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Chennai

An expat and NRI survival guide

Everything you want to know about living here.

An E-book for Expatriates and NRIs who plan to


move to Chennai or have just landed here.

ISBN 978-81-904055-4-6 A chillibreeze publication


Publisher’s Note:
Why did Chillibreeze work on such a publication?
It all started with an article that Joanna Budelman, a partner in
Chillibreeze, wrote - http://www.chillibreeze.com/articles/ExpatMom.
asp. Joanna had shared her experiences, as an American and as a
mother of a five-year-old daughter. Ever since, Chillibreeze has been
receiving a steady stream of enquiries from people abroad, eager for
more information.

The Chennai Expat Survival guide is the fifth in our city series of expat
survival guides. We also have expat survival guides for Bangalore,
Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi.

All through history, Chennai has always been an economic hub and
centre of trade and education. In the 21st century, it has emerged
as one of the most promising cities of India.

This ebook is meant to help you find your bearings when you land in
Chennai. We do not claim it to be exhaustive but we have tried to
answer all the primary questions that a first timer to Chennai might
have.

We have used a Q & A format, for ease of read. ‘Chilli Tips’ is a


standard feature in all our publications and you will find them here

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Table of contents
1.0 Moving to Chennai................................................................................................................ 10
Should I be worried or glad about moving to Chennai?.....................................................................10
2.0 About the City...................................................................................................................... 12
How big is Chennai? ..............................................................................................................12
Geographically, where is Chennai located? ..................................................................................12
What is the climate like? . ......................................................................................................13
Is there then a best season? ....................................................................................................14
Tell me a bit about Chennai’s history..........................................................................................14
What makes Chennai different from otherIndian cities? ...................................................................16
Size is everything!................................................................................................................17
What are some of Chennai’s landmarks?......................................................................................17
Some of the other buildings of historical and visitor significance in Chennai: .........................................17
3.0 The cultural aspects............................................................................................................ 20
What are the characteristic celebrations and festivals in the city? ......................................................20
Are there any Art galleries or antique shops that I can explore? ........................................................21
Are there any cultural centres that I can visitto do research or just learn more about SouthIndia? . .............23
Are there any green spaces in the city where I can go for a jog or take the kids for a stroll? . .....................25
Table of contents
While settling for a house or an apartment, check if the following are in order:......................................47
Let’s face facts....................................................................................................................48
Do people work long hours? What is the daily routine like?................................................................50
Is it fairly easy to find help with domestic chores?..........................................................................51
Am I allowed to keep pets at home? Any tips on veterinarians in the city? .............................................52
How secure is Chennai city?.....................................................................................................52
Shop like the Locals!.............................................................................................................54
6.0 Shopping............................................................................................................................... 54
What are the best places to shop for groceries?.............................................................................54
Are there any speciality health food shops and organic shops? ...........................................................55
What about high end shopping places where I can buy trendy bags, clothes and stuff? ..............................56
Are there any shops particularly good forquality furnishing? .............................................................57
7.0 Educational and Medical facilities....................................................................................... 58
What are the best playschools or pre-school centres for children in Chennai? ........................................58
Are there any Montessori schools in the city?................................................................................59
Tell me more about schools in Chennai.......................................................................................60
Some of the most prestigious institutes in the city are:....................................................................64
What are the work and training opportunities for women?................................................................66
What is Tax Deducted at Source (TDS)?........................................................................................83
What is the minimum taxable income?........................................................................................84
What about double taxation?...................................................................................................84
What if I am employed in India and plan to return to my home country?...............................................84
Where can I learn more about the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA)?........................................85
Can foreigners employed in India open bank accounts? ...................................................................85
Which banks in India operate under the Reserve Bank of India guidelines?.............................................86
Where can I get more online information about real estate in Chennai?................................................86
Is it easy for foreigners to purchase property in India?.....................................................................87
10.0 Information Resources....................................................................................................... 88
What are the leading newspapers and magazines that I can depend on for news andother information? .........88
What are the top Bookstores in Chennai?.....................................................................................89
Are there any informative books and web resources on Chennai?........................................................90
Where do I meet other Expats?.................................................................................................91
Are there any online forums for expatriates? . ..............................................................................92
11.0 Interviews with Expats and NRIs....................................................................................... 93
13.0 References........................................................................................................................ 114
12.0 Index.................................................................................................................................. 121
2.0 About the City
Chilli tips Chennai is the commercial hub with the bustling Parry’s corner.
The South and West are mainly residential areas, some a short
walk away from the Marina Beach. These areas also have several
On surviving the heat! consumer establishments such as shopping complexes, banks, leisure
’’ So most expats come warned that Chennai is a hot centres and parks. The city is rapidly expanding along the Old
city. What’s less known though is the number of in- Mahabalipuram road in the south, with the area along the seafront
genuous ways locals have learnt to keep cool. Some called East Coast road (ECR) commanding prime residential status.
of these are traditional practices that have been
passed through the years and can be seen even in
http://www.touristplacesinindia.com/
the most modern homes.
Dark green bamboo-mat like screens are often hung
in balconies, they are perfect to keep the tem-
peratures down, blocking out the harsh light while What is the climate like?
allowing the evening sea breeze to waft in. Another
common practice is to store water in earthen pots
in a corner. Not only does this provide cool drink-
The oft repeated joke about Chennai’s climate is that that there
ing water at low cost for all hours but it is also is are just 3 seasons – hot, hotter and hottest! But that’s not entirely
a healthier option than drinking cold water from true! Even in summers you will have sublime evenings with a cool
the fridge. Locals also typically wear cotton clothes
that are extremely comfortable.
sea breeze floating in, perfect to enjoy your coffee and the evening
For trendy western wear in comfortable Indian newspaper. Summer days are sweaty affairs for sure, but most
cotton, head to shops like Fab India (http://www. expats can easily afford an air conditioned car, and home.
fabindia.com/index.asp) and Shilpi.(Ph:00- 91-44-
4997526) An old practice which cannot be prac-
The weather then ceases to be a bother! Most malls and offices
ticed at all homes is to throw a bucket of water in are completely air conditioned, offering you as much protection
the veranda or balcony; it instantly cools the rest of as you need.
the house. What may be more practical is to invest
in an air-conditioner (prices start from Rs.8000)
or a cooler (Rs.5600 ). Also, avoid venturing out
of your office or home in the peak summer season
between 2 & 5 pm.

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3.0 The cultural aspects
A mini tutorial in Ta mil
Tamil is the language spoken by the people of
•• C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation: It conducts research
Tamilnadu. It’s the oldest Dravidian language and projects, courses, seminars and lectures on Indian culture
particularly rich in sound and structure, several holy and society. It also runs a reference library with a substantial
texts, epic plays and musical compositions have been
written in Tamil. Like any other language though,
collection of books on Indian culture and philosophy. The C.
Tamil is spoken with different accents throughout P. Art Centre has also taken up heritage conservation through
the state. But in Chennai you are more likely to hear temple renovation and revival of folk and classical art forms.
the colloquial city version of the language. A ready
reckoner of phrases: •• Saraswathi Kendra Centre for Children: This is a project
started by the Foundation for the holistic development of
Greeting – Vanakkam
children, especially for those with dyslexia, autism, learning
Welcome – Warugai disabilities and behavioural disorders. It is located at Alwarpet.
Thank you – Nandri •• Victoria Training Institute(VTI): VTI at Anna Salai set up to
I speak little Tamil – Enneke Konjum Tamil Puriyum mark the Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria’s empire, is
I don’t understand Tamil – Enneke Tamil Puriyadhu
doing pioneering work for the promotion and revival of arts and
crafts of Tamil Nadu and other parts of the country. It provides
I need to go to X – Enneke X edethiku poganum
a platform to the unknown craftsmen and talented artisans to
How much does this cost? – Idhiku eenai velai? display their skills and market their finished products.
Please help me – Odhavungal •• Cholamandal Artist Village: The Cholamandal Artists’ Village,
Happy New Year – Puthandu Vazhthikkal
on the East Coast Road, was born in 1965. An ambitious
experiment in Modern art, Cholamandal is named after the
Happy Pongal – Pongal Vazhthikkal
Chola Dynasty, the patrons of art and sculpture in the history
Happy Deepavali – Deepavali Vaythikkal of India. Artists and sculptors work in their own studios
Can I make a phone call? - Oru phone call panna to supplement their income from the sale of paintings or
mudiyuma? sculptures. A permanent gallery attracts visitors throughout the
Learn more phrases online from this site
year. They also hold exhibitions all over the country.
www.languageshome.com/English-Tamil.htm

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4.0 Out and about
http://www.chillibreeze.com/articles/Food-in-Chennai.asp

Are there sufficient non-vegetarian options?


