polluted that sewage.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

This is the safest city I have every lived in. If you follow the barest of security precautions then, you'll be fine.

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

People usually develop some brand of stomach ailment frequently. India is a medical tourism destination which does work well if you know exactly what is wrong with you. Indian doctors, like Indian mechanics, who don't know what's wrong tend to tinker around until they find out whats wrong.

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

It hovers around 95F for most of the year until December and January when it plunges into the lower 80'sF. The hot season of May/June sees temperatures of 110F regularly.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The AISC is a wonderful school. They have numerous (usually free) after school activities. The athletics is great with swim, track, basketball, and tennis teams. The school is growing but the headmaster seems up to the task of making sure the growing pains are not bad. The school recently acquired more land.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Counting non-resident Indians, the expat community is huge-into the thousands. For people not native to Indian, the community is probably 200-300.

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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?

You can go to a 5-star hotel and pay US$7 for a beer. Entertaining other in your home is another option.

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3. Morale among expats:

Depends. If you are a person who has always been enamored with India, you will love it. It seems rather low amongst those who were not always.

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

This is a good post for kids with small children who do not find the need to go out much. Couples find it generally stifling as there is not much to do. You can't get a beer unless it's in a hotel. Bars are supposed to close by 11 PM. Singles would find it hard here. Arranged marriages are the norm. It is changing and I have heard that some male officers have been able to date local people. This is one post where women seem to do better than men in dating.

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

If you bring a partner, I do not forsee any problems. Finding a partner would be a chore indeed.

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

There are no problems in Chennai with race or religion. Most of the rest of India experiences strong Hindu/Muslim rivalries, but it is much mellower here in Chennai. There are strong gender and caste prejudices. The caste mindset will not affect most expats. The gender prejudice does. People always defer to the man.

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

There are 2 theaters which are the best I've ever been in. There are local temples and shopping to do. The best thing, though, is to leave. Pondicherry is around 4 hours away. There are 5 star resorts on the beach around 1-2 hours away that are not covered in human feces.

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

Carvings, cloth, tailor-made clothes are cheap and good.

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9. Can you save money?

In theory, you should be able to save money. However, paying servants' salaries and plenty of trips out of the city seems to sap the savings.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

If you doubled my salary and told me I would not have to deal with visas, maybe.

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

Winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and plenty of bug spray.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Sister India.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Sister India.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Watch some Tamil movies to see a glimpse of the culture and the actors they revere.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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