India is a very patriarchal country. On the other hand, when we visited the Amer Fort in Jaipur, one showed us a small window in the main wall, which opened a view directly to the square where the political meetings of the men took place many centuries ago:
(The small window is above the central entrance on the “balcony”)
One was able to clearly hear and see everything from that window – and there was also a kitchen on the left just next to it. As you have already guessed, the window was for the main wife, who was supposed to watch and listen to the meetings. If at some point she would decide that her husband was under too much pressure or was going to take a wrong decision, she could ring a bell, and her husband would take a small breake come to have a council with her. At least, this is what I was told 😉
I have a very special respect to Indian women who went to politics. Even in restaurants of western hotel chains my BF was asked, what I would like to eat – not me. In general, people did not addressed – and it was strange, even though I come from a patriarchal country as well. In the culture where the man is the ruler, it is hard for women to fight their way up. However, when I see modern Indian enterprises, there are women climbing the career stairs, creating start-ups and becoming active in social entrepreneurship. When I compare the business landscapes, I remember Turkey, the country of amazing beaches and luxurious spa hotels. Indeed, when the father was about to die and the land was distributed between the children, women would receive the “least attractive lands” – next to the sea, with no woods and no fields. Who is ruling the touristic field now? India, as well, has a lot of potential, but still need to find the niche for the female leadership.
Beware of Indians who do not see a long-term value in you. Like in every Asian country with a very high population, cheating is a part of the business. Whatever you need, try to ask your friends or business partners – the services and the wares not only will be cheaper, but also will have a better quality.
We all read the stories, how one gives 500 Rupees to a shopkeeper in India, and the shopkeeper tells you that you gave just 400 Rupees. You recount – indeed, he had only 400 Rupees in his hands. On the other hand, Indians are not only about scam. I often noticed that people who had respect to me did not recount the money I gave them, be it a guide, a hotel driver or anybody else. This is, I suppose, a way to demonstrate the trust – therefore, please pay attention that you are giving the right amount of money to each and everyone and feel free to leave a tip if you are satisfied with the services 😉
I am a Russian woman with experience in Asian countries, so I know how to bargain. Indians, however, took my skills to a very different level 😉 Everybody, be it in business or just during the shopping, will test your skills of knowing the real price. In shops, for instance, I never paid the initial price. Nor I paid the 80% of the price. 40% of the initial price was the very maximum, and I was in a hurry. I do not consider smart bargaining to be cheating, but even I felt overwhelmed when a shopkeeper tried to sell me amethysts for a European price for emeralds. You may decide for yourself, whether you want to convince your business partners or shopkeepers that you are smart enough to bargain „on the Indian level” or you just leave and search for somebody who starts with less astronomical offers. I did both and enjoyed the process.
P.s.: Ever wondered, why people in India often ask you, how much did you pay for an item? They want to know, how much Europeans are ready to spend on things. Or, if your price is low enough, how much should they pay when they go to that place so they would not overpay.
Like in many Asian countries, you will not go far in India if you don’t have the right connections. Moreover, the whole local touristic business system is built against foreigners on the basis of personal connections of the locals. Here is an example. You ask at the reception of your hotel to provide you with a driver, because you want to go the city centre. They have all the hotel’s cars booked, so they ask a relative of a waiter in the breakfast room if he knows a driver. He has a relative who is a driver. The driver picks you up and asks, where would you like to go. You want to go to a temple in the city centre. On your way, the driver asks, whether you need a tour guide for just 500 Rupees. You agree. On the way back, your guide offers you to visit one-of-a-kind shop with locally made scarfs. You agree and buy two scarfs, bargaining badly and paying only 40% of the initial price. Should I tell you, how much you overpaid and how many people will get a share from those 40%? Right, start with the hotel’s reception..
What is this story about? Right, if you want to get into a good cheap shop, you should give a good tip to the hotel receptionist first!
The casts system is presented in a very bad way to all Europeans, but I have seen a different side of it on the very first day in India. When your grandfather was a jeweller, your father is a jeweller, you have no choice but to become a jeweller as well. You will not fight for a place at a university of architecture to become an architect, you will not try to collect money for a career of a politician – because you are born to become a jeweller – and you accept it. But you may dream to become a bank works in your next life, if you wish! I believe, this is the main reason why India had so many talented people for many centuries – professional knowledge, generated within the centuries, were transferred to every new generation.
At the same time, we will never be able to understand it in Europe or in the US. “From nothing to everything” is our goal – while in India you are already born with everything you may have. This is the difference, this is the reason, why we will never be satisfied with what we have – but Indians will be. This is the main though we seek in India while developing our soul with Yoga and ancient philosophies. But we will never find it, because this is not the kind of answer we are looking for.
The collective social mind in India means supporting each other. Everybody in a cast system has his place. I have seen people who were born on the streets to beg being children of beggars whose parents were street beggars as well. Haven’t you notice that those people somehow receive food and water to survive? Because the care about other casts is deep in the roots of the Indian social system. A man from the middle class, for instance, would not iron his clothes or shave his beard by himself. He would give this job to others, pay for their services and therefore support their families with money. My travel guide in Delhi being from a “middle class” caste supported six families on the weekly basis, saving her own time for being a guide for us. You might bite me for that, buy I found this system much more humane than the one in Russia, when those buying caviar in the supermarket ignore old people without any money even for bread.
The Indian work culture is very different from ours. First of all, Indians are not as stressed out as Europeans are, especially in the small cities. Drivers, shops’ owners, tabacco chewers are sitting and chilling while waiting for the customers. Or talking and drinking tea. Or just sleeping directly on their work place or in the car. You usually will not find Indians standing straight and waiting for the customers with a big smile on their face from 09:00 till 18:00 like you are used to in Europe. They will be very relaxed while waiting for you. By the way, the shops usually work till 17 or 18, rarely 19, so one does not expect a bunch of tourists coming from their one-day excursion to shop in the evening. In India, you will be offered a cold drink or a chai (tea with milk, sugar and spices) while you are sitting and shopping. This is a process to be enjoyed by both, the customer and the seller. While passing working people by, you feel a much more pleasant energy than in a French or German office, where employees live under the 24/7 stress. Probably, the appreciation of what you have right now is determining a more relaxed way of working here.
If in countries like Korea and China you may learn how to survive in the hardest competition, here you may learn how to enjoy your day while working hard. At least, it is worth trying.
First of all, here is a small announcement: As I discovered that my readers often use mobile phones to read my articles, I will shorten the stories and divide them into small parts, so it would be more comfortable for you to read when you are on your way to work, university or language courses 😉 If you dislike the new format, just write your opinion in the comments!
There are many countries, which I imagined to be different before I came there, and India was one of them. This week I will post 5 thoughts on the Indian work culture I experienced this fall, one thought per day, so do not miss them))