Comparing American and Indian Work and Life Cultures

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Working with Different Cultures:
Cultural Differences Between India and the United States

As the world becomes smaller, flatter and more intertwined we find ourselves communicating with people from all over the world on a daily basis. Communicating effectively is becoming extremely important especially in the workplace with the main reason being the differences in styles, people and most of all, culture. Understanding cultural norms can prove to be an incredibly valuable asset in a business and personal setting. Personally and professionally, the cultural differences between a individualistic society such as America and a collectivist society such as India can be found at polar opposites. It’s difficult to assess and lump people into groups and expect each individual to meet those expectations; within India’s borders there are hundreds of different languages and even more cultures, as one example. Culturally, these expectations should be considered tendencies that can be accurate and a good basis to go along with when doing business in a new country. America has many different cultures that have blended over time to create what is an individualistic, goal oriented and open society, whereas India has a long history of traditions and culture that stem from religion; Indians tend be person/family oriented, collectivist and soft-spoken (Hamilton, p.7, 2011). All of these characteristics should not be taken literally and expect each individual to act as so because people are unique, have different experiences and could have a different belief system. Especially those people who have experience with living and working in a different culture; depending on their experience and ability to be influenced, their experience as an expat could have been life changing.

Since Americans tend to be individualistic, they have an increased sense of independence, goal-orientation and family values than that of Indians. American’s have been taught since they were children about the American Revolution, Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights and this early exposure to stand up and fight for what they believe in, Americans develop a sense of individualism that continues throughout their lives creating strong-willed and dedicated individuals who fight for their beliefs; on the other hand, being independent can create selfish and greedy individuals, which is very prevalent in many ways thoughout the business world today. From being independent stems a goal-oriented attitude that Americans will usually do anything to achieve their dreams (Hamilton, p.7, 2011). Americans believe that if they work-hard, plan accordingly and take chances then they can control their future and create their own path through life. Next, family values of Americans can obviously vary from family to family and the same with Indians. But because Americans tend to be individualistic their needs or goals tend to get in the way of personal relationships; therefore, relationships tend to be short and jumped into without much thought process in order to reach individual gain and a step closer to their goals (Social PC). In a conversation with Neil Adams, an associates who works for Fidelity Investments said, “…I worked directly with an Indian group of employees and at first couldn’t understand why a wanting a quick decision always got me dirty looks and slow responses. All I needed were their decisions, all the time…I saw them process requests in a blink of an eye before too for other colleagues…it wasn’t until a colleague shared with me that they didn’t trust me and went to their supervisor because we never associated with eachother outside of the office...in fact, I invited one of them to go out to dinner one night and afterwards, it was like working with a different person, I kind of didn’t understand their whole thinking process…” (N. Adams, personal communication, November 28, 2012)

Indians on the other hand are a collectivist people who are more...
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