Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cultural Inclusion

This month has been such an exposure to different cultures for me. It is very interesting to see how life shows you both sides of same aspect (similarities and differences or positive and negative) of life side by side. Always I have felt this. For example, whenever I was shown an example of men harassing wives, within a week or two, women creating issues for husbands would slap me on face. Strange but truth!! Not sure all of you have felt this ever?!?!

First week of October was an opportunity for me to see how cultures are converging at same point and how magnanimous people can be. Second and third week of October was a good learning for me about how people can misinterpret cultural inclusion.

I started my career in a great organization that opened my eyes towards other cultures. It had a mini India in my batch of trainees who joined on the same day (later I learnt that they do it intentionally to bring in sensitivity towards culture). We learnt so much of software development, soft skills, gender inclusion, cultural inclusion – within India and outside India, meaning of gestures in Japan, Europe, U.S. and so on. Funny, the way we nod our heads varies from country to country; the way we, the Indians nod our heads to indicate yes can never be understood by others J we move our head from one shoulder to the other - clockwise and counterclockwise. Please note it is not turning the head from shoulder to shoulder J

I think such training is needed for employees of all global companies – irrespective of experience levels – the companies should mandate such trainings. I feel it all the more in the past two weeks because of the way one of the senior persons managed a person from another country. This senior person (lets call him Mr. X in this article for ease of reference) was to host another senior person form another country (we would call him the visitor)

For obvious reasons, the visitor did not know many things about Indian food, cultural heritage though he had read many things already. You need to see certain things to learn it / feel it; any amount of documentation can never do that trick!! Mr X went on to explain Indian food and fed the visitor with some spicy Indian food. Thankfully nothing happened to him because of the spices.

Mr X showed his misunderstanding of culture inclusivity in a few occasions.  Looks like, his understanding is, to be culture inclusive, it is not enough if you appreciate the other culture but you need to degrade your own culture!!! He commented about old Indian architectural principles first; after sometime, he badmouthed Indian corporates for manipulating accounts; later he commented about Indian vehicles!!! I agree we definitely have a lot of scope for improvement; but it does not mean that our entire heritage is bad; our science behind the 2000/3000 year old buildings is bad; neither all Indian made vehicle are faulty; nor all the Indian corporates are dishonest while rest of the world is purest of pure!! By the way, he claims that he calls a spade a spade. What he does not understand is you should show your cards only when it is appropriate!!

For a few of his comments I gave counter arguments. But as you know, in front of the visitor, it is not good idea to fight with a senior person. I only wish we teach our employees what is meant by culture inclusion; more than that, I wish we teach people (even children) to respect every one irrespective of the color, race, language, education, wealth and appearance!! Lets make the world a better place to live by including people not by degrading anyone for any reason.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My trips Abroad

Though I am not a frequent traveler, I have travled to 3 other countries and made a total of 6/7 trips so far. It is interesting to observe how focus of my observations in all these trips changed over years and how they all finally arrive at same conclusions in spite of that.

When I traveled for first time to the US I was a young developer trying to establish myself. I was interacting with other programmers from other countries and other Indian states too. I used observe how they reacted to a change in requirements or a producton issue and what kind of dresses they wear or gadgets they have. It was very interesting see that mostly, the programmers reacted to requirement change / production issue pretty much the same way as me!!! However the gadgets they used and dresses they wore were different!!!

I made the next trip to UK (or series of trips were). I was a manager by then. I got chance to work with various nationals then too. My observation focus was how are the business problems solved or how people tried to expand the business and also what kind of food they ate & why. Interesting, business approach was pretty much the same but food changed drastically. Some drink/food considered as staple food by one country was considered as taboo in another!!

My latest trip to Australia was in 2012 October. I am a process consultant. Now too I got a chance to observe people from all over the globe (almost). My observation was on how people reacted to "Change" and how do they manage their families. Interesting!!! Almost all of them resisted change and managed their families in the same way. May be the sport they watched / played was different; may be the vacation spots they took their family were different; may be the classes they took their children to were different; but they watched / played; took families out for vacation and took children to classes. The language they spoke at home were different; their skin color, color of the eyeball and the clothing style were different; but all of them cared for families, wanted to be respected, loved and shared time with friends and families.

So my conclusion is people are the same when it comes to emotions and values of life. But what is still surprising to me is, why do we care so much about the color of skin, eyeball, hair, language, food we eat, the way we dress up!!! Though all cultures and relegions talk about the same values (be good and do good kind of stuff), why do we think that we are very different and superior than the others!!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Language I write in

In addition to my mother tongue Tamil, I can read and write in English. My blogs are in both the languages. Someone asked my how do I decide which language to be used for a particular topic. Till then I had not given any serious thought about it. I wrote them in the language I felt like; it appeared as if there is no rational behind the choice.

After this question was raised by my friend, I went thru all my blogs to see why I wrote in the language I wrote!! Initially I thought, if I wrote some heart touching event, I chose Tamil and if it is some general stuff, it was English. No, that is not correct.

Interestingly the trigger of the article had the clue. When the trigger occurred if I was hearing / thinking/talking in Tamil, then the article was in Tamil and it was English then the article too was in English.

For example, when I conceived my previous blog, I was watching Tamil news where I saw the sad faces of those who were relocating back to North eastern states; when first I thought of Leafful of rice, I was in a friend's wedding and language I was using (hearing and talking) was English.  I can precisely identify the reason for the choice of language for each of my articles!!