Here it is! The post that had to be written after the last week’s Magic Monday post – “4 Things Every Indian Should Learn From An American“.
Before I jump to the points, I want to thank every single person who contributed to a healthy discussion by sharing their observations in the comments. Even if you disagree with my reading, I am glad you took time to share your experiences. My heartfelt thanks to those who so vehemently appreciated my writing and shared the same views. It is the readers like you who keep me motivated to express my thoughts. I do hope you stick around even after these two posts and let your voices heard. 🙂
Now let’s get into the post which is probably my most favorite and fun article to share!
Ah! Home sweet home! Just the thought of India and Indian culture makes me smile. After all that’s where I have spent two third of my life. India today has changed a lot from when I grew up there. But some core values have still remained the same. Below are some of those values or behaviors which I believe every American should learn from Indians.
I do want to reiterate what I said in my last post. A culture is too broad of a term to be applicable to every individual or in every situation – especially in the culture of over 1.2 billion people, which is home to many considerably different cultures within the culture. There are always going to be outliers in both American as well as Indian cultures. Yet, a culture by definition means that there is a significantly high probability of predicting how a person will behave in a certain situation. That is the pattern I am referring to here.
- Portion control
America had definitely converted me to huge portions of whatever I eat. That’s a problem! When I go to India, every time I get a reverse culture shock when I see a plate filled with small portions of several different dishes. Instead of eating a big portion of just one dish, many Indian people tend to eat a balanced meal including carbs, protein (often vegetarian), and some vegetables. When a diet is balanced like this you need not eat big portions to feel satiated.
When I go home, I notice the size of the bowls and cups is half that of what I used to use in the US. Even the spoons and serving utensils can be smaller. The first time I noticed this, I realized the problem in my diet. I was way too “Americanized” to continue some of these healthier habits. Then I changed the size of the bowls, cups and utensils, and eating smaller portions started becoming easier.
Granted that this is just a small part of healthy living. But it helps. Every American should learn this simple trick that many Indians unknowingly observe. No matter which country you are from, if you are fortunate enough to receive enough food on your plate, do not waste it or let it harm your body by overeating.
- Basic financial discipline
No matter what economic status people have, in general, Indian people seem to have the basics of financial planning down – spend less than you earn. Indians save more, think twice before spending money, and allocate money based on the priorities. You may call us cheap but heck, we take pride in haggling and getting the best price possible.
I hear stories of students in America graduating with over $100,000 in debt without any real job prospects. I have seen people who do not buy books because they feel those are expensive but do their nails and hair every week. While such financial luxury may have its psychological benefits, it does not contribute to long term financial freedom and stability.
Financial stability only comes through self-control and discipline. No matter how much or how little one has, they must follow the basic discipline to ensure their peace of mind.
- Unity in diversity
Every state in India has different culture – different food, different traditional attires, and even different languages. Almost all of the religions in the world coexist in India. Combine that with the second largest population in the world, and socio-economic problems that come with it – poverty, hunger, illiteracy.
Can you imagine the number of reasons people can fight over?
Yet, India has managed to keep the crime rates down. Many studies from UN and even CIA, note that crime rate in the USA are slightly higher than that in India.
Historically, India has promoted peace over wars. Our ancient teachings taught us to look for similarities and respect the differences. We accepted, not just tolerated, even our invaders. Many Indians themselves are forgetting these values. But given the diversity, and drastic differences in the population density and lack of resources within the US and India, I would say, Indians are doing a commendable job at maintaining peace, wouldn’t you?
- Dealing with chaos
This is a fantastic career skill to have. Indians are naturally good at it. Our brains are trained to take input from multiple directions, decipher that information, and then provide outputs in the order of our perceived priorities.
For example, I may be driving a motor cycle dodging the obstacles in the crazy traffic, chatting with my friend who is riding at the back, analyzing the political situation, while pointing out the brilliant new billboard ad. How in the world can I not deal with chaos!
If you work with an Indian, you may have observed how comfortable they are when a change takes place in the organization. Observe how cool they always seem to be in a meeting. Have you noticed how calm they can be when they miss a deadline?
We develop a high tolerance for lack of clarity and try to figure out innovative ways to come to a solution or make peace with it. We learn to process conflicting streams of information and keep only the info we need in our heads.
I swear, I feel that the serenity prayer is totally created keeping Indians in mind:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
Learn this skill, and you will be a coveted employee!
- Harness the power of groups
This is THE best advantage of a collectivist culture and if understood well, it can yield unprecedented results.
What do I mean?
Indians prioritize people over tasks at hand which means that relationships are more important, probably the most important, in life. They think twice before saying anything in order to prevent hurting or offending others. They usually show high tolerance and patience for others’ mistakes. As discussed before they find patterns within chaos. When they know they are making a difference in their team, they feel valued and appreciated. Then if a great leader comes along who can provide such a group a cause worth living for, they can achieve wonders.
One of the examples is the organization of “Dabbawala“. A dabbawala means a lunch box carrier. This is a network or 5000 people who deliver 200,000 lunch boxes from suburban homes of Mumbai to workplaces every day within just 3 hours.
The best part, they have been doing this for over 125 years without fail in scorching heat or flooding monsoons of Mumbai, without any formal business education or high-tech tools, with an accuracy which is greater than Six Sigma – only 1 possible error in last 6 million transactions!
No matter whether you are from a collectivist culture or an individualist culture, people do things for people. If you know how to motivate people and harness the power of teams, you will achieve great heights!
- Bonus point:
Creative and entertaining advertisements
- Bonus point:
Check out this ad:
This is not the only one of its kind. Enough said!
If you have experienced Indian culture, do you agree or disagree with what I said? Do share your experiences. It should be a fun discussion.
And if you haven’t already read the other half of this intercultural learning, make sure to do it now.
© 2014 Manasi Kakade. All Rights reserved
Thanks to Yogendra Joshi for the featured image.