FAQs About Living in India:
If I am invited to an Indian friend’s home for dinner, are there things to consider or be aware of so as to make a good impression and not accidentally commit a faux pas?
Indians are very hospitable, and Indian friends and colleagues love to invite expats to their home for a meal, often spontaneously and sometimes on fairly slight acquaintance. These invitations are meant sincerely. Here are some guidelines:
Take a gift with you, such as chocolates
Be respectful of older people in the house
Dinner may be served later than you expect – be prepared to go with the flow
Expect to be fussed and coerced to eat more than you can
Do not refuse any food or drink, or a tour of the house
Is it okay to travel on trains? How safe are the national flights? Are they expensive?
Trains are a great way to travel to get an idea of the countryside of India between the cities, and an experience not to be missed; we recommend air-conditioned first class coaches (and not the regular coaches) as found on the fast Shatabdi express trains that link cities such as Chennai and Bangalore, and Delhi and Agra. Then there are the “toy trains” that still run in Darjeeling, Shimla and Ooty, and, at the opposite end of the scale, the luxury train hotel “Palace on Wheels” that takes in the highlights of Rajasthan. Business people and tourists will find that the overnight trains, which have sleeping facilities, are a very convenient way of covering long distances.
The last decade has seen a massive increase in air travel in India, and there are many domestic carriers to choose from. All airlines that operate in India are of international standards and follow the same safety precautions that any international airline does. Flights between cities are relatively inexpensive as most airlines have seat sales and deals.
What is there for me to do as an expat spouse in India?
Volunteer work, skill upgradation, adult continuous learning, teaching skills, writing for travel journals, or showcasing other talent you have. Work visas for expatriate spouses are not readily available in India, so many expat spouses see this as an opportunity to take on new challenges. Our India Immersion Centre takes as a founding principle the expat life cycle and emotions. Contact us to find out our creative ideas for the trailing spouse to be productive and have a structure to their life in India.
FAQs About Doing Business in India:
Are there any cultural concerns we should know so as to help facilitate business?
Be aware that family takes precedence over work almost always in India. Understanding this is hard for Westerners. Be prepared for staff members who must without warning host a ceremony at home to celebrate the coming of age of a niece, or an employee who asks for time off to travel to the other side of the country for a wedding or funeral. Remember, in the absence of a welfare system, Indians are very self-sufficient and rely on the old joint-family system for everything from marriage, to housing, to opportunity and support. In addition, most young Indians attach a great deal of importance to taking care of aged parents, and parents do not like switching their childrens’ schools – this responsibility sometimes influences career decisions and job choices, and it is not unusual to find one spouse living and working in a different city rather than uproot his or her dependents.
What communication issues could I face working in India?
Indians are highly qualified technically but not always adept with Western-style communication skills. Some things Westerners have to adapt to are:
Speed of speech
Accent (regional accents can be heavy and difficult to comprehend)
Fluency/correctness of English
Indianisms (“kindly” for “please” would be one example)
“Relaxed” time concepts
Need for guidelines and directions
Indian staff are keen to succeed and will perform best if they clearly know what’s expected of them. Inspire them, and lead the way!
What is the status on the growth of infrastructure in large cities such as public utilities, sanitation systems and communication networks?
There has been huge progress with telephone connections, which today are on demand compared to seven years ago. Satellites beam TV channels from all over the world. Electricity, transportation and sanitation are still backward compared to other countries, and hopefully will catch up with computers/TVs and telephones! Roads and infrastructure are developing rapidly. Generally, foreign companies and their expat staff are not exposed to these problems because of conveniences such as generators, which automatically turn on when the electricity fails. Expats also live in good neighborhoods and are not exposed to sanitation problems.
FAQs Asked by Indians About Expats
Why don’t expats work on weekends?
They do if required, but at home and not in the office if it can be avoided. Sundays have always been considered a ‘day of rest’ in Western (Christian) society, and although many Westerners are increasingly secular in outlook, the weekend traditionally remains a time when family and leisure-time takes precedence over the demands of the working week. There is a general understanding that, if possible, weekends shouldn’t be encroached on. However, many expats in an Indian work environment understand they must be available at weekends according to the demands of their position.
Why is there so much public display of “skin” (PDS)?
Over a period of time, and particularly since the 1950s, it has become more and more acceptable – and fashionable – for both men and women in the West to dress in ways that Indians might consider as revealing. The rise of feminism has had a huge impact on how women dress, and it’s increasingly unacceptable to see women as objects of desire, whether in the work place or on the beach.
Culturally, there are, of course, huge differences between how Indians and Westerners present themselves: Indian women are more conservative in their dress styles, and always elegant, whilst Westerners have long favoured comfort and informality, at least in everyday wear. Westerners themselves are often surprised to see Indian men wearing nothing but a simple lungi/dhoti, and by the midriff exposed by Indian sari fashions, so it works both ways. However, it is true that some Westerners, particularly younger tourists, may be unaware of the inappropriate style of their dress in an Indian context.
Why do expats want everything as of “yesterday”?
Expats certainly don’t get everything they want on a plate in their own countries, but western societies are noticeably more time-driven than society in India, and a ‘time is money’ mentality does characterise western business style. Cultural misunderstandings can also lead to impatience and an anxiety that a request is not being prioritised or acted on, so westerners can end up being over-demanding in reaction to this perception.
Global Adjustments - Ask Us a Question is available to all our clients. If you have a question about your Indian team at work, house or staff, or about the appropriate behaviour in this new cultural setting, or want to know about a particular store or service, or just need information on something that struck you as being different, please don’t hesitate to ask us.
If we don’t have the answers right away we will research them for you. This is a complimentary service throughout your stay in India!