I moved to Chennai almost four years ago and wrote this article based on my experience then. Now, I think I understand this city relatively better than I used to in my first year here. Therefore, I have made some major updates to this article.
If you are planning to settle in Chennai, there are some myths you should be aware of:
1) Everyone in Chennai knows English
Although I know some Tamil people who tell me that English works everywhere in Tamil Nadu but that is just not true. As I have to travel to several parts of the country due to my job I know how much I suffered when I went to places like Ariyalur or Trichy. Even in Chennai when I was new I used to try English with autorickshaw drivers (ola/uber was not that popular at that time here) and it was a struggle most of the times. Sometimes with some (not all) people selling cocunut water I had to talk in sign language.
The one coming to fix DTH connection would ask me to talk to his manager on phone who would then translate it to him and so on. When I was looking for house on rent in Chennai, this was a major problem. Even the brokers would say, "Sorry, only Tamil, no English".
That does not mean that no one in Chennai speaks English.
Most people would understand and can reply to their best capability but it is not necessary that all of them would speak/understand English for us.
2) People in Chennai are rude:
I was asked someone who is from different part of Tamil Nadu, "How do you find people in Chennai?" I said, "They are calm and cool people as far as I know." He replied with a strange look, "Chennai people - Calm!" Then he told me how good life in his city is compared to Chennai. Nevertheless I came here from Delhi which was very different so I find the life in Chennai as good.
People are good and supportive where I live however; once a local Chennai person told me that because I was living in Mylapore that is why I thought Chennai to be a peaceful city and if I went to North Chennai I might have different opinions. Whatever it may be. I like the people in this city and I am having a good time here.
However; some people (who are not too many in number) are fanatics, and these people might give you strange looks but no one generally comes straight forward to point fingers at you because you are from a different state. Most of the issues I had were with the auto rickshaws. Most of them are rude and might try cheating on you. Again, not all autorickhaw drivers would do that but most of them would. I got my own vehicle to get rid of them.
3) No one knows Hindi in Chennai:
It would be hard to believe but believe me, there are lots of Hindi speaking people in Chennai. In our office alone there are people from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and many other states. Boys and girls from North East form a decent part of population here and they can be easily found at the most popular shops in Chennai including salons, shopping malls, idli shops, restaurants etc. Surprisingly many of these guys speak very fluent Tamil.
4) Tamil speakers or Chennaiites do not know Hindi:
Many native Tamil speakers also speak good Hindi. I won't like to name one but at most major furniture shops, garment stores, restaurants, hair salons I found people trying to speak Hindi for me. Some were very fluent and some were not but they were trying. At some places they would specially call a Hindi speaking guy to speak with me. Hindi is used in Chennai but the key to peaceful life in Chennai is don't insist on it. If someone can't speak, he/she can't speak. That's it. I can speak small sentences in Tamil now and I try to use them wherever possible and I have been enjoying my Tamil learning journey so far.
5) It is very hot in Chennai
Temperature is never very hot in Chennai if you compare to other hotter parts of India. It is just that there are no low temperatures here. Woolens are not required normally. Chennai is a coastal area and the temperatures may go slightly over 40 degree Centigrade. In Delhi the temperature is higher. Humidity however; is what makes people feel that Chennai is a hot place. I was told my landlord to purchase and air conditioner otherwise it would be difficult for me to live here. I have a small kid (who was 2 years old then) so I didn't take a risk. Wind is good and for a house with good ventilation bachelor's might opt not going for AC but it is always good to have one. It doesn't rain here as much as it does in Mumbai but I have seen one flooding event in 2015 which people say was because of many reasons. General belief is that Monsoon arrives in October, November.
Looking for House on Rent in Chennai - Here are some tips:
We were strangers when we stepped in here for the first time. The only means of getting a house was to look for advertisements in property websites. Unfortunately none of them proved fruitful for us. In the office people suggested to look for advertisements on internet and such websites which was of no help already.
The consultant who arranged for the interview told me certain things which were the real tips to find a house in Chennai:
a) try looking for a house within 4 km from the work place as the traffic is horrible. (i personally feel traffic is better than cities like Bangalore and Mumbai)
b) don't consult the broker. Unlike Mumbai and Delhi, in Chennai you can get a house on rent through the landlord
c) look for ads in local newspapers rather than websites (if found a house through local newspaper only, those were generally landlords and nice people to talk to)
d) although it will be written that the security is more than 1.5 lakh but most people will settle from 80,000 to 1,00,000. (these days I have heard that they have started asking for 10 months rent which is too much if you are going for a house with 25,000/month rent)
e) the budget in posh area for 1 bhk and 2 bhk would normally vary from 15,000 to 25,0000. In 20,000 INR you can get a reasonable floor area in a good colony. Houses with car parking cost more (say 3,000-5,000 INR more)
Overall, Chennai is a good city to live in. If you are interested in religious matters, Chennai is a great place to live in. There are great Sanskrit scholars here as I can feel based on my visits to book fairs and talking with local people. There is little pub life, discos and other such nightlife stuff as compared to Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai but more of temples and religious feelings. There are some good temples here but this article is not about temples.
I would be glad to help you if you are planning to relocate to Chennai or have some questions. Please post your questions in the comments section.
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Hi. I have recently moved to Chennai and everyone keeps saying that it will be very hard to live without an AC. I visited my hostel room which is on the first floor.. it was kinda windy and the room had good ventilation. But I am still confused about not choosing an AC room. Is it really impossible to live without an AC here?reply 0
Hi i'm Coleman Cherry I am a natural born American boy however i am very litterate in Hindi language however have no knowledge of tamil in my oppinion i think you should be fine on hindi because it is the national language used for transportation restaurants and school you should be fine dont worryreply 0
Hi I m Deepak Mudliar I am south indian but I lived in maharashtra since from my childhood but now I m relocating on chennai state so I have no issues I know english but don't know tamil language so how to grip this language in a short period if time so that I can speak fluent tamil.reply 0