You’ve secured a job in India. Ecstatic! Aren’t you? Leaving all behind in US or UK and ready to move to the ‘mystic land’? Wow! Here’s a list of Do’s and Don’ts in India, to settle well, and more importantly, quintessentially, to gel well with your Indian colleagues. Also included a set of questions I do hear from a lot of my firangi friends in India:
1. My company didn’t pay for my relocation charges. Isn’t that evil? Technically, most of my friends or acquaintances working for SMEs/SMBs and/or MNCs at Junior to Middle Senior level in most of these organizations didn’t receive any sort of relocation charges as well. Unless you’re being hired at a very niche position, or at a very Senior level position (C-level, Board member, Division Head, Department head with 1,000+ engineers reporting to you etc.), 99% chances are, most companies do not pay for relocation. So don’t crib and get on with it. But there’s no harm in asking for it, so give it a best shot and do ask. Nothing like if you get it!
PS: Exceptions do exist, and if you get any sort of International relocation budget pre-approved from the company, you ought to be thankful for it.
2. I landed in Bangalore. They put me up in a Service Apartment. Dude, was I not supposed to be in a 3-star Hotel? Technically NO. Unless you’re a very Senior Board member relocating to India, chances are most companies do this for cost cutting – They’ll promise you boarding/food expenses for first 30 days (in some cases, for first 15-20 days). But the trick is – they will not mention it UNLESS YOU ARE VERY CLEAR AND PRECISE IN ASKING THIS – in that 30 days, first 5/6 days, you would be put up in either Hyatt or Grand or Taj or a good 3-star hotel, and then, you (and your family) will be shifted to a small and often dingy Service Apartment, somewhere in the city. So this is a trick which nearly all BIG MNCs in India do. So make sure you ask where you would be put up for the first 15-20/30 days.
3. My Indian co-workers are strange. This could mean a lot of things. Let’s cover a few essential points.
a) They eat together at lunch, all huddled together: Well, that’s the Indian culture. Usually, since most people in India come from joint-families (nuclear families being and becoming a norm in the metropolitan cities gradually), it’s an Indian tradition to eat together at home. And so at the workplace. Often you shall find, men/women sharing food during lunch and eating together. This is a major contrast to UK and US culture where food is extremely personal and most do not resort to sharing during lunch time. In fact, the other way round could be considered very impertinent.
b) The men often speak so loud: Yes, in India, people have a habit of speaking loud. They may not wish to offend you, but that’s how most people have been brought up. So, just adjust to it. Am sure you shall get used to it soon.
c) The females smell so weird: No, they don’t. Most women either put perfume or have oiled hair, which could be the reason. Or, maybe in some cases, I have come across women with garlands or flowers adorned in their hair, which in an air conditioned room can produce a very strong smell. Mostly good, but to a person unaccustomed to such circumstances, it can appear to be a very pungent smell.
d) These guys/gals don’t seem to shake hands with me well: Well, in fact, most people in India at work place don’t shake hands at all. It is not a tradition or custom as well. Unless you are a client, or being introduced for the first time, chances are they wouldn’t get up and shake hands every time they meet you. This is not Moscow, Russia, wherein you are expected to shake hands every time you meet, even if in -30 degrees weather, and you’re supposed to take off your gloves as well.
4. I flirted with a co-worker of mine, and he said to all, I’m his gf. Well, that’s your fault and not his. Indian and South Asian men, in general, have an infatuation towards lighter skin color. Which has been so well monetized by the Bollywood industry, by replacing Indian girls as backdrop dancers with girls imported from US, UK, CIS countries, making them dress skimpily and gyrate shamelessly to idiotic numbers. Result: Guys killing each other to reach the movie theatres! Same applies to work place. You are not supposed to flirt endlessly with male colleagues. Indian work culture is entirely different, wherein you cannot walk up to a male coworker and say – “Wow! You smell great. Bet you good in bed as well!” If you do click with someone from work, and yes, he’s kinda open-minded, chances are, some causal flirting wouldn’t do any harm. Initially, be on your guard!
