Chennai, India Report of what it's like to live there - 09/11/09
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. Prior experience living in Europe, Asia.
2. How long have you lived here?
3. 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Plentiful -- approx $150/mo for a housekeeper. $200 for a driver.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
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?
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, I think so.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
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.
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.
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
2. What immunizations are required each year?
I took vaccines before I arrived for the basics, but nothing there. Ask your doctor.
3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Not really. Petty theft, pick pockets.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Lots of household help, day care, nannys available.
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?
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.
2. Morale among expats:
In my group of friends, excellent! Everyone has their moments of feeling overwhelmed, though, but you would at home, too.
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?
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.
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.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No overt GLBT scene.
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!
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.
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!
9. Can you save money?
Yes, especially if you eat Indian food and take rickshaws.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your: