Culture Shock in India

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Culture Shock in IndiaWith its unmatched diversity and a contrasting character that can both be enthralling and mystifying, expats may encounter some culture shock in India. Its hot and humid climate, muddled traffic blocks and hodgepodge of overexcited hawkers and guides are a lot to handle initially.  

That said, if expats can be patient and give themselves some time to adapt, it’s likely they’ll look at the country in an entirely different light as time passes.

India presents immense opportunities to open up socially. Hospitality is encouraged from an early age and expats are often surprised to see the extent to which Indians are helpful and always ready to mingle.

In a nutshell, the country welcomes all with warmth. It just takes some effort and understanding to become comfortable with the attitude and approach of the locals. After all, its differences are one of India’s most attractive qualities.

Bureaucracy in India

Getting things done in India takes a lot longer than it would in the West. Processes often seem inefficient and time consuming. Expats may find they receive conflicting information depending on who they talk to. It is best to exercise patience and persistence because getting angry won't solve the problem.

Networking and building relationships with locals can help because in most cases having contacts within the right institutions can expedite processes. 

Work culture in India

India has successfully created an atmosphere for the coexistence of traditionalism and modernism by accepting many Western ways of living and working.

The corporate culture is similar to the West in its work processes and creativity. Office attire varies, though most workplaces expect formal or semi-formal dress, while certain organisations allow casualwear on occasion. 

To help expats settle into living in India, many companies provide new arrivals with cross-cultural training to help them understand the nuances of local culture and get to grips with the language barrier.

Women in India

Women are treated equally in the office, although instances of the ‘glass ceiling’ are still present, as is the case all over the world.

Women should consider their destination and the occasion when deciding what to wear. On one hand, people living in cosmopolitan cities like Delhi or Mumbai are more open to Western-style dress. But expat women visiting crowded places, local markets or smaller towns may want to dress more conservatively to avoid offending anyone or attracting any unwanted attention. Furthermore, instances of 'eve-teasing' occur more frequently when (especially foreign) women are found alone late at night. Travelling in groups after dark, particularly in unknown places, is advisable.

Language barrier in India

English is widely spoken in large cities and the workplace, so overcoming a language barrier shouldn't be a major challenge.

That said, expats should plan their routes before they go anywhere, as local vendors might not be able to effectively help with directions. Additionally, it's always best to choose one's day-to-day vendors carefully, and provide them with precise instructions in an expressive fashion.

Food and drink in India

Numerous eateries offer a range of cuisine from continental to oriental. Expats should carefully pick where they dine and drink, since hygiene can be an issue at local restaurants. In most cities, however, plenty of hotels, restaurants, discos, pubs and bars cater to the expectations of a global clientele.

Expats should certainly try Indian delicacies during their stay. Each region claims superiority in the epicurean collage of Indian food and offers its own exotic tastes.The north offers the spicy cuisines of Punjab and Rajasthan, while milder, more complex flavours can be found in the dosas, uttapams and iIdlis typical in the south. The middle of the country provides innumerable opportunities to sample different tastes.

Drinking and smoking shouldn't be done in public places, such as parks and in the streets, and is considered an offence. In Gujarat, for example, liquor is only available at licensed hotels and has to be consumed inside hotel rooms.

Poverty in India

The wealth gap in India is massive – millionaires and slum-dwellers live alongside each other in most Indian cities. Poverty is a reality in India and expats will be confronted with it almost anywhere they go. 

Expats will get used to being targetted by beggars. The best option is always to ignore them. If one feels compelled to give something, food is always a better option than money. Wherever possible it is better to give to a reputable charity than individuals on the street.

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