Chennai, India Report of what it's like to live there - 10/10/14
Personal Experiences from Chennai, India
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. I have also lived in the UK, Greece, and Korea.
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.
3. How long have you lived here?
Lived in Chennai for 1 year.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
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.
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.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
I did not check but there are a lot of churches.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Not very dressy and always sandals. It's very hot.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Overall Chennai was very safe.
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
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.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
A lot of people developed allergies here.
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.
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.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
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.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
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.
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.
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.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
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.
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.
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.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Fabric, furniture, Indian souvenirs.
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.
10. Can you save money?
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.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Totally. I loved it.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your: