|Jennifer facilitating college to corporates session in India.|
- Had your lunch/tea/food?
- How is your family?
- Are you married?
Initially I thought people were being too intrusive by asking these questions, especially to someone they are meeting for the first time. I felt these questions were too personal. In one small talk session I had given in India where we were talking about acceptable and unacceptable small talk topics with Americans, we were talking about how one can ask their U.S. colleagues about their hobbies, personal weekend plans, their day, etc. One person in the class interjected,
“But these are personal! I am asking that person about their self- what they personally like, what they personally have done! If you see the small talk questions we ask in India, we ask about your family members- so it’s not really about the person personally!”I was stunned into silence. I totally understood this from their point of view at that moment! It’s so amazing how the same thing can be seen by two different people/cultures as something exactly opposite, isn’t it!?
Family is a Part of Life
|Children of employees enjoy Onasadya (Onam feast)|
and Onam celebrations at work with their parents.
Additionally, in some companies, family can attend cultural events, no questions asked. Unlike the need for RSVPs in American companies, some Indian companies I have worked with find it offensive to not allow spouses and children to attend the full day cultural and holiday celebrations at work (or after work on the weekends, in fancy hotels or resorts).
A Variety of Ways to Get in Touch – With Preference on Live Phone Calls
If contacting someone by email or phone doesn’t work, it’s not the end of the road. I have been connected with others for business reasons by SMS (text message), pinged in Whatsapp, Facebook, Skype, LinkedIn and through a third person in some cases. While most American professionals would avoid providing or using these alternatives for normal business contacts, I think in India people are much more flexible in how they reach out to others not only by medium but by schedule, also!
And, since voice mail is not at all common, a live call is the preferred method, even if that call may interrupt another meeting in progress. Because of this, I have had to be strict on the times I take calls, because people would call me any and all times of the day and night. I have restricted the times I take business calls to 10am-6pm IST between Monday and Friday unless my client is based in the U.S., the call was scheduled previously or there is some emergency. I also do not tend to take calls during training programs and client meetings. In such cases, I reach out by using any of the methods listed above.
|Me, to the right in more of a casual Friday attire.|
Jennifer Kumar is an American expat who is living in Kochi, Kerala, India. She is also a small business owner and entrepreneur. As the Managing Director of Authentic Journeys, she has facilitated US culture and business communication training programs for over 3,000 people in India. Get in touch with her here.
Connecting with Indians in the Training Room
Pros & Cons of Working Abroad
What is it like to travel for work (travel on work)?
"Where do you live?" How this question is different in Kerala vs. the U.S.