Moving to Chennai? I counted exactly 63 things* you need to know before you move to the city. If you’ve got any more suggestions, leave them in the comments at the bottom of this page!
* Subject to change
So, here’s what you need to know before boarding that plane to Chennai.
(There are a lot of images on this page, give it a little bit of time to load, you’ll appreciate it more!)
1. You will literally melt into a human puddle the moment you step off the plane at Chennai airport
2. But after a few months you won’t lose twice your body weight in sweat when you walk from the house to your car as you adjust to the heat
3. You’ll finally understand what it means to “walk through pea soup”
The humidity regularly pushes past 90% and the temperature tops out at 40 (104) degrees
4. Even the sports / pro / power / extreme anti-perspirants give up trying to prevent you from sweating after the first hour
5. Stepping out of the arrivals gate at the airport is your first introduction to the glorious, chaotic, manic energy of India
6. After waiting for three months for your furniture to clear customs, you’ll wonder whatever possessed you to ship your furniture here in the first place
7. The FRRO isn’t actually hell. It’s just the regional headquarters
8. You’ll document your FRRO survival stories like a hero returning from war
9. The importance of an official document is directly proportional to the number of passport sized photographs you need to submit along with it
10. You’ll learn to carry passport sized photographs in your wallet because there will always be a situation that requires at least one of them
11. You’ll photograph EVERYTHING and upload it to Facebook
Look, there are people in Chennai! Look, there are funny yellow vehicles on the road! Look, there are brightly coloured temples on every street corner! Look, I found Starbucks at Phoenix Mall!
12. You’ll probably turn half vegetarian given how many incredible vegetarian dishes are available
13. You’ll fall in love with the food
14. You’ll fall in love with paneer
15. You’ll fall in love with butter naan
16. You’ll fall in love with ghee roasted masala dosas
17. You’ll fall in love with the filter coffee
18. It will become a habit to say “sugar illa” (no sugar) every time you order a filter coffee
19. Or order a fresh fruit juice
20. Even cottage cheese has sugar added to it to make a dessert
21. You’ll wonder how your life existed before gulab jamuns
22. You’ll almost definitely gain back all that weight you lost from sweating as you eat your way through all the super tasty cuisines and lazy Sunday brunches at the luxury hotels
23. You’ll learn that turning up to a restaurant at 6pm will be a waste of time because nothing opens until 7pm
24. And your new dinner time will become 9pm like the locals
25. You will eventually come to accept that you can’t have a beer or wine with your meals at any other restaurant than in a five star hotel
26. You’ll make a commendable effort to eat with your hands
And after a few years of practice, some of the food will even start landing in your mouth!
27. You’ll see more dogs on the street than at a dog show – but don’t worry, they are all friendly
28. You’ll see more cows, goats and chickens on the streets of Chennai than at the local farm park.
You’ll photograph them all and upload them to Facebook. Look, animals just walking in the street!
29. But after a few weeks you’ll appreciate the city for all its vibrancy and culture
30. You’ll make a noble and valiant attempt to learn Tamil the first month you are here
But like many before you, you are destined to give up around the middle of the second month after your tongue has tied itself into knots
31. There are eight different ways to say the letter ‘L’ and five ways to say ‘N’ in Tamil. They’ll all sound the same to you
32. You’ll roll your eyes every time a local tells you that learning Tamil is “easy”
33. You’ll scratch your head from the moment you arrive to the moment you say goodbye wondering what the jug and bucket is used for in the bathrooms
34. You’ll idly try the ‘bum gun’ while sitting on the loo and spray water everywhere except for where it’s supposed to go
35. You are totally going to call the bathroom water jet the ‘bum gun’ from now on
36. Speaking of spraying water, your first monsoon rain will be a magical experience
37. And then it’ll become a pain in the neck because the roads have all flooded, the school announces a holiday and the maid can’t turn up to work
38. You’ll wince and cringe every time you see more than two people on a motorbike
39. You’ll take a photo and upload it to Facebook the first time you see five people on a motorbike
40. You’ll wonder why everyone talks about ‘bikes’ when you don’t see that many on the road
41. Then you’ll realize that a bike in India is a motorbike
42. From the back seat of your car, you’ll marvel at how the traffic can be so chaotic, so unorganized, and yet no one seems to crash into each other
43. Five minutes later, you’ll be involved in a minor collision
44. You’ll be invited to three weddings in your first month
45. You’ll make a legitimate effort to attend each of those weddings
After all, it was impressed upon you how important it was for you to be there. Having found out the venue was a three day train journey plus an afternoon’s ride on the back of a bullock cart across the paddy fields, you will have serious reservations about the viability of attending the wedding – but you did promise!
46. You’ll want to “get away from it all” one weekend by heading down to Mahabs or Pondy, only to find out the rest of Chennai has had the same idea
47. A “lakh” is 100,000, a “crore” is 10,000,000. No one says ‘hundred thousand’ or ‘million’
48. A “buck” is a rupee. A hundred bucks is 100 rupees
49. The first time you go to an ATM to withdraw the equivalent of $100, you’ll feel like a freaking millionaire as your wallet bulges with all the notes
50. The cute yellow vehicles you keep calling tuk-tuks are called autos
51. If the auto driver asks you for more than 200 rupees for any journey, it’s better to take an Uber
52. It’s actually always better to take an Uber
53. If you hire a driver, he will literally become an extension of your own family
54. If there is a way for your instructions to be misunderstood by your maid or driver, then they will absolutely be misunderstood in the worst possible way
55. You’ll arrange a meeting at the office for 9 AM and get upset when the first person turns up at 9:10 AM
56. All the late comers will make the same joke about them thinking it was 9 AM IST – or 9 o’ clock India Stretchy Time
57. Just like with jet lag, you’ll eventually adjust to India Stretchy Time
58. You’ll wonder how if everyone runs on India Stretchy Time, do movies and flights start and leave on time?
59. After your first flight from Chennai’s Domestic Airport, the phrase “Ladies and gentleman, can I have your kind attention please” will be replaying itself over and over in your dreams
60. You’ll return from your first visit to the north of India and exclaim “It’s nothing like Chennai!”
61. The Chennai Metro is an awesome, cheap, air conditioned marvel. It’s a pity it doesn’t go anywhere useful, yet
62. The head wobble means “yes”, “no”, “maybe”, “OK” or “I don’t know”. It’s down to you to decipher which one it is depending on the context
63. You’ll hate Chennai with every part of your body when you arrive, but after three months you’ll be like every other expat. You’ll fall in love with the city and people and never want to leave
Got any other tips on what to expect before moving to Chennai? Let me know in the comments below.
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