When I was on delegation in Japan as part of the Corporate HR Graduate Program and got the opportunity to go to India on my next rotation, the news came as quite a surprise. I had been away from Europe for over 1.5 year and kind of looked forward to a rotation closer to home. However, India was a country I had been wanting to go to for a long time and now the time had come that I would explore India and its mesmerizing culture to the fullest by actually working there.
Life in technicolor
6 months, five states, 18 flights, two nightbus rides, countless auto rickshaw rides (by some of the drivers called ‘Indian helicopters’, as they maneuver everywhere through), a colorful Diwali celebration, international women’s day, many other festivals and countless dahls, curries, naans, rotis, sambars, thalis and fresh coconuts later, I can say “India is vivid”.
In India it is hard to have a boring day, which counts for private life, as well as in business. Because of the wide variety of religions present, there are a lot of festivals and celebrations in India. I was fortunate to experience the celebrations around Diwali (also called Deepavali) in November. Diwali is known as the festival of lights and is one of the major religious festivals in Hinduism. Our whole office was decorated with lights, brightly colored Rangolis (creative floordesigns typically created in the walkways) and everybody dressed up in their most beautiful garments!
Opening up a whole new world
One of my many highlights of working in India was that I shadowed my business mentor for three days. My mentor is based in Lindau, Germany and is heading the ADAS Test Environment (TE) team. This team is spread across different countries and locations, of which Bangalore is one. Being immersed into the TE of ADAS as an HR professional opened up a whole new world for me. During the HR Graduate Program I already experienced how complex (and fun) it is to work across different nations, but seeing and understanding how our colleauges in the TE team collaborate and work on complex projects with colleagues and customers across the world was truely impressive. Besides the meetings, I joined an ADAS functions and systems test drive in Bangalore traffic (read: total chaos including crossing cows), allowing me to connect what I learned during the meetings to real life! Finally, joining the meetings, test drive and a lovely dinner with members of the TE team allowed me to build relationships across the HR function.
Go with the flow
My experience of the mentality of the Indian people towards each other is in many ways admirable. People seem to really care for one another and are incredibly helpful. They help each other whenever possible and always share. In the office for example, our colleagues always share anything they might bring from home, be it some fruits, local snacks or home made sweets.
There is however one aspect of the Indian (business) culture that stood out for me after these six months. People appear to really live by the day. This way of living almost automatically implies that it is quite hard to make plans, and even harder to stick to them. My Dutch long-term oriented mindset therefore required some ‘stretching’, specifically after my time in Japan. In the west we practice more and more yoga and we follow mindfulness trainings in order to cope with today’s fast-paced life, but I would say, no need for all of that anymore, just work for a few months in India, and you will learn how to “go with the flow”!
All in all, working in India provided me the opportunity to further develop my cross-cultural working competencies. My colleagues were indispensable throughout this journey, as we had a lot of good conversations through which we exchanged our perceptions. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work in India and would really recommend anybody to work here if the opportunity arises.