5. My male coworkers hit on me all the time. A comment heard million times before. Well, let’s go through the check list that I have:
a) Are you dressed properly? Means, no miniskirts, no pencil skirts, no deep back cleavage, no deep front cleavages, no mid-riff baring dresses as well. Most companies in India cannot fire you (like in the UK
and US) for wearing improper dresses to work. Maximum they can do is to call you and reprimand you in a meeting with the HR and senior management. But am sure, you wouldn’t want this to happen definitely, so dress appropriately. A good article on this.
b) Are you smoking in/outside office premises too much? Most Indian women don’t smoke. Can’t say about all of them, but most women from good families and with good upbringing don’t. Definitely there’s a class of crass ‘newbie’ wannabe Indian women types, especially working in the BPO/KPO industry, who do smoke, do drugs rampantly, go partying and get laid all the time, and definitely feel proud of the liberation they so wished for when they were kids, but, chances are most women co-workers around you don’t smoke. So take a good look. Are you standing out? Cause if you do, chances are men may consider you a woman of loose character and thus, hit on you all the time. It’s a definite stereotype that all Western women are loose and smoke/drink all the time; but that’s how mostly they are portrayed in the movies and thus, we can’t help it. When I returned to India a few years ago, after having lived, educated & worked in the UK and other countries for over a decade, the most ASKED question that I have got from all my co-workers in all the organizations I have worked at: “Wow! Is it true, sex is free there?”
6. I visited a nightclub. And heard all sorts of vile comments thrown at me. Chances are you were dressed like a hooker hitting town for cash. Here’s what you ought to do:
- Either get an Indian boyfriend, who shall protect you all the time.
- Or, dress appropriately, and visit clubs/pubs with likeminded friends. Don’t wear something that doesn’t suit your personality and age. Most men in India visit clubs/pubs on a regular basis to pick up chicks! NOT ALL, but definitely a big percentage. You don’t wish to visit a club to be in that radar.
- Don’t go wild boozing at the bar. Apart from being drunk, you will come across as a total alien from the sky. Whenever my fiancee visits India, we usually visit Malls for shopping, Cafes, Hotels for eating out, Sushi bars and restrict it to that. Pubs/clubs, we do visit but from 9:00pm till 10:30pm and bail out by that time. If you’re in the club for too long till the wee hours of the mid-night, you’re sending wrong signals most of the time. And chances are most pairs or honorable single guys have left already 🙂
- There are a few expat clubs in Bangalore. Am sure chapters exist in the other towns as well. Mostly they are invitation only, and meant for socializing with like-minded people. Do get into one of these and chances are you will find someone to hook up with.
7. I paid my rent and my landlord is total crap. He doesn’t like me changing things around. Also one of the most common complaints from my friends. The reason is – in India; most landlords are renting out their residential or commercial property, and not leasing it out. When living in the UK, I did all sorts of changes to my apartment, and the landlord was more than happy with it. In India, it’s not the same since the landlords would prefer you keeping everything the same. Because once you do leave, he/she may not get someone who would like the flat with all the modifications to it.
8. I joined a new company and think it was a bad mistake coming to India. This is a complete personal issue and you need to think it through. What are the consequences of yourself leaving this job and moving back to where you originally came from? Pros and cons and so on. With time, am sure you shall love living in India as much as we Indians love living in the US and UK.
9. I called my boss ‘Hey mate, what’s up?” He had a strange look on his face; didn’t look very happy. Technically, he may be smiling to you because you have a fairer skin, but chances are he said inside: “Bastard! See you in appraisal meeting!” Most Indian companies have very aged technocrats in the senior positions and essentially in the Senior Management. They are aged, old, bureaucratic in most cases, and yep, unfortunately, not too open-minded. They don’t watch MTV, and don’t care a hoot whether Apple tops the year-end sales/revenues worldwide till they are respected and worshipped in their own companies. If you’re in such a company, make sure you use “thank you”, “please”, “good morning Sir” and such whilst communicating with the guys. Do not call him by names or address him as ‘dude’ or ‘mate’. Know Michael Scott from ‘The Office’?
This is the 1st part of the ‘Crash Course for People Relocating to India’ series.
Till next time, au revoir!