Chennai has a strong non-vegetarian Chettinad cuisine tradition.
It’s hot and richly spiced and typically involves preparations of fish,
Chilli tips mutton and chicken dishes, of which the Chettinad Pepper Chicken is
considered extra special.
’’ You must try Chennai’s very own filter cof-
fee. The preparation is elevated to a ritual, For authentic Chettinad cuisine, the best places to visit are Aachi
for the coffee beans have to be first roasted Chettinad (Alsa mall, Montieth Road), Anjappar (Mylapore) and
and then ground. The powder is then put
into a filter set and boiling hot water is Karaikudi Chettinad Restaurant (Anna Nagar East).
added to prepare the decoction and allowed
to sit for about 15 minutes. The decoction
is then added to milk with sugar to taste. What are the best restaurants around?
The final drink is poured from one container
to another in rapid succession to make the
ideal frothy cup of filter coffee. If all of that To begin with, a disclaimer! Though Chennaites love their local food,
is causing worry, don’t – instant Nescafe you will find a plethora of restaurants offering cuisine from other
packets are also readily available.
parts of India and abroad. This owes mainly to the Chennaites’ love
’’ For more information on Chennai’s cuisine, for experimentation as well as the significant floating and expat
check out Chillibreeze’s guide to South
Indian food. communities.
http://www.chillibreeze.com/ebooks/
Pizza joints like Pizza Hut http://pizzahut.co.in/ Pizza Corner
Food-SIndia.asp
(http://www.pizzacorner.com/ are a big hit with kids as they
provide a lively atmosphere as well as tasty pizzas and other fast
food items. Benjarong (http://www.frommers.com/destinations/

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5.0 Settling down
provision which some buildings have. Most apartment
communities are adequately provided with water supply. If
it is an independent house then check if it has an overhead
tank with a motor to pump water to the tank. Water must
be filtered and boiled. It’s common to see homes in Chennai
stocking Bisleri or other brands of mineral water for all
cooking purposes.
•• Aquaguard from Eureka Forbes is an excellent filtering unit
that can be bought to help in filtering. Water purification
systems with RO process ( reverse osmosis) are becoming
Chilli tips popular as they cut down the dissolved heavy metals also.
Companies supplying these systems include Eureka Forbes,
Ion exchange, Kent.
Let’s face facts •• Electricity - Power supply can be occasionally erratic.
Hence, make certain that you have voltage stabilisers for all
’’ Getting gas connections, power etc. for
someone new in the city is not very easy. electrical gadgets, both foreign and local brands. It’s also
If you are moving into a new home, then important to check your appliances for compatibility with
it can be a hurdle. We recommend that
recommended wattage. A standby generator or preferably an
you get the help of an agency that will do
this for you, not only providing excellent inverter is an excellent investment for sultry days and nights
service, but doing so with the least hassles when power is not available. A popular brand is Usha Shriram
and at reasonable rates.
electronics. It’s available at Rathna Fans (T.Nagar) – a very
popular shop for all gadgets in Chennai.
•• Telephones and Broadband - Connections are quite easily
installed these days. There are service providers like
Vodafone, Tata Indicom, Reliance and Airtel who are able
to provide quick connectivity. Links to some of the main
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7.0 Educational and Medical facilities
With activities such as karate, computers for kids, shlokam (verse)
recitals etc., there’s enough going on to keep kids of various age
groups engaged in an enjoyable and fruitful way.

EuroKids

http://www.eurokidsindia.com/findpre_school/index.html

Branding themselves as the leading provider of pre-school education


in India, EuroKids is a chain of pre-school centres established
throughout the country. An offshoot of EuroKkids International
Private Limited, it has licenses with companies like Disney and
Mattel to provide a range of recreational tools.

Eurokids has 7 branches in the city.

A must-read for expatriates looking for play schools for the little
ones!

http://www.chillibreeze.com/articles_various/play-school.asp

Are there any Montessori schools in the city?


They are not the majority, but there are definitely more than a
couple around. Some of the well known ones include:

Abacus - http://www.abacusnow.com/

Sharanalaya - http://www.sharanalayaschool.com/

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10.0 Information Resources
•• Madras 1639-1939 by C.S. Srinivasachari- Best history of the
city
•• Temples of South India-by Ambujam

Where do I meet other Expats?


Expatriates in Chennai could be from the United States and Europe,
and more often from South Asia such as China, Japan, Korea,
Singapore and Malaysia. Cultural and Language centres often attract
a lot of expatriates who wish to interact with people from their
own country, or learn a new language or art form. It’s also a way to
network with locals who have international links. The main centres
in Chennai are the British Council and American Consulate, and their
well stocked libraries, the Alliance Francaise de Madras, Max Mueller
Bhavan, the Japanese and the Russian cultural centres. Some of the
web communities devoted to expatriates often list interesting events.
It’s also useful to check the website of professional relocation services
such as Global Adjustments who organise some events to engage the
expat community. Another good idea would be to scout the weekly
listings of social events in the leading newspapers, as if you go to a
cultural event that is of interest to you or join a particular club of
interest like the Boating club or Madras Cricket Club, you are more
likely to meet people with similar interests. Chennai also has the
presence of social clubs like the Rotary Club, Lions and YMCA which
can also provide a forum for interaction.

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BUY
The entire ebook at:
http://www.india-reports.com/summary/Chennaiexpatguide.aspx

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