Lions and Tigers and Peacocks, Oh My!

Cultural Training

Annabelle and Lillian are ready for Indian Cultural Training

Annabelle and Lillian are ready for Indian Cultural Training

Two days of training was overwhelming!  We covered so much and I feel like I still have so much to figure out. Tony and I attended training with one instructor while Annabelle and Lillian attended training next door with another.  Both instructors had been flown in from out of state and our classes were held in meeting rooms at a local hotel. We did some activities with our instructor and also had three teleconference presenters.

Our first presentation was “Cultural Foundations and Customs in India.” The instructor was born in India and had lived and worked in both India and the US for many years.

A few highlights of what we learned from him:
-India has 26 official languages but 1500+ languages are spoken.  The states are divided primarily by language.
-The country is 80% Hindu, 14% Islamic and 6% everything else under the sun (2.3% is Christian).
-The country contains 1 billion people.  Bangalore has 8-9 million people.  This is about 4 times the US population, but on only 1/3 of the land.
-The US GDP is $47,000 per capita.  The Indian GDP is $3,700 per capita.

There are so many differences in the way interactions are handled. A few random points:
-Head bobbing doesn’t really mean yes or no.
-People don’t generally say “no” to a request.  They say “I will try.”. It really means no.
-Men and women don’t interact socially.
-It’s a popular pasttime to discuss religion and politics.  People will also openly ask how much money you make. This is not considered rude.
-Don’t hand things to people with your left hand or eat with it.  (This will be much more difficult for left-handed Tony than for the rest of us.)
-Leather is negative.  Don’t point the bottom of your shoe at anyone.
-Everyone one is on “Indian Standard Time,” aka LATE.  This is mostly due to the poor infrastructure.

The most important thing I learned was that everyone knows their place in the social hierarchy.  Don’t disrupt it.  For example, you can have tea with your driver if you are alone but never with another guest.  That would be insulting to your guest.  Your maid should never sit at tea with you. It shows your weakness.  She will likely even have her own facilities at one is end of the house.  (Did anyone else read The Help?)  Our children are near the top of the social hierarchy, far above any adult we employ.  This may cause a problem for us.

I was also told that I should consider wearing Salwar Kameez. Some are simple and others are very ornate. Indian clothes are very bright and beautiful. The girls and I can’t wait to get some. I can also wear American clothes, but this would be easier. I suspect that I will wear my American clothes around our neighborhood (which should be pretty inclusive, so I will usually be there) and Indian clothes when I go shopping or outside of our area for other reasons.

Salwar Kameez

Salwar Kameez

Our second presentation was “Conducting Business Effectively in India.” This instructor was fast, direct and effective. I didn’t take too many notes as he spoke, but he and Tony had great discussions on different topics where Tony needed clarification or suggestions on how to handle something that has happened already in his dealings with Indian employees. (If you want to talk about Indian business, you will have to talk to Tony.) I learned that the reason business in India has been growing at the recent incredible rate is because it has only been open to western business since 1991.

Our third presentation was “Establishing and Home and Lifestyle in Bangalore, India.” For this presentation, we called a woman currently living in Bangalore. She is Indian, but has family in both the US and India and has lived extensively in both countries. She also had a teleconference with Annabelle and Lillian the day before to answer their questions.  I will let Annabelle will tell you about that.

Specifically about Bangalore, we learned that the climate is a major attraction. That should be a HUGE change from living in Wichita. She focused on how many things we would find are the same. She also answered a whole page of questions that I had formed while listening to the previous presenters. She gave us a list of grocery stores that will be near our home and will contain things to which we are accustomed. She had school recommendations for the kids and the first one she listed was the one that is our current top pick. She gave us a list of places we would enjoy for recreation and socialization and a list of sites that we must visit in Bangalore and a few destinations that are farther away in India.

I got a short lesson from her on how to manage my household help. That’s not something I ever expected that I needed to learn. Most people have a driver, cook, nanny and housekeeper. I don’t think that we will have all of these, but I am reserving that decision until I figure out how everything works when we get there. A summary of her training for me was to micromanage everyone and get used to never being alone.

We got the usual ‘don’t drink the water’ warning, but we were pleased to learn that it is okay to drink coconut water straight from the coconut anywhere we want. This was important, because the girls had hoped to do it. We can get milk delivery daily from a milk man, but the milk is not pasteurized, so I will have to boil it before we can drink it. They also have shelf-stable milk in stores. American foods are available there, but expensive. She brings dried fruit from the US for baking and other expats have told us to also bring chocolate chips. I am glad that I like to cook and bake from scratch, because it sounds like if you wanted ready-made food that you wouldn’t find much.

She answered many questions that we had (and the kids had). Yes, the girls can find dance classes. Yes, there are chiropractors. No one plays softball, but Annabelle and I can learn to play cricket. 🙂 The music programs at the schools focus mainly on traditional Indian instruments, so if Annabelle wants to learn a band instrument, we will have to find a different method of instruction. (Or maybe we can convince her Aunt Denise to give private flute lessons over Skype.) There are no skating rinks in India and I will have no trouble finding a yoga class that I can handle, probably in my neighborhood. And, we should travel everywhere possible on train or airline and we should find a travel agent to handle it for us. She even had a travel agent suggestion.

The best part of this class was that each of the presenters gave us their private contact information so as more questions come up, we can call or email and ask them for help. I am sure that I will be emailing the last presenter with questions every few weeks as they start piling up.

This entry was published on March 25, 2013 at 11:32 AM and is filed under United States. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Cultural Training

  1. Sarah Miller on said:

    wow – MY head is swimming – I can’t imagine the list of questions you are compiling. You are going to be super prepared though! Love and prayers…

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