Saturday, October 4, 2014

Chennai – Few First Impressions

We have been in Chennai for almost a month.  We have never lived in Chennai, or for that matter in India, as an adult.  Visited many times and stayed at hotels and the homes of relatives.  This is our first experience of “living” here.
Since our stay here will be a short one – 6 months to a year only – we wanted to rent a fully furnished flat.  But it is very difficult.  Lot of people advertise as “furnished” and in reality it is not.  We finally found a “almost” furnished flat and rented it for 11 months.  (I don’t know why 11 months instead of a year.  But works out to our advantage.)
On the whole it is not all bad.  We do like a lot of things.  Here are some:
Milk is more tastier than USA.  I don’t know the reason.  In USA, milk is cow’s milk.  I don’t know about the Aavin milk in Chennai.  Is this also cow’s milk?  May be some Chennai friend can tell me.
Movie theaters in the malls are far superior to movie theaters in USA.  Neat, nice, and plush seats.  Great sound quality.
Vegetables are very tasty and fresh compared to USA.  The sellers even give free kariveppilai (Curry leaves).  I am amazed they give almost half of the tree.
Can rent an air conditioned Indica car for 4 hours for Rs.650.  Coming from USA, that is very cheap.  An air conditioned car with a driver and gas (petrol) for 4 hours is only around $10!
So many restaurants – we are enjoying eating out.
Of course, there are some things that we are not that much thrilled.
Too hot and air conditioners are not working due to some voltage problem.
If someone says he/she will be here in a few minutes, that means it will be a minimum of 2 hours before that person shows up.
In the stores in USA, if you do not find an item you want and it is not available, the sales person will tell you which store carries that item, even if that store is a competitor. Here the sales person’s reply is the same always in any store: I don’t know.  (I even asked a few people “you don’t even know where your competitor is located?”. “No Sir”.)
(Side bar.  Bill Gates wants all his Microsoft sales people to even know the birthdays of all their competitors and their family members.  That much thorough.)
We never had a servant maid in our home so far.  This is the first time.  Learnt a valuable lesson.  Do not have conversation with the spouse when the maid is present.  She has the habit of joining the conversation.  So we keep quite until she leaves.
I realize I am slowly becoming a rude person.  I am always polite and courteous to servants, delivery guys, sales people, taxi and auto drivers.  The problem is if you are polite and courteous, they think you can be cheated very easily.
More good things to come.


  1. Perfect observations...what to say about competitors, here they dont want to exert to find it even in their own store or sister concerns lazy...
    And even if you have a personal driver, he listens to the conversation and repeats it verbatin to everyone ..your office collegues .and his..

  2. Thanks for your comments Renu. We learnt it earlier. Now we don't talk when the maid is at our flat.

  3. It is just not Chennai, I find vegetables and eateries very tempting and tasty everywhere else except here in Bangalore(people who come to Bgl. also feel that things are much better here in Bgl.) I found vegetables and fruits, and all eateries very good even in the US and Europe, I think it is just the change,that endears us so much to things found elsewhere. I also find that time stands still in Chennai, I really don't know how.
    The milk is cow's milk only in Aavin.
    I am glad you are able ot enjoy the good things that India has to offer. Even here the taxi charges are the same, and once you have a known taxi driver, then there is absolutely no problem, and he can become known to you if you keep calling him whenever you want.
    As for maids, they are very social here and once you are good to them they would go out of the way to do things that was not expected from them. They feel happy when they are treated as a family member.
    That has been our experience everywhere, maybe it is not the same for everyone.
    Though life is comfortable here, I am sure you would not like to come back.
    Enjoy while you can.

  4. Having lived in Bangalore and Coimbatore myself, I missed one thing very badly - the tasty hotel food of Chennai. I guess I am used to the TN style of cooking and I love the food served in hotels of Chennai. Madurai is better still - there, even a small roadside shop offers tasty food! In Chennai, one needs to be choosy, but there are multiple excellent options (for a great price). The climate is horrible here, but now I once again got used to it. Bangalore has a wonderful climate, even CBE is good.

    Destination Infinity

  5. Hi SG. Don't worry too much about becoming a rude person. You will adjust your 'rudeness' with time. It was nice reading some good things about India :-)

  6. Your analysis is correct. I have been to Chennai for about four or five times.Food seemed to be tasty in hotels,especially in Saravana Bhavan.

    In Kerala we get poisonous veg:and fruits,as people spray insecticides,pesticides etc. mercilessly.e keep them in vinegar for half an hour.

    Maid categories also differ in nature as others do.There are some sincere harmless ones too.

    Nice to read. Expect more experiences here.

  7. Hi.. Welcome! Hope u go back to the USA in one piece and without any bitter experiences!!

  8. I have been in USA for a short 2 weeks (only once). And I can still vouch that milk and water tastes better in India. And... Mera Bharath Mahaan!!!

    Chennai can be terribly hot, I know.
    But then, its ok. You will get used to it.

