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Cultural Information - India

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Cultural Information

Answers to your intercultural questions from a Canadian and a local point of view.

Cultural Information - Conversations

Question:

I am meeting someone for the first time and I want to make a good impression. What would be good discussion topics?

Local Perspective:

Topics for discussion would include family-oriented themes beginning with yourself – marital status, parents, grandparents, spouse, siblings, children etc.; your educational background, where you grew up and/or the country you come from. Indians enjoy cricket, soccer, field hockey and many other local sports. A Canadian could speak about ice hockey, baseball, canoeing, skiing, and so on. Other neutral topics would be about the Canadian wilderness - hiking and trekking trails and parks, wild life, flora and fauna. Music is often an excellent topic - Canadian/Western music. Most city dwellers enjoy both Indian and Western music. In a rural setting people will be familiar with folk music, dance and songs.

Food is another excellent topic for discussion; however, first find out from your host or hostess whether or not they are vegetarian before getting into discussions about your summer barbeque favourites. Meat and discussions about it could be offensive to a vegetarian.

Topics best avoided until you know your hostess or host well would be issues surrounding religion, politics, class/caste, poverty, health care and pollution for very obvious reasons. Firstly, you might not know your host’s political, religious affiliations or class/caste and secondly, subjects such as poverty and pollution could be interpreted as condescending.

Canadian Perspective:

Family is very important to Indians. The social fabric of India is woven around the extended family. This is a great topic of discussion. In many cases Indians working in key urban centres have come there from villages in rural areas or from smaller cities.

Questions about where people are from, where their family including extended family is residing are common. Marriage is also central to the social fabric of Indians. Be prepared to have others ask you if you are married (lagan), particularly if you are a woman and have completed your studies. Asking lots of questions to get to know others is very common.

The caste structure systematically determines the occupation and work of Hindus (which comprise of the major religion in India). Asking what caste someone belongs is not appropriate, given the risk that they may be from a lower caste. However, asking about someone’s work or occupation is acceptable. It is probably best also not to ask if someone is Muslim or Hindu, as tensions amongst these groups have recently heightened once again. In addition, avoid discussions about the tensions in Kashmir as well as between India and neighbouring Pakistan.

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Cultural Information - Communication Styles

Question:

What do I need to know about verbal and non-verbal communications?

Local Perspective:

An arms length would be a good distance to keep between you and the person to whom you are speaking.

Most Indians make direct eye contact during conversation; however, a woman from a conservative and/or traditional/rural background may speak to you from behind the veil of her sari.

It is not acceptable to touch someone during conversation unless you know the person well. For example, an older person could take offence if you touch him or her because you are not a Hindu or, if you are a man, a woman would feel very uncomfortable and think you are making a pass at her.

During most large social and official gatherings men and women will tend to stay clustered in their own groups, however both genders tend to mix more freely with each other during smaller family or social gatherings. If you are not sure about a non-verbal cue, do not hesitate to ask your friend or business associate or host.

Professionals in India would keep the same distance a business colleague would keep with you in Canada, unless you know them very well.

Pointing a finger at someone would be considered rude. If you need to get the attention of the waiter in a restaurant make eye contact or try to gesture to him with your right hand/arm stretched out, palm facing down and moving your fingers towards yourself.

Canadian Perspective:

Personal space and distance when speaking to someone are a lot smaller in India when compared to Canada. Indians tend to stand closer with those they already know or they have built a rapport with. Approximately one and a half to two metres is the norm.

Eye contact is used as a means of expressing respect for those who are in a position of higher authority. For example, it is common for employees not to look directly at their manager’s eyes but to look at the ground or straight ahead when having conversations with them.

It is normal to touch someone’s arm or hand when speaking to them as long as they are from the same sex. Verbal and non-verbal communication with the opposite sex tends to be more conservative than it is in Canada. This, however, varies greatly, depending on the level of education and occupation of those involved.

Conversations with friends and professional associates tend to be similar to those in Canada. There tend to be greater levels of self-disclosure and discussions about personal matters the closer the relationship or the longer someone is known and can be trusted.

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Cultural Information - Display of Emotion

Question:

Are public displays of affection, anger or other emotions acceptable?

Local Perspective:

Public displays of affection with the same gender is more readily accepted than with the opposite sex. In cosmopolitan cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore, displays of affection are more common; whereas in Chennai, people are more traditional and conservative in showing affection in public. However, people are more used to sharing their good tidings, sorrow and anger in public. Again, emotions may not readily surface within a work environment where a senior officer/superior may be present.

Canadian Perspective:

The public display of affection among couples is kept to a minimum. Most couples, particularly, those not married display their affection in private spaces in the their village or cities. Overall, India tends to be a very conservative country although many urban centres like Bombay or Delhi are becoming more liberal. It is somewhat common to see young married couples holding hands in public areas in urban centres. Rural areas are a lot more conservative.

Public affection amongst adult friends of the same sex, brothers or sisters is normal. It is common for these relations to hold hands in public without any fear of sexual misrepresentation.

With the extremely dense population of India, it is common to see domestic conflicts being verbalized outside of the home. Indians are very expressive with family members and those they know well and thus it is common to see arguments take place in public places.

Women tend not to be as expressive in situations of conflict in public as men are.

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Cultural Information - Dress, Punctuality & Formality

Question:

What should I know about the workplace environment (deadlines, dress, formality, etc.)?

Local Perspective:

Dress conservatively as a rule. During a field trip, men should wear long pants with long or short sleeve shirt and a hat, if necessary, to stay away from the sun. Office wear should be a two-piece suit with tie and dress shoes like you would in Canada. However, on a social or festive occasion, if preferred, native clothing such as kurta pijama is quite acceptable (no shorts).

Women should dress formally like they do in Canada for office wear and doing field work they could wear a long shirt and a blouse with sleeves or long pants with sleeved blouse. On social/festive occasions they could wear casual clothing or a salwar kameez, but no halter neck, mini shirt or shorts.

Canadians have a tendency to speak too quickly during presentations or conversations. Speaking more slowly is considered courteous. Also, Canadians typically ask "How are you?", but do not necessarily wait for a response - this may seem rude to an Indian. ’Sir’, ’Madam’, ’Mr.’ or ’Mrs’ are used frequently by Indians as an indication of respect for age and sometimes to reflect status. Do not address someone by their first name until they ask you to do so.

As a rule in most work places, people arrive on time and are punctual, unless faced by unavoidable circumstances such as illness or death in the family or a traffic accident or a breakdown of the vehicle he or she may have been travelling to work on. This sometimes is not the case when going to meet with a civil servant. Bring along some work or a book to read, while you wait.

Private sector is very entrepreneurial and extremely competitive and deadlines are adhered to. This may not always be the case in public sector organisations.

While handing documents or your visiting cards to any Indian, keep in mind to always use your right hand. The same would also apply to you while attending Indian social events. Food is always eaten with your right hand. Use of the left hand is considered unclean.

Canadian Perspective:

Men tend to wear dress shirts and dress pants. Indian women tend to wear saris or shawal kamiz (long shirt and baggy pants with a scarf). It is acceptable for foreign women not to wear traditional Indian clothing as long as they are dressed in a respectable fashion according to Indian standards. Long skirts or lose fitting pants with a long blouse or top would be appropriate.

Colleagues can usually be addressed by their first names unless they are significantly older. Supervisors are most often addressed as Mr. or Mrs.. It is important to take notice of how managers, or those in authority are treated, as this varies tremendously throughout different organizations and different regions in India.

Although Indians tend to be late and start work late, it is probably best that Canadians are at work on time initially to get a sense of the working patterns in their specific organization.

Deadlines are not a rigid as they tend to be in Canada. Again however, it is best to meet deadlines until you have a better sense of the specific environment you are working in.

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Cultural Information - Preferred Managerial Qualities

Question:

What qualities are most highly regarded in a local superior/manager? How will I know how my staff view me?

