....at a trade show a vendor would not talk to their translator because they thought he was of too low a class.
...they also always use male translators. “When we walk in the room to do business, everyone expects to see a man come in with us. If we’re alone, they wait for the man to come in the room.”
Their exercise regimens are also a source of perhaps the greatest culture shock....
“In Asia they’re not into exercise,” says Morgan. “It’s impossible to find a gym, and if you run outside, people are like, `are you okay? What are you running from?’”
I used to have a running partner who moved to France. They’re sophisticated over there, right? When he came back he told me that the people there thought he was crazy when they would see him running in the street. And of course, smoking was A-OK.
Now, let’s look at “Asia”. For years there were people telling us about how much more spiritual the people are over there than the materialistic North Americans.
And look at what Penelope just told us.
- a potential business partner would not speak to someone because he was of a lower class.
- exercise is not cool and smoking, I guarantee, is double A-OK
- you have to bend over backwards to show what is, essentially, superficial respect
- only a man gets the proper respect in business conversations
I mention this not to put down France, China or India but only to point out that one-dimensional grass-is-greener propaganda is something to be wary of.
Early in the 20th century, Lincoln Steffens, a famous American journalist, (a muckraker of all people), went to the Soviet Union and came back uttering the famous line: “I have seen the future — and it works!”
This is the same problem I have with Gen Y propaganda. I should hope that good ideas developed by previous generations become more widespread among younger people. That's why we're not living in the stone age. But Lincoln Steffens-style Gen Y propaganda drives me crazy (as regular readers know).
"I ended up spending at LEAST an hour every afternoon putting together search requests for our researcher in India, only to have results returned the following day that were virtually identical to the results I had already found.
"I found communication difficult and the results unsatisfactory, plus the ramp-up time for our guy to learn our industries was unreal....
"I know that several of you reading this have had excellent results from 3rd party overseas research vendors but I however do not think they are worth the investment."
I have to apologize to the Indian MBAs. We had a long discussion and, so far, I've only had time to record the first issue I brought up.
This is an interesting topic for me but I don't want anyone to think that it was all I took away from our meeting. As you'll see in the rest of series, these are exemplary guys whom I admire very much.
I am a fairly dark skinned guy (even by Indian standards) so have faced the brunt of "apartheid" :-)
Yes, we Indians prefer fair-skinned people...and while matrimonial ads get to specify it for women, the same is expected out of a man...however it is not so explicity stated. If the man is a software engineer/doctor with a US visa/green card skin tone is last thing on the girl's parents' mind
This yearning for fair skin is not limited to regions in India but cut across almost all regions. Even in South India, where the majority of the population is dark skinned movie-stars have been very fair skinned.
It's only recently that Indian movies have started to feature actors and actresses with darker skin tones.
On the question why Krishna is blue, well the songs and written words depict him as dark skinned, so to differentiate him from other mortals in the paintings artists started painting him blue. Even Ram, and Vishnu are depicted as blue. Ram and Krishna actually are depicted as incarnations of Vishnu - the creator.
Gautam adds: The difference is that in the US/Canada/European context it becomes a race issue...and that gets a lot of people uncomfortable. But in India, the focus is only on skin tone, and not on 'race' per se.
Remember Biswajit Das, the Indian engineer who is in Canada studying for his MBA? He asked me to meet him when he passed through Toronto and I agreed. So, one day last week, first thing in the morning, I took the subway down to his hotel.
Before I left, I wondered who should pay for this affair. I mean, he's a student away from home but I was sacrificing billable hours to meet him. Well, generosity prevailed and I decided it would be me. So, as soon as I saw him, I said, "Come on, I'll take you for breakfast. Where do you want to go?" "There", he said, pointing to a classy hotel. "I'd like the buffet." Okay, fine. But, no sooner did we sit down than two other Indian engineers also taking their MBAs at Queen's just happened by and "naturally" sat down to join us. And when the waiter brought the coffee and asked if it was separate cheques Biswajit said, "No, he's paying," and pointed at me. "No way, Bombay!" I cried. "What is this, some kind of scam?" The Indians all started laughing (actually, howling) and said, "Don't worry, we'll pay," and then they started bickering among themselves. Finally, Biswajit told the waiter, "Okay, give it to me," and the problem was solved. We got our breakfast from the buffet and settled in for what turned out to be a long, frank conversation.
The first things we discussed were cultural differences. I started off with a burning question. Does India suffer from light-skin bias? Almost all of the movie stars in Bollywood seem to have light skin. And, I was astounded to discover that there is a huge market for skin-lighteners in India (for women) and that matrimonial ads boast of the woman's fair skin.
"A recent survey conducted by Hindustan Lever Limited revealed that almost 90 per cent of its consumers of cosmetics desired a skin-lightening product. Fairness creams are most popular (commanding 70 per cent of market share), followed by toilet soaps, sun blocks, talcum powder, bleaches and other such beauty aids."
"It may seem a strange phenomenon that in a country where the majority of the people are dark-skinned with subtle variations in brownness, the overriding factor that declares whether a woman is good-looking or not is the lightness of her skin. Would-be mothers-in-law crave for fair-skinned brides for their sons; men young and old, prefer lighter-skinned partners (if they have a choice) and most pathetically of all, women from all socio-economic backgrounds go to unbelievable lengths to become just a little whiter." The Daily Star
The guys readily acknowledged that Indians find fair skin attractive in women. They said that men's skin is not an issue. And they denied that it is related to caste or that it has a role in recruiting.
I've seen this light skin fetish attributed to a desire to ape Europeans but, in fact, I've also read that light skin was desired by women in ancient Rome, apparently because it meant you didn't have to work in the fields.
In ancient Rome, women deliberately lightened their skin with lead based cosmetics.
And, in ancient Cretan wall paintings, the women have white skin and the men, red.
Men are always depicted with a brick red skin tone, while women were painted with fair skin. Art From Greece
So, I tend to think my new posse is right or, at least, largely so. It's not a racial prejudice since everyone is of the same race. It's kind of like our love of tanning only super-charged and in reverse.
The conversation continued and in the next installment I'll tell you about flexibility in the global workplace. (Don't worry it's exciting too).
According to The Financial Express, an Indian newspaper (with faulty English), the global human resources outsourcing market is going to reach $80 billion by 2008 and more than half of the recruiting processes will be offshored.
Most companies look to the low leverage workers for cost improvement via outsourcing and off-shoring, but there's more value to be had by searching the globe for the best intellectual talent and moving your operation to them.