Exactly one year ago I’ve spent 1 month working side by side with my Indian colleagues in the large office in Bangalore. This is one of the benefits working in international company and being part of the international project – opportunity to see different working and living world!
First of all, before going to India I was excited and extremely scared in the same time. To be on the safe side, I made few recommended injections in Abteilung für Infektions- und Tropenmedizin (highly recommended if you want to save time: fast and straight to the point), bought nice Lonely Planet guide (my husband and I planned 2 weeks trip vacation after working month therefore we bought the one covering the whole country) and collected tones of disinfection napkins and water toilet paper (which were very helpful by the way). Apart from that I also got few advises from my friends, bought local souvenirs and tried to reassure parents who as most Ukrainian parent were completely freaked out and were gently asking: “Are you sure you have to go? Maybe there is no need…”. Well, and as usual since we were quite late with Visas, I got it right the day before my planned flight.
Finally during the long and very cold winter I was happily flying over clouds and coming closer and closer to warm colorful country! Bangalore met us with sunny warm weather, fresh coconuts, crazy traffic and loud horns.
As a different-look foreigner you get a lot of attention, as a woman – twice more. Living 5 minutes away, I still felt fully watched reaching the front door of the office. However getting in – didn’t fully solve the problem, our small “German” delegation (there was only 1,5 Germans in fact, as I said we are quite international even in Munich) got all and even more from what you can expect from Indian hospitality.
Few major differences between German and Indian offices:
- No coffee! (Almost…) Can you imagine this? We had one day when the coffee machine was broken in our Munich office and the work literally stopped for a few hours! Struggling people were trying to get some coffee in our desert surrounded area. And in Bangalore during one month none of us was allowed to figure out where the coffee machine is, though I didn’t see any local employee drinking coffee either. However, since the first day coffee was magically appearing on my desk and desks’ of my Munich colleagues together with 2 fresh water bottles every morning and after lunch. After few days we found out that the magician was one really nice guy working in the office cleaning crew. Sometimes he was also bringing some cookies and I believe there were no such things for the others. However all our attempts to achieve self-service were unsuccessful and I somehow felt really awkward getting all these kingdom services. Well, we were treated as guests…
- Longer day. Come early, work hard, have quick lunch, small coffee breaks with short work-related talks and leave early – this is how most of the time work day looks like in the German office. I find working days in Indian one much longer but also much more balanced. First of all, there are two major breaks instead of one: lunch break and tea time (around 4:00 – 5:00 pm). Secondly you do not discuss work in a small talks! You do discuss sport, culture and private life. Well, in general I felt days going in much smoother slower tempo, but long enough to do even more then one supposed to.
- More hierarchy. I can not say that I felt it myself, but I got an impression. More structure, more hierarchy and quite thick multiple manager level (compare to the plain structure in my branch in Germany). Your position in the company is of high importance, the level of respect and value of your opinion is directly connected to your official status in this chain.
- Your personal matters. During my stay there, I was asked to take part in the interviews: they were young graduated searching for a first job in the field. As usual, first question you normally get on the interview is something like “tell us a bit about yourself”. If you interview someone in Germany or Ukraine, the interviewer will most probably tell you about his/her school, small study projects, hobbies, interests, etc. However after asking same question in India, in a couple of minutes I’ve received more information than I really wanted/supposed to know. Two young girls mentioned briefly their schools, but then told us a lot about their families, education profession and current job position of each family member. I was honestly not sure, what should tell me the fact that the brother is layer or mother is housewife when I suppose to decide on the employment of future software developer… Well, cultural differences 🙂
- Traditional vs. Modern. I found it really amazing to see really quite a lot of girls working as developers in IT company in a traditional society. Bangalore is on the South of India, which you may know still keeps strong against modern world. However, Bangalore is huge industrial city, you can find here anything including European-like restaurants and bars, cozy parks and high-tech. But you may also notice traditional clothing people where and religion practices they strongly follow. All girls I met in the office were wearing either traditional dress Sari or more practical simplified costumes that consist of very long shirt, pens and long scarf (everything is perfectly matching in style). I was literally shocked how beautiful girls looked! And of course, after quite some short time, I got traditional cloth myself and was happily wearing it everyday to work.
- Diversity of Food. India is definitely about food: delicious and diverse. We had a really nice canteen on the roof terrace, where everyday breakfast, lunch and evening tea was served. Also there were millions of places around where you can get some interesting things. I could easily eat new dish every time during the whole month and I am not sure I would have tried all of it. Despite of the fact that Munich has a lot of kitchens from all over the world, you can still call the choice quite poor in comparison. Interestingly, people are mostly eating with their hands and this may include rice as well, therefore each place always has easily accessible water tap. My colleagues made sure we get full experience, so even few times we had lunch on banana leaves with special traditional order the food was served. However food is quite spicy in the most of the regions, especially in the South, when my home culture used to be completely opposite. In order to fight the spice I was always asking for Lassi, Butter Milk or any other milk product, and that what I kindly recommend if you face same issue. And yes, with a bit of time, my level of spiciness grew quite rapidly and quite significantly, so now I am buying chili even being back home 😉
- Car vs.Walk and Bike as something else. I was surprised that having such a nice warm summer weather, people prefer to stay indoor. However, I realized very fast that there are few quite important reasons for that. First of all, the city has a terrible traffic with absolutely “non-green” vehicles, so the pollution is terrible! Secondly, there are almost no pedestrian pads! Cars and motorbikes (so called bikes) are everywhere, the bicycles I have seen only old ones driven by poor people or people selling some goods (coconuts, household, etc.). There are parks for walking but you need to take car, motorbike or rikshaw (tuk-tuk) to get there. So no wonder, my colleagues tempted to take a car or bike to reach restaurant 2 minutes drive from the office, which for us was quite unusual.
This is just few things that impressed me the most in terms of my casual everyday during business trip, however there was of course much more. I might write yet another post on the different – touristic India – which I learned during my 2-weeks vacation time.
The month in Bangalore was very foreign and very hommy in the same time, thanks to my colleagues who spent a lot of time supporting us and making sure we don’t get too much “adventures” in a quite different environment. We were always sure about where to eat, what to buy and how to get somewhere. But most importantly we became much more closer with the colleagues, when some of them most of us have seen only via video-conference tools. The direct and informal communication together with working in one location for 1-2 sprints, made the team much more closer and improved our cooperation, which of course improved the development process and the quality/speed of the product.