Local Perspective:

Seniority, education and experience are highly valued. Canadian educational background, professional/social status and travel experience could also play an important role both within the public and private sectors in forming relationships. However, human qualities such as respect for local knowledge, respect for an individual’s age, patience, and understanding are equally important. Most importantly, never cause someone to lose face, especially in front of others. The co-operation and respect you earn from your staff will indicate to you their opinion of you.

Canadian Perspective:

Education, your position of leadership and experience are all regarded as qualities that are highly regarded. Your willingness to understand the Indian culture and with working norms and practices of the Indian people will earn you the greatest respect. Integrating into the culture is challenging; however, this will help enable you to complete your tasks effectively.

Your staff may find it difficult if you practice Canadian management styles such as inclusive processes and teamwork. The integration of these styles will require proper training and time. Most work environments in India are top down and employees are use to being given directions that they have to follow. You may find staff being intimidated by you. Taking the time to get to know your colleagues, and staff will be build their trust and camaraderie towards you.

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Cultural Information - Hierarchy and Decision-making

Question:

In the workplace, how are decisions taken and by whom? Is it acceptable to go to my immediate supervisor for answers or feedback?

Local Perspective:

Power and decision-making in the work place tend to be based on rigid, hierarchical communication patterns and lines of authority, both in the private and public sectors.

In Canada, it is not entirely necessary for face-to-face communications, as business can be done through telephone communication. However, face-to-face communication is preferred in India. In Canada one can get to the point without having to get into casual conversation before proceeding to discuss matters of concern. Verbal communications in general tend to be informal and casual conversation typically precedes discussion of matters of concern.

Canadian Perspective:

Ideas are generally developed at middle management or higher levels. However, key decisions are decided at the highest levels and this is usually not an inclusive process.

Asking for feed back or recommendations on your work may be looked upon in a negative manner. You will probably viewed as an expert in a particular realm and it may be perceived that you are not competent if you ask for ideas or opinions on your project. Since you are working in a different cultural context, such questions can be framed as such so as to avoid being seen as a reflection of a lack of competence on your part.

It is probably best to confirm a day before a scheduled meeting just to ensure that there have been no changes. Meetings are usually held with only senior staff behind closed doors. Meetings are chaired by the person with the highest position attending the session. Meetings are run without stringent time lines and often run for many hours. However, this varies tremendously by organization.

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Cultural Information - Religion, Class, Ethnicity, & Gender

Question:

Briefly describe the local culture’s attitudes regarding the following: Gender, Class, Religion and Ethnicity. What impact would the above attitudes have on the workplace?

Local Perspective:

Within the Indian context it is almost impossible to describe one local cultural attitude. All of the following four issues are very present in the everyday life. While these issues would be more significant in a more traditional context, they may not always be significant in an urban situation. Once visitors are more familiar with their hosts, they could have discussions around these issues Caution, Indian society on the whole is quite conservative, and is not as flexible in accommodating differences as the West. This does not mean that Indians are somehow "backward", only more bound to tradition and customs. Westerners, with their emphasis on cultural fluidity, tend to overlook this. It is important that people get to know their local environment before drawing their own conclusions.

Gender:
In most work places the issues of gender, religion, class and ethnicity may not be visible, but they do exist below the surface. A woman may face gender discrimination from her superiors and men who work for her.

Religion:
While religion may not be discussed or be an issue at work, recent Hindu-Muslim tensions have lead to many riots in public places and created divisions among people. A visitor must keep in mind that India is home to Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Sikism, Jainism, Zorastranism, and Buddhism.

Class:
Class is becoming more of an issue especially among many "nouveau riche". Suddenly when a lower or lower-middle class person comes into money, class distinctions become more evident. Such a person may be the envy of many colleagues within the work place.

Ethnicity:
Unless someone identifies himself/herself as a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe or their surname identifies them as such, it does not come up as an issue in the work place within an urban setting. However, within a rural context, everyone within that particular small community will know your background and you will have to live within certain prescribed norms.

Canadian Perspective:


Gender:
There are significant gender inequities in India resulting in major differences in the way men and women are treated in the workplace. Women in many areas of India, particularly in the rural areas, do not work outside of the home. This has changed significantly in the urban centres, although gender equality is not practised because of cultural and social customs. Women tend to have the more administrative positions in organizations and are very seldom seen in management positions.

Religion:
The majority of the population in India are Hindus; although a significant number are Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, etc.

It is important to be cognizant of the tensions among the Hindus and Muslims.

Religion is a very integral part of the Indian way of life and as such the impact of religion in each workplace is unique depending on the views of the senior management and employees of the organization.

Overall it can be assumed that working relations are usually not impacted by religious beliefs in large organizations. Those who are highly educated or working professions tend to distance their religious beliefs when working with those from a different religion.

Class:
The caste system in India is very dominant in all aspects of life and determines the occupation and work of Hindus. There are five different levels of the system: Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra, and Harijans. Within each of these categories are the actual "castes" or jatis within which people are born, marry, and die. This system has worked to keep a sense of order and peace among the people.

Those in higher castes tend to be richer, have access to higher education and tend to hold senior positions in the work place.

Ethnicity:
There are many diverse ethnic groups in India. Ethnicity is based more so on religion than on race, as in other countries. For example, a specific geographic area in India will have multiple ethnic groups practising different religions. Examples of some ethnic groups include the Sikhs, Jains and Tamils.

The ethnic conflicts in Kashmir between the Hindus and Muslims have heightened once again. It is probably best to avoid discussions in the workplace about the tensions in Kashmir between India and neighbouring Pakistan with those whom you don’t know very well.

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Cultural Information - Relationship-building

Question:

How important is it to establish a personal relationship with a colleague or client before getting to business?

Local Perspective:

The establishment of trust and confidence is a precondition to the development of close working relationships. Canadians’ tendency to separate professional and private life may be misinterpreted as dislike. Similarly, the common Canadian concern for use of time and its effect on quality of social interaction, particularly in the working environment, may be misinterpreted as dislike.

While ready to extend hospitality, Indians, like Canadians in general are cautious and slow to form real friendships. How long it takes to establishing this relationship will depend entirely on how soon the Canadian and Indian individual begin to understand each other.

Shaking hands with your male professional associates is expected; however, wait for a female associate to extend her hand to be shaken. The Indian greeting Nameste, with your hands clasped together in front of you as if at prayer, is an accepted greeting.

While Canadians tend to feel uncomfortable engaging in a more personal level of conversation during initial meetings, Indians find topics of conversation concerning family, children or education and professional backgrounds totally appropriate.

Canadian Perspective:

It is important that the North American culture of efficiency and the bottom line don’t get in the way of Indian norms and ways of conducting professional activities. Developing a rapport and relations with colleagues and business associates is extremely important to Indian organizational practices. This is time-consuming and should be factored into the planning of new initiatives. In India, top down management styles are predominant. Canadians need to work within these parameters and protocols so as not be regarded poorly by the local population.

Tea (chi) is usually served in formal and informal meetings. Having chi is an important part of the rapport building or small talk before a meeting officially begins. This process is often lengthy and should not be undermined. Rather, it should be celebrated as one of the norms of meeting officials and conducting business in India. The process of developing relations is not instant and can last for the entire duration of your stay in India.

As a newcomer you may not realize the internal dynamics and class issues. It is probably advisable to develop strong relations with the colleagues you work closely with as well as your supervisor. Everyone else should also be treated with respect; taking time to converse with others will be appreciated. As a Canadian male, it is important to be conservative when speaking with women until you are aware of the culture of the organization you are working with.

Remember to take Indian sweets/pastries (methai) to work on your birthday! This is similar to taking cigars or chocolates to work when you’ve had a new baby in Canada.

The most common means of meeting officials is to great them by saying Namaste with your hands placed together (as though you are praying). There is a high degree of formality and respect shown to officials in India. It is best not to take a seat until the officials you are meeting have or they have welcomed you to sit.

Topics of conversation when meeting with officials should focus on the business at hand. Your appreciation for India in terms of its food, culture, etc. would also be excellent topics of discussion. Officials of India will be very curious about Canada. As such, you may be asked lots of questions about life in Canada, including winter and snow.

For professional, "work lunches", the person who is at the higher occupational position and would tend to be the same person who has initiated the lunch. Since Indian’s view foreigners to be very wealthy it would be acceptable for the Canadian to offer to pay.

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Cultural Information - Privileges and Favouritism

Question:

Would a colleague or employee expect special privileges or considerations given our personal relationship or friendship

Local Perspective:

Preferred treatment, a pay increase, hiring of his/her friends or family do exist, both in the public and private sectors. However, nowadays, people have to justify their actions and the person who accepts special privileges has to prove him or herself worthy of the position they hold. Today, the granting of special privileges will not go without being questioned or noticed.

Canadian Perspective:

It is normal for a colleague or employee to expect to be given special privileges or consideration based on a personal relationship or friendship. Indians are very loyal to those they know and view special privileges as a way of demonstrating their loyalty to their relations. Granting special privileges is even often viewed as an obligation that should be carried out.

Indians are at the same time very entrepreneurial and would not risk the bottom line because of special privileges or considerations given to personal relationships or friendships.

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Cultural Information - Conflicts in the Workplace

Question:

I have a work-related problem with a colleague. Do I confront him or her directly? Privately or publicly?

Local Perspective:

In many Indian cultures, harmony, saving face and avoidance of conflict are important principles guiding communication, to the extent that avoidance of conflict may be valued more than clarity of meaning. However, as in Canada, it is important to clarify what one does not understand right away. Any disagreement should be handled delicately.

Given that saving face is very important, you should call a meeting with your colleague and confront him or her directly. Disagreements can usually be resolved amicably. Most often, problems arise due to miscommunication. Lay out your frustrations and ask the individual to do the same and resolve the situation as a team. If however the problem persists, inform the individual that you would like to give her/him another chance to resolve the issue amongst yourselves before you take the matter to your superior.

Canadian Perspective:

In most cases, confronting a colleague may not be the most effective means of trying to resolve a work-related problem. Indians tend not to like confrontation and will try to avoid the issues or disregard their impact. The best way would be to bring up the issue informally in a conversation and not addressing it directly. Asking for the assistance of a mutual colleague may be useful, as long as he or she is respected by the person you are having difficulty with. Asking your supervisor to intervene should be considered as a last resort and perhaps only if the problem with your colleague is getting in the way of your work.

It is often difficult to know if a colleague is having problems with you. They may mention something indirectly in a conversation, or in passing. This is often not picked up by Canadians who are use to discussing such issues directly and in greater depth. Often listening carefully and picking up on non-verbal signs is the most effective approach. In this regard, it is best to observe and let your Indian colleagues take the lead when you are unsure about the activities at hand. It also best to develop a network of friends and associates who are also from abroad with whom you can discuss these issues.

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Cultural Information - Motivating Local Colleagues

Question:

What motivates my local colleagues to perform well on the job?

Local Perspective:

Job satisfaction, commitment, money, loyalty, good working conditions, and fear of failure are all motivations. Indians value good working conditions, loyalty, trust, age, education and money. Many may not have the privilege of job satisfaction. Unemployment is very high and many people may accept a position in order to support their family and may be overqualified for the position they hold.

Canadian Perspective:

Monetary remuneration and recognition predominately would motivate local colleagues to perform well on the job. Families in India are large as extended members of a family reside together. As such, those working face tremendous pressure to provide for their family. Monetary remuneration is a great incentive to work well on the job.

Status and recognition are important cultural factors in India. Recognition for good work as well as the promotion to a higher level are viewed as great motivators for employees to perform well on the job. Special recognition would be viewed upon favourably by the employee as a means of recognition amongst peers in the workplace and also outside of the workplace amongst family members and the community at large.

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Cultural Information - Recommended Books, Films & Foods

Question:

To help me learn more about the local culture(s), please recommend: books, films, television shows, foods and web sites.

Local Perspective:

Authors of Indian extraction: Rohinton Mistry, Vikram Seth, Gita Metha, Arundathi Roy, V.S. Naipaul, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, David Davidar, Salman Rushdi; Poets: Rabindranath Tagore, Kalidas, Vivakananda etc.

Movies in English: Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi; E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India; Mississippi Masala; Masala; Madam Suzaska; Maharabatha Indian Epic (BBC production available at the Ottawa Public Library); Lagan; Bend it like Bechem; Monsoon Wedding; Baji on the Beech; and Salam Bombay

Music/Musicians: Ravi Shankar with Zakir Hussain on tabla - Hindustani Classical- North Indian); U. Srinivas (Karnatic Classical Violin - South Indian); Aruna Sayeeram (Karnatic Classical Vocal), Shivkumar Sharma (Santur) with Zakir Hussain (Tabla - North Indian Hindustani Classical) Ustad Imrat Khan (Ragmadhurranjani - Hindustani Classical).

Traditional dishes: North Indian: Bendi Baji (okra), palak paneer (spinach with cottage cheese), dhal makni (lentils in a creamy sauce), tandoori chicken, butter chicken, lamb or mutton kurma (curries), Bombay duck or pomfrits and Goan coconut fish curries, prawn curry from Kerala; fried rice or saffron rice and nan or tandoori roti - North Indian breads. The most popular South Indian vegetarian rice and lentil preparations: masala dosa; vadi, idili sambar; milk based deserts: golab jamoon, keer, rasmola, payasam, halva, barfi, kulfi, ladoo etc.

Useful internet links: http://www.docuweb.ca/India.

Canadian Perspective:

Many urban centres in Canada provide an excellent glimpse of life in India. For instance, Main Street in Vancouver or Gerrard Street in Toronto are "little Indias" with Indian shops, restaurants, bakeries and bazaars.

There are many speciality Indian restaurants in Canada specializing in food from specific regions of India. Food in India varies throughout the country. The spices and ingredients used vary depending on the region. You may want to probe while at an Indian restaurant to find out what region of India the food is from. Personal favourites include Tandoori chicken and Naan; Daar and bhat (lentils curry and rice eaten throughout Gujarat).

India is the largest producer of films in the world. There are Indian movie theatres in many of the larger cities in Canada. Popular Indian films are also often featured in mainstream theatres in Canada. There are also Indian video stores across Canada where videos and DVDs can be rented. Most of the Indian films have English subtitles. Dav Das is currently a smashing hit in India and would be a recommended as a must see. Music: Ravi Shanker (Musician); Lata Mangeshkar (Female singer); Udit Narayan (Male singer).

There are many fine Indian authors that provide a wonderful window into life in India. Recommended Indian authors who have written books in English include: Rohinton Mistry, Arundhat Roy, M.G. Vassanji and V.S. Naipaul. You may also want to read Ghandhi’s autobiography. This will give you an excellent historical perspective of India’s struggle for Independence and Mahatma Gandhi’s contribution to the nation. Personal favourites include: A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry; God of Small Things, by Arundhah Roy, as well as poetry by Kamala Das: Summer in Calcutta; The Descendants; The Old Playhouse and Other Poems; The Anamalai Poems; Only the Soul Knows How to Sing.

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Cultural Information - In-country Activities

Question:

When in this country, I want to learn more about the culture(s) and people. What activities can you recommend?

Local Perspective:

The following are some ideas about how a guest from overseas might learn about Indian people and their culture:

New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chenni, and Bangalore are great cultural and business centers. Try to see dance drama, music concerts, plays, or local movies. Try to read historical books, novels, fiction, and poetry and watch television programs and sports. Visit museums, temples, mosques, cathedrals or gurudhawara (sikh temple), historical sights, food/vegetable markets, local clothing bazaars/markets, and shopping centers.

Culture and the People. A colleague or acquaintance would be delighted to help. If they are not able to accompany you personally due to some family or work obligations, they will usually find you a friend or family member to go with you. If that is not possible, they will get their chauffeur to take you around or book you on a local city tour.

Canadian Perspective:

Cricket is one of the most popular sports in India. Matches are shown on television and as boys and men can be seen playing in many neighbourhoods.

