.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Monday, August 08, 2005


India and Cross-cultural training

Just read this excerpt from the speech by Thomas Friedman of The New York Times.

"When we were young kids growing up in America," said Friedman, "we were told to eat our vegetables at dinner and not leave them. Mothers said, 'think of the starving children in India and finish the dinner.' And now I tell my children: 'Finish your maths homework. Think of the children in India who would make you starve, if you don't.'"

I am glad to note that India is now amongst the top ten economies in the world.
According to the World Bank gross domestic product rankings for the year 2004, India stands the tenth largest economy in the world with a GDP of $691.876 billion.

The table below gives the rankings for the top 20 economies in the world.

Total GDP 2004



($ billion)


United States









United Kingdom





















South Korea





























Source: World Bank, July 2005
Taiwan is not included in the World Bank statistics.
Rankings include only those economies with confirmed GDP estimates.

I bet this is a result of the globalization and along with it came the need for formal cross-cultural training.

Cross-cultural training is a relatively new term, but is already a big business. You may know the concept in a simple form that has been practiced for long within India, the land of many cultures. For instance, wisdom has been imparted in the North for those going South as:
  • 'Don't call them Madrasis. Every South Indian is not a Madrasi'
  • 'If you see someone rolling up his lungi in Madras, don't look alarmed. It is as natural to them as rolling up the sleeves and they don't mean any harm'
  • 'Two by three coffee in means that three small tumblers of coffee are consumed but you are charged only for two'.
    And its reverse in the South:
  • 'Don't stop at a red light if you are driving in Delhi, you will be hit from behind.'
  • 'Don't say nonsense ever to a Bengali. It is the highest form of insult.'
  • 'Don't be alarmed if you are invited to snake bitings in Ahmedabad. You will get dhoklas, kachoris and such other snacks.'

    As befitting a Third World country such training was through word of mouth, in what is called these days, the unorganized sector. No schools and no fees.

    With globalization and people going here, there and everywhere, new words and concepts evolved - accultarisation, trans-ethnic understanding, cross-cultural dialogue etc. One inexorable aspect of globalization is commercialization and the mushrooming of schools to teach some of these fancy techniques, thanks to some good marketing gurus.

    Read more about the scores of schools bloomed in India to train young college graduates for jobs in call centers at the original Rediff article.

    Life never ceases to surprise, all life, but specially life in the foreign land. After all these years of dealing with these aliens, I am now convinced that they can never be absolved from the obligation of honoring people from other parts of the world for their skills/talents and acknowledge that everyone has at least one strong talent, with other talents varying in intensity. Anyways, I promised no rants. So let’s proceed.

    America is a highly organised society where courses are taught methodically and the basic course is always called '101'. It is the starting point for understanding everything. Here is what some of the basic lessons of 101 for realtors wanting to sell houses to Indians would look like:
  • Do not assume that a family means two or even 2 + 2. A family can consist of three generations living together. Grandparents, who also double up as resident baby sitters, two 'providers' both with PhDs (work room must need space for two computers, at least), and children (who will continue to live in the house, even when adults).
  • Do not emphasize the swimming pool. It will be regarded as a liability and not an asset.
  • Do not assume that the living room is the most important area. It is not, though there should be space for about a 100 when parties are held. (Seating is not necessary. Many will take the floor, so stress on the brown carpet, which will hide the whiskey spill).
  • The most important part is the kitchen. This is what they will see first.
  • Identify a closet large enough for about fifty pairs of shoes. Indian clients, however wealthy, will never throw away their old shoes.
  • If there is a small room, stress its virtue as a potential temple (if you can manage call it the pooja ghar -- it is an important sales pitch).
  • Do not ask how they intend to finance it or about the credit arrangements. Assume that they will not see the house, before they have saved up.

    Further the following are the advises given to the foreign employees before they come to India. It was quite amusing to read them. Some of the gems are reproduced below :)

    Behaviour at Office

  • Indians may not acknowledge small favors and may not use words like "sorry", "excuse me", or "thank you". This is not a sign of rudeness – quite the opposite... Indians simply may not be accustomed to the use of these polite phrases in the English language. It also indicates that they feel comfortable being "informal" with you, since Indians reserve such acknowledgements for formal situations and for people who are not friends or colleagues.
  • Supervisors and workers generally do not socialize outside of the office unless they have known each other for a long time. There are very few project team parties.
  • Office privacy, size and location are symbols of status.
  • It is advisable to be punctual to appointments. Indian executives prefer late morning or early afternoon appointments.
  • Business lunches are preferred to dinners
  • Hospitality, such as tea and small talk is a part of conducting business.
  • Offices are reserved for management. The person of highest authority or rank has the largest office. Employees generally work in open spaces. Cubicles are limited to a few.

    Language Usage

  • Never, ever shout to be understood. Speak humbly and remove hyperboles such as "great", "fine" and "terrific".
  • Avoid word pictures unless they are literally what you mean (e.g., "run that by me again", "walk me through this", etc.).
  • Do not use "Baseball English" (e.g., "ballpark figure", "touch base", "pinch-hit", "home run", "off the wall", etc.).
  • Avoid negative/positive questions (e.g., "You aren’t coming are you?" might be answered "Yes (I am not coming)", where you might expect a "No".).

    Other 'gyaan'

  • Public displays of affection are not acceptable within any of India’s ethnic groups. You should avoid hand holding, hugging, kissing, or any other physical contact other than a handshake while you are in public. However, you may notice a man with his hands around his male friend’s shoulder. This does not indicate sexual preference.

    The following are immunization recommendations when traveling to India:
  • Hepatitis A – Recommended for all travelers
  • Hepatitis B – Recommended for all travelers
  • Japanese Encephalitis – May be recommended if spending more than 30 days in rural areas
  • Rabies – Recommended for expatriates and long term visitors. This is also recommended if quality medical care may not be available within 24 hours of being bitten or scratched by an animal.
  • Typhoid – Recommended for expatriates and long-term visits. Recommended for most travelers.
  • Yellow Fever – May be required if coming from an infected or endemic country.
  • Polio – Recommended for all travelers
  • Updates recommended for all travelers for Tetanus, diphtheria, measles and varicella (chickenpox).

    Have you ever realized that we, Indians are actually immune to all these diseases now. :)

    Yes, globalization is indeed a two-way street and soon Udipis will be as ubiquitous as Pizza Huts one day.

  • Comments: Post a Comment

    Links to this post:

    Create a Link

    << Home

    free hit counter This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours? Counter by Free-Stats.com

    Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape