Working In India as a Foreigner

Posted On: September 13, 2015

Living abroad can fill us with a myriad of emotions- anything from excitement to paralyzing fear! Expats or international assignees know what I am talking about. In this post, I’d like to share five things to love and hate about working in India as a foreigner.  

5 Things I Miss and that Confuse Me About Working in India as a Foreigner

Jennifer’s top five LOVES about working abroad in India: 

  1. People seem to be much more forgiving about many things in India than in the US. 
  2. Many locals like to interact with foreigners. 
  3. Indians understand that foreigners will find Indian culture confusing and overwhelming (because, I think they do, too!). 
  4. I miss the dress code. I love wearing saris. And, most company’s dress codes are much more relaxed than what I have seen in the US. (Though that could be based on industry and area of the country as well.) 
  5. Lunch is an important part of the day. Food, lunch, tea and snacks must be had at work. In fact, many people greet me by saying, “Did you have your breakfast/lunch/tea?” If I say no, they will “encourage” me to eat first! In the US, no one really cares if you did not eat lunch. No one will ask (it’s a taboo topic), and if you did not eat, people may take it as a sign of importance- like you are too busy or important at your job to eat.

See some more things Jennifer, a US Citizen LOVED about working in Kerala, India. 

Enjoying the dress code while working in India
Jennifer conducting a US Culture Training Program in Kochi, Kerala

Jennifer’s top five CONFUSIONS about working in India:

(I do not want to say ‘dislikes’ because I do not dislike these concepts, I just find them hard to understand and adjust to. Slowly, I am learning how to do that!)

  1. While I have gotten used to fewer thank yous and more interruptions, I still find it hard to understand when people say no (or yes!). (I still struggle with this, but have improved my understanding in 80% of the situations.) 
  2. While I enjoy the flexible approach to time, sometimes there is a hurry up and wait mentality or a feeling that everything is being done down to the line, which can be stressful and confusing. 
  3. Processes can be hard to understand. It’s not straightforward. Processes are not always trusted like they are in the U.S. 
  4. Writing things down doesn’t make it official. Contacts, emails, meeting invitations and other written documents are not given as much importance as in the US. In India, talking face to face or over the phone is preferred. 
  5. Follow up makes me feel as if I am pestering people. Americans may call it micromanaging. When things need to get done, a lot of emails, phone calls or personal visits are required to do things. Personal connections help speed up these processes.


Overall, I am enjoying working abroad in India. I often wonder how my experience will translate back to the U.S. So many approaches in India are counter intuitive or undesirable in the US that are completely fine in India, some of those are mentioned above. I am blessed to have this opportunity and am grateful for all the ease and also discomfort I have experienced because I have learned (and continue to learn) so much! 

Jennifer Kumar, author of this post is an American citizen who has worked in India since 2011. She runs her own business, Authentic Journeys, providing cross-cultural business consulting and training to Indians on virtual teams, international assignees and Americans relocating to India or working with Indians on virtual, distributed and agile software teams. Browse our programs, or contact us today.

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Related Posts: 

What is it like to live in another country? 
Where do I fit in? 
How Do Indians Manage Time at Work?


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