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Training in India


In early January a colleague and I will be going to India to deliver induction training to new employees in a major telecommunications company. I have all the material to deliver but would like to understand any cultural issues that might arise. The groups will be mainly Indian but with some Japanese nationals just to confuse things
Neil Gratton

12 Responses

  1. Use your head
    Hi there. Lucky you first of all. I have worked in India and in various places in SE Asia and would say use your commonsense and be professional at all times. Maybe a couple of things to look for although as with all generalisations take with a pinch of salt..
    – You are there to work but you are a guest so be polite at all times – manners are valued highly
    – address people respectfully and let them know how you would like to be addressed (moving straight to first names generally is not done or perhaps desired?
    – remember the past and present of the country – dont slip into colonial mentalities and keep some of your cross cultural observations to yourself!
    – be sensitive on how you interact with women generally and on your course in particular. There may seem huge difference between some of the younger women on your course and some you may interact with in society but be courteous and not too over familiar.
    – Dont overstructure any participative exercises around work in pairs or small groups – let the group arrange themselves to some extent around gender and you will quickly see where there are considerations and where the usual issues are around mixing people up
    – be aware that some of the concerns that people on the course may raise will be highly minimised. In a tough economic situation where this type of work is highly desired and competitive, participants are not going to risk too many criticisms or disloyalty for your benefit, no matter how much they enjoy or get from the training.
    – in the same vein, confidentiality and all the nice rules based exercises we do in the West may be not always be seriously
    – but you may not know, as in some parts of the country people may just say yes and agree to your face because it is politer. This is a reflection of the historic culture of manners and power relationships based on necessity – dont criticise!
    – be timely and clear in your expectations on this but dont freak about it-relax a little. People have different life pressures.
    – if you do really listen and support the participants and follow through on practicals you will be doing a great job. But be sensitive about what you feed back to management – there are people waiting for those jobs and staff are unfortunately very dispensable and exploitable.
    – As with all training, keep your language simple and look through your materials to make sure your examples are not too cultural specific unless this is part of your agenda of course.
    – Be good natured about any cultural stereotypes you may be presented with yourself. Cross cultural work is all about communication and explanation rather than a consensus agreement. Always interesting to see your own culture reflected back through anothers eyes, and manily with our past and current activities I think we are let off very lightly.
    Remember, lucky you!!!

  2. No issues
    Since it’s the Telco industry you’re talking about, the crowd will be young mostly and reasonable well educated. There ought not to be any major issues. They are quite familiar with visitors from the UK and the US and are quite a cool lot to get across to.

    You just got to speak a little slowly so they can understand any strong ‘English’ accent you might have.

    You’ll find a reasonably responsive , participative, intelligent bunch of people, with a sense of humour. You need to win their respect though in the first 5 minutes, but that’s true of any audience, right? All the best, you’ll learn a few things yourself I’m sure. Cheers, Justin

  3. Indian Culture

    Not so sure about the lucky you! A colleague and I went to India in April 2003 to start a recruitment campaign to bring students over to the UK to undertake a one year call centre course here in the UK. We had a very demanding schedule which involved visiting 4 different cities and seeing in excess of 300 potential students in 8 days (including our travel to and from India) – I would not do that again!

    The culture thing was and to some extent still is amusing, worrying although part of our remit is to train them in our culture rather than fit in with theirs. Just one example is phrases that we take for granted which are not used or understood (even by the young and well educated) over there. One of my students is currently working part time selling a TV package and was asked by the customer to put it in “black and white” to which she responded “No they are all in colour”. Another example was a customer saying “Ta” and a student going to look up “tar” in the dictionary and wondering why the customer had been talking about stuff that they put on the roads.

    Almost 18 months since the first group of students came over (we have now had around 140) and I am still learning from them. Over all they are wonderful caring people but as for any culture there are the odd one or two who I could strangle!!

    Beware the traffic – I could not look out of the window when travelling in taxis

    Good Luck


  4. Good Book
    Hello – it looks as though you have been given some good advice already from people who have very relevant experience. I would just mention a book that I know addresses the subject of cross-cultural working (not sure how much detail it goes into specifically about any one country, but generally it is seen as helpful) – the book is “Riding the Waves of Culture” by Fons Trompenaars (I see it is available on Amazon)

    Good luck with your programme. Amanda Cooke

  5. Re: Training in India
    Perhaps the first place to start is to not think of the experience as ‘cultural issues’ and to look at it as an opportunity to learn about others. The hardest thing is the fact that we make judgements on people using our own system of values. This is human nature, however, this is where communication breaks down. This is because we tend to view the world from our own perspective (ethocentrism)and think anything that happens outside of our frame of reference as ‘strange’or unacceptable behaviour. It is not necessarily strange or unacceptable only different. Therefore, start by looking at yourself and how you interact with others and what your concerns are and why. One tip is to never take anything for granted, just because people are speaking the same language as yourself the cultural differences in non verbal and verbal communication will most certainly affect the communication process (just look at the HSBC adverts!)Don’t have and expectation that people will fit into you cultural norms otherwise you may be sorely disappointed and frustrated. Work from their frame of reference if possible.

    There are plenty of websites which will be able to give you general information on cultural differences. But remember we are all different, have lots of patience, smiling and enjoy the experience. If you want to talk some more about this, just let me know and I’ll be happy to and help.

    good luck.

    Jo Glover

  6. Japan
    I have worked and travelled in Japan and also had Japanese students living with us for several years. My overwhelming perception is the high regard for “politeness” and the protocols of “politeness”. The other memory is the difference betwen “work” amd play”. During the day with work, my experience was people were very formal and serious; but in socialising -they were wild! Even down to speaking English – if they felt their English wasnt very good they would use a translator during the day – but at night in a bar, they would speak quite fluently… “Why” I asked? Ahh, because that is work, now is play…. they explained.

  7. books
    I am preparing a course on cultural awareness and have found some great support materials available on – some excellent books for you to read on this arena/subject.
    Good luck

  8. Cross-cultural Working
    Dear Neil,

    My learning consultancy, thinking-people, specialises in cross-cultural training. ( – for more details about us.)I have worked in India and with Indian organisations for about three years now and would be more than happy to share what I have learnt from these experiences.
    (Mob: 07977 163655).

  9. hard working students
    Indian students work hard and expect a lot from their tutor. They are diligent and have impeccable manners. Do not expect to understand all their cultural norms – nor do you have to justify ours. Provide sensible templates of behaviour that will provide opportunities for them to demonstrate their natural charm and politeness. As well as Fons Trompenaar you could acquaint yourself with Geert Hofstede.
    Enjoy yourself – we actually have a lot to learn from them (e.g. family values, work attitude etc.)

    [email protected]

  10. Intercultural awareness profile
    The answers you have been given are extremely informative and will no doubt be of great use. We, at Athena, are licensed to use the Trompenaar Hampden Turner intercultural awareness profile (as mentioned by Amanda Cooke in her reply) and this provides the deepest, most thorough analysis of country and individual cultural awareness as it is based on thousands of profiles. It goes further than the visible, recognisable differences on the surface that we all see and breaks down the cultural profile so that you can perfectly identify areas of potential differences.
    We recently did a training programme covering India and Japan so we have extensive resources and information on those countries.

    Shaun Smith
    Director, Athena Intercultural

  11. Training In India
    A big thank you to all of you who have taken the trouble to respond. I have been really impressed by the quality of the responses and have found them most useful. A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.



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