India is an exotic land of enchantment. Just whispering the name, India, conjures up images of royal princesses and flying carpets. Of course modern India is a far different place than the land featured in myths and legends. Today’s India is a land of many people and opportunities. Many American companies have offices in India, taking advantage of vast labor resources and tax-friendly governments. Because of the American presence, expatriates, many of them women, settle in the region to take advantage of career opportunities. Cultural differences can make assimilating into the Indian way of life somewhat challenging for women.
India is a very conservative country when it comes to styles of dress for women. American women should leave the sleeveless tank tops and the cut-off shorts at home, despite the humid climate. Showing too much skin could get a women into trouble. Life will be easier for American women if they choose to adopt the Indian style of dress. This includes wearing salwars -- a baggy type of pants -- and a long tunic top. Scarfs are prevalent in India and learning how to properly wear one is recommended. The people of India are very fashion-conscious, so women should take care in their dress because they will be noticed. Details such as wrinkled or dirty clothing may send the wrong message in the workplace.
American women traveling and living in India have to be hyper-vigilant about their safety, especially if they are single. Indian women typically do not travel alone and neither should American women. Men in India can be very suggestive in their actions. Women traveling the streets alone may be subject to catcalls, whistles and suggestive remarks. Taxis are not safe for women traveling alone; contracting with a car company is suggested for personal safety. Before going to India, American women should consider taking a self-defense class in case they have to fight off the advances of an over exuberant man.
Culture Clashes at Work
Indian women do not always give women the respect they deserve in the workplace, and female managers may experience some push back from her male teammates. Indians view work and work life differently than Americans. For example, it is considered rude in India to outright disagree with a manager or to say the word “no.” Indians will nod and seem to agree when in fact they are really just listening. It takes some finesse and good communication skills to elicit true responses and feedback. Usually this is done one-on-one, since confronting someone in a meeting is not appropriate in Indian culture. The culture also does not hold deadlines and tight meeting times in high regard, so Americans should be prepared to be kept waiting or endure long meetings that carry over to dinner.
Conveniences that are taken for granted in the West are not as prevalent in India. The woman who is used to picking up a Lean Cuisine frozen meal for lunch may be disappointed by the lack of frozen foods available in an Indian market. As a matter of fact, Indians usually shop for fresh foods daily, which may alter how you plan your day. Water is generally unsafe from the tap, so buying water for drinking, cooking and brushing your teeth is critical. Utilities can be expensive and electricity is intermittent at times. The country has amenities such as Internet access and cell phone coverage, although they may be expensive and sometimes inconsistent.
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