Working with India Q & A

These questions are from participants attending our live Working with India workshops:

Regarding cross-cultural training:

Q: Why is it important for Americans to learn about the history and culture of India?

People of India live their history and culture. It is a part of their daily lives and is visible all around them. You will appear more knowledgeable and they will appreciate the fact that you have taken an interest and made the effort. A deep understanding is not required but you should know the basics. For example, Indira Gandhi, the late prime minister, was not the daughter of Mahatma Gandhi.

Q: Is it important for training to also be offered to our Indian employees?

It is vital to offer training to both groups of employees so that they may understand the business environments and the pressures on both sides.

Business Etiquette in India:

Q: Our office environment is very casual here in the US but when I wore shorts during a visit to our Bangalore office, I got funny looks from people. Did I do something wrong?

Shorts are not appropriate attire for the Indian business environment.

Q: I have a ‘flirty’ nature and am generally a very friendly person. When I left our Bangalore office, I gave all of the women a big hug goodbye. I got the feeling that they were uncomfortable with that. Was that not appropriate?

“Flirty” interactions are not appropriate in the Indian business environment. Indians prefer to interact in a more formal manner, especially when it comes to the opposite gender. Therefore, it would have been more appropriate to say “namaste” and then wait to see if the women extended their hands to say goodbye or made the move to hug you first. If they simply said “namaste” back to you, then they are letting you know their preference. Either way, it should be their choice whether to say goodbye, shake your hand, or hug you.

Q: What should women from the US visiting the India office wear?

A pant suit would be the safest choice as you would not need to worry about the length of the skirt. Avoid tight or revealing clothing. Very high heels are probably not a good idea if you will be doing a lot of walking on Indian sidewalks.

Q: I was invited to dinner by the manager in our India office. I found out later that I should have taken a small gift for his wife. What would have been appropriate?

Flowers or a nice box of chocolates are appropriate hostess gifts. The hostess gift is meant as a token of respect.

Indian culture:

Q: What is the significance of the “dot” that Indian women wear on their foreheads?

The bindi used to symbolize marital status and for the most part it still does. However, many single women wear it as a fashion accessory which matches their outfit.

Q: Are all marriages in India still arranged?

The majority of marriages are still arranged. However, most parents take the preferences of their children into consideration when selecting potential partners for them to meet. An introduction is made to any number of candidates and the two people usually make the decision as to whether they wish to proceed further. They can also reject the prospect. The concept of arranged marriages does not mean ‘forced’ marriages. Parents want their children to be happy and depending on the family, the young people are actively involved in the selection of their potential partners.