Moving to a new city, let alone a new country, can be intimidating and stressful. You hear a lot of rumours about the city (none of them first-hand accounts), you’re scared that you might not be able to fit in, and the prospect of dealing with a foreign language will be daunting. Peter Claridge, a resident of the city, wants to help expats settle into Chennai by dismissing all their fears with his new book, Chennai Expat Guide, which has everything an expat would need — how to find an apartment, where to shop, and where to find the best wine!
Peter tells us how he started writing the book. “I’ve lived in Chennai for eight years now and have been chronicling my adventures and days here on my personal blog. I started writing a book on my smartphone about my daily commute via the Chennai MRTS. It rapidly grew bigger than I’d planned, so I turned it into a full-fledged book.” He goes on to say, “The inspiration behind it was that so many expats have started moving to, and settling down in the city. I wanted to share my experiences with them. Even simple things like getting a broadband connection or a cable connection were incidents that I wanted to share with first-timers in the city.” Relating the story of how he decided to stay in Chennai he says, “I was working in the web development sector in London and was outsourcing to Chennai for a project, and came down for a couple of months. I liked the city so much that I decided to take up a job in Chennai and moved here in 2008. I also met my wife here and we got married at Temple Bay in Mahabalipuram in a traditional Indian ceremony. ”
A few instances in the whole book stand out for him. “The floods in December had a very big impact on me. To see people’s reactions and witness the city come together so swiftly was inspiring and I wrote extensively about it. Another time was when I was bitten by a puppy and had to get injections. I called up my mother to ask if I had ever gotten a rabies injection and she freaked out,” he laughs.
He begs to differ with the misconceptions surrounding namma Chennai, and the perception that the city isn’t a great place to live in. “Chennai is a fantastic city. It is unassuming and gives you the freedom to be who you are. No one judges you and it isn’t pretentious like the other cities.” His one piece of advice to expats is, “When I spoke to expats in the city, they said the same thing — come with an open mind, a positive attitude and willingness to socialise with locals. This will play a big part in how much you enjoy your time here.”