The rich and diversified culture of India can be seen through different buildings including temples, castles and forts all across India. There are also many opportunities to take a glimpse of Indian culture through various exhibits, plays and concerts held in most urban centres. Attending an Indian classical dance concert is highly recommended.

For the most part, a colleague or acquaintance would be more than happy to accompany you to events. Sensitivity should be taken when selecting events that are costly.

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Cultural Information - National Heroes

Question:

Who are this country's national heroes?

Local Perspective:

Mahatma Gandhi is considered the father of the nation. Ravindra Nath Tagore, the poet and writer from West Bengal, is well known. Each region has its own "national" hero. Shivaji in Maharashtra, Rani Chittor Channama in Karnataka etc. These days many of the national heroes are film stars. The film heroes set new trends and have a lot of visibility -- in larger than life image/posters along sidewalks, in movie theatres and in television commercials.

Canadian Perspective:

Mahatma Gandhi would be considered the main national hero of India. He led India to Independence on August 15, 1947. The British had ruled India for 350 years; his vision and leadership led India to Independence in a peaceful way without any outbreak of violence. Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram is located in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

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Cultural Information - Shared Historical Events with Canada

Question:

Are there shared historical events between this country and Canada that could affect work or social relations?

Local Perspective:

None that comes to mind.

Canadian Perspective:

There are no significant historical events between India and Canada that could affect work or social relations. Canada is considered a neutral player in India.

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Cultural Information - Stereotypes

Question:

What stereotypes do Canadians have about the local culture that might be harmful to effective relations?

Local Perspective:

The image that people have is that Canadians are materially sophisticated and wealthy. Canadian gender relations are seen as less restrictive and Canadian women less conservative than those in the Subcontinent. Indians will expect all Canadians to be wealthy and to own what are considered to be material symbols of wealth and success, such as a large car and well furnished home. Expectations of Canadians will be high and thus a Canadian will have to live up to the stereotypes.

The only issue that might be harmful to effective relations would be that of immigration and sponsorship.

Canadian Perspective:

Many foreigners feel that Indian’s work ethic is too lax because their working style is more laid back than that of North America or Europe. On the contrary, Indian’s are extremely hard working and very entrepreneurial. India is the largest democracy in the world with a significantly portion of the population being highly educated.

The working style in India resonates with many other eastern cultures and should not be interpreted as not being effective. Rather, efforts should be made to be able to work effectively in such an environment.

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Cultural Information - About the Cultural Interpreters

Local Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter was born in Bangalore (capital of Karnataka State), the third child of five children. She was raised in this city in south India until the age of 18. After completing her Diploma in the French language, she moved to Pune in Maharashtra State to study German. During her German language studies she went on holidays to New Delhi, and ended up working at the Canadian High Commission for seven years, after which, she immigrated to Canada to live in Ottawa. She then obtained her Honours degree in Geography at Carleton University and her Masters in International Development at the University of Ottawa. She has also studied to be a Naturotherapist and lives currently in Ottawa working in the natural health field and as a consultant in international development. She has also been an Intercultural consultant from the time she has been in Canada. Your cultural interpreter is Dravidian/South Indian. She visits her family in India frequently and she is married and has one child.

Canadian Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania the eldest of two children. She was raised in Toronto and studied Environmental Studies at the University of Toronto. She worked for a Cabinet Minister in Ontario for three years upon completing her undergraduate degree. She then received a fellowship award from the Canadian International Development Agency and went to India for the first time in 1997 where she was placed with a rural non-profit organization in Gujarat. There she worked on forestry projects and women's micro-credit projects for eight months. Your cultural interpreter has travelled extensively in Europe and has been living in Toronto for the last five years. She works for an international development agency and will be commencing her doctoral studies in Education Administration in January.

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Disclaimer

Country Insights - Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.

You may disagree with or object to the content of some responses. This is to be expected given the complexity of the subject and the problems associated with speaking generally about an entire country and its people. We would encourage you to share your experiences; your contributions will help to make Country Insights a richer environment for learning.

The content of Country Insights in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.