Have you ever dreamt of visiting India? A few weeks ago my dad traveled to India on a business trip. The things he talked about from his trip were very interesting and insightful and I decided to interview him about his trip. I asked three categories of questions, what was his travel experience, what is the business world like in India (from an American IT manager’s perspective), and what he observed of Indian culture.
What was his travel experience like
Q: Where did you recently travel to?
A: I traveled to our local office in Jaipur India.
Q: How long was the flight?
A: Two legs. The first one I think was 14 hours and the next one was 2 and a half or 3.
Q: Do you have any travel advice to give anyone interested in traveling to India?
A: Travel business class *chuckles*… and travel on a reputable airline.
Q: How was the food/what should future travelers know about the food?
A: The food was…everything is very spiced for an American. Even breakfast at my hotel you’d have a thing that looks like a pancake that has sorts of spices and pepper in it. So there’s not anything that doesn’t have lots and lots of flavor. I enjoyed having Indian tea almost every morning, and lots of times in the office.
What is the business world like in India
Q: Why did you travel to India?
A: I have a team of engineers and we’re staffing to build up a 24 by 7 help desk for our clients, that’s my responsibility. So my reason for going was to meet the team and to work through several staffing and logistics issues for the expansion of the team.
Q: How similar does an IT job in India look to an IT job in America?
A: The job looks the same. There’s definitely cultural differences between the way Americans view business and the client relationship versus the way an Indian national would view the relationship.
*IT refers to Information Technologies. Most computer jobs fall under this job field.*
Q: Was there any differences you observed in company practices overseas that would be specific to in India versus America.
A: Not really. Company practices seemed really similar. I actually commented to my wife after my first day in the office that I went into the office and was meeting everybody and it felt like I was just at another one of our offices.
Q: The economic state of India is different than ours. Did you or how did you observe this?
A: There are a lot of…holy cow moments *chuckles* …..of things that you see and observe in the culture and travel in the country. My experience was definitely different because I was there for business so I was chauffeured around a lot, I was shown the best of the culture, I was shown all the sights. I was taken care of with dinners and lunches and put up in the best hotels. But just traveling around you can see what a country of a billion people looks like. And a country that’s been around and a civilization that’s been around for thousands of years. Just very different in that respect. So some of the things that I observed and I’ll share one of them, one of the most shocking things I saw was a family of five on a motorcycle. So a mom and a dad and three young children all riding on one motorcycle. Or another thing that I observed on the way to work one day was a motorized rickshaw, which is a big version of a 3-wheeled bike with a place to sit in the back, was driving down the road and I counted 9 school children on this rickshaw. Just very different.
What he observed of Indian culture
Q: What were some cool things you noticed about everyday life in India?
A: Even though its crazy …there are motorcycles everywhere and cars and honking. I didn’t observe anybody really getting mad at anybody there was never any kind of heightened frustration or what would be considered in the U.S. road rage. People just went about and they weren’t bothered by somebody that needed to do a U-turn in front of 100 cars coming down the road. They just did it and everybody kind of shifted and let things happen and went on their way. This even extended to… well they’re a Hindu nation and they view cows as a sacred animal. So there’s cows that are wandering in the streets. Some of them are sitting in the streets and the traffic would just drive around them. And you’d have cars driving around both sides of them with nobody being phased. Not the drivers. Not the cows. Nothing.
Q: What was the traffic in Delhi like?
A: I didn’t spend as much time in Delhi, it was mostly just going to and from the airport. But traffic anywhere in India I would call very fluid. They used to be an English common wealth so they drive on the left-hand side of the road. So it always feels like you’re driving on the wrong side of the road and the drivers seat is on the wrong side of the car. But driving is very fluid, they sometimes don’t bother putting lines on the road because they don’t really matter *chuckles. You learn to not really be afraid when your taxi wants to drive around a couple of motorcycles and a rickshaw when there’s a bus coming straight at you and you’re far into the right lane. Way right of center. Then they cut back in just in time to not get into a head-on collision with the bus.
Q: Did many people speak English?
A: most everyone I interacted with spoke English. I think the Indian economy is driven a lot by working with the Western World, meaning Europe and the U.S. Especially in the hospitality industry, hotels, restaurants, and in the professional jobs they all speak English because that’s how they get to those jobs that allow them to support their families. And as you have more menial jobs or agricultural jobs, which is very big in India, there’s probably going to be a lot less English speaking. I did ask the question about English speaking and our office lead in India, who is about my age, he didn’t learn English until he was 19. But now in Indian grammar schools they start teaching English at like 2nd grade, so it is definitely a shift to teach all those students coming up how to speak English and be proficient, because I think they view English as the language of the western world that helps advance their interaction outside of India.
Q: Were there any differences in communication in India other than language?
A: There’s lots of subtle differences. It took me awhile to figure this one out. When you’re talking with someone they don’t nod their head the same way we do. We nod forward-backward or up and down. Theres actually a term: the “Indian bobble”. They tend to tilt their head left and right for the same reasons the we shake our heads to nod in agreement. The “Bobble” is the same type of gesture but just different.
* if you found this interesting and wanted to know more, I found a video called The Indian Head Wobble Explained by Drew Pinsky on Youtube that gives a visual representation of what this gesture actually looks like. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoJ4Bvsq7gQ
Q: In Jaipur, is American tourism very common?
A: Jaipur is one of the cities in what’s called the Golden triangle. Which is a historical and tourist destination. So in their terms Jaipur is a pretty heavily touristy city because they’ve got ancient palaces and forts and the ancient city. But it’s not the same tourism as you would see in Europe or the United States. I didn’t run into any other westerners outside of my hotel. It it also wasn’t really their tourist season, they’re closer to the equator and even in northern India where I was, in late September it was still 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Q: What is the Golden Triangle?
A: The Golden triangle is…well the three points on it are Delhi, which has been renamed to New Delhi, and there’s Ancient forts there, it was the old capitol and it is still the capitol today. The next point on the Golden Triangle, which is a little bit south east of New Delhi, Agra. Which is where the Taj Mahal and fort Agra are. Which are famous landmarks. And the third point on the Golden Triangle which is directly west and the midpoint between where New Delhi and Agra are is Jaipur. So they make a triangle and the three cities make a pretty heavily touristy triangle.
Q: Could you give me a comparison of the three cities in the Golden Triangle? As you saw a little bit of all of them.
A: Yeah I saw a little of each city. Delhi is the government capital so there’s lots of government offices and consulates, both Indian and foreign dignitaries. It’s a very large and well-developed city and that’s where one of their major airports is. Agra is a much smaller city it feels more like a large town here in the United States. But not a very metropolitan city. Jaipur, in some respects is very similar to an American city. Not quite like Chicago although people-wise and land-wise it feels a lot like Chicago… a city of more than 3 million people. There are some larger buildings, not high-rises like we have in Chicago but our Jaipur company office building is a ten-story building. So there are some good sized buildings and streets.
Q: Were there any cool places you visited in Jaipur that were underrated that you really enjoyed?
A: I like just getting out and seeing the sights and seeing what daily life looks like. I felt like most of the time I was kind of guarded from seeing that because I was being taken around and shown the best of things. But I always like to see what normal life looks like. So it was interesting to observe the different variations of the culture. Often times that was just driving from one place to another. I had some very good experiences, the team took me out a place that would be like a cool trendy and hip place to hangout kind of like a club with music and an open-air rooftop. It was a very interesting place to go and hangout with the team.
Q: And the question everyone probably wants to ask: Did you see any snake charmers?
A: Yes, I saw one at one of the tourism sites in Jaipur. It was a snake charmer with a cobra.
There you have it. If you were interested in traveling to India, curious about business in the country, or just wanted to learn more about the culture than there was your inside scoop.