    I am amazed that you didnt say much about the Indian traffic. Or are you saving that for a special post?

  9. 'Learnt a valuable lesson. Do not have conversation with the spouse when the maid is present. She has the habit of joining the conversation. So we keep quite until she leaves.' This is fun!

    I liked to read so many plus points of our city. Once you get used to the climate, you will like this city more.

    Autowaalas were the rudest persons here. Now, it is changing slowly because of the taxis which was introduced recently, for the past year or so. It is not so expensive, as you say.

    It is always 11 months lease here or in Bangalore. Don't know why!

    Yes, people are rude here and we tend to change accordingly. You will be alright once you are back home!

    Once you start buying vegetables from a veg. shop regularly (not super markets, but medium ones), they select good vegetables for you and give you one full bunch of coriander and kariveppilai free!

    Yes, you have to be cautious everywhere. The last line is very right. People don't smile very easily at unknown persons!

    Enjoyed reading your post! Waiting for more!

  10. Welcome to Chennai!! Aavin milk is part of the Operation flood initiative and so the likelihood of it being buffalo milk is high. The fat content probably makes it tastier. Veggies are obviously tastier. We do not use that many chemicals, GMOS or whatever. Servant maids do more than join conversations uninvited. Remember to lock up your stuff and also be prepared for people from their families suddenly dying resulting in their taking off without informing you :) !!! Obviously things are cheaper here because you are paying in INR. The 11 month business is fairly regular. Landlords do not like to give out their houses for 12 months because there is some legality involved around a 12 month lease. Surprised that you find malls here better than in the US. In most malls here you cannot move around because of the terrible crowd and movie tickets are difficult to access- for instance you cannot suddenly decide to go for a movie and expect to get tickets.

  11. Thanks for your comments Rama. Your last line captured everything. Will visit again and but not stay for 6 or more months.

  12. Thanks for your comments Rajesh. The climate and the mosquito problems are horrible.

  13. Thanks for your comments Karunesh.

  14. Thanks for your comments Sarala. Saravana Bhavan is a good one and there are a few others.

  15. I agree with you SG, milk and veggies in India have a special goodness about them. As for punctuality, well the less said the better. every place has its charm and flipside, the advice most people gave me when I first came to US was to not convert prices to INR from dollars, I guess the converse is equally true, currency conversion can only add to the confusion. Your observation about being taken for a ride if you are polite is spot-on.In most cases people mis-interpret polite manners with naivety. enjoy the charm of India stay :)

  16. Thanks for your comments Shreesha. And, welcome to my blog. I like your sense of humor.

    Shreesha, please visit here as often as possible. Thanks.

  17. Thanks for your comments Satya. I want to write about the traffic with a few photos.

  18. Thanks for your comments Sandhya. I am glad you liked this post.

  19. Thanks for your comments Meera. Malls are crowded and people are there for enjoying free air condition. But the shops are modern, neat and has some wonderful products.

  20. Thanks for your comments Reshma. I am going out of the way and try not to become a rude person.

  21. Felt good reading your review of Chennai :) What a good observation! Hope your stay would be a memorable one :)
    TC! Keep smiling :)

  22. Nice to know you got settled in Chennai, SG. Even I found milk to be tastier in India. I agree about the movie theatres. They are better than the US theatres. Also I like the snacks that we get in Indian theatres - much better than the french fries etc we get here.

  23. Thanks for your comments Sindhu.

  24. Thanks for your comments Ashu. Yes, the snacks at the theaters are very tasty.

  25. Thanks Krishna for your comments.

  26. Good that you are having some interesting experiences in Chennai. Maids are the same every-where. We don't talk in front of our maid. She used to tell what happened in other people's home so we thought that nothing would stop her from talking about us too! And yes your politeness means that you can be taken for a ride!

  27. I'm immediately tempted to justify that people here have become better, comparatively, but yes be very careful with the maids (In terms of what you talk in front of them) and some people are courteous too, but sadly we cannot justify that.

    Hope you've got an inverter, that would help you to an extent.

    Here's wishing you more happy days!

    Tip : For suggestions on eating out you can check ZOmato or Chennai Food Guide.

  28. Overall, your post essays more of good impressions. Hope you make more good impressions and leave with happy memories.

    Frankly, i think you can never generalize about any city, every city has its own harms and charms:) There can be good and bad.

  29. I soo agree with the vegetables thing.Same applies for fruits.
    I went to Paris and got some fruits for breakfast. It tasted so bland.

    be rude. Thats the only way.

  30. Your is experience in Chennai.
    All cities are the same in respect to problems,opportunities and problems

  31. Great observations there, SG!
    Totally agree with you on the milk and veggies part :D

    Looks like someone is beginning to like it there in Chennaiiii :):)

  32. Is wonderful to live and to learn about other countries. I don't know what to say about the milk, because I just can drink soya milk and I don't like it too much ):

    Lovely trip :D