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Work Culture: USA vs India

Work Culture: USA vs India

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Most Indians typically have a higher level of education and also have a strong work ethic, however, when we move here to USA, we find the cultural differences between the U.S. and our own Indian working styles a bit overwhelming.


In this guide, we’re going to share with you some of the most common cultural difference challenges that we as Indians are most likely to experience when we arrive in the US and give you some tips as to how to manage them.


Harmony Vs Honesty:

Whether it is online or face to face, when it comes to work, Americans are more honest in terms of giving feedback than us Indians. They see giving their opinion directly, maybe dressing it up a little to soften it, to be a good thing.

As Indian’s we tend to give harmony a lot more priority over direct feedback. If an American colleague doesn’t like or appreciate something, they will say it directly. Another American, who appreciates or is used to direct feedback won’t mind it. However, us Indians will probably get offended over it. Trust us, they mean no harm.

It’s just that we Indians are more used to harmony. We won’t show our displeasure over certain things upfront or won’t say it out loud. We will try to let it know through non-verbal clues which in most occasions will go unnoticed.


Explicit vs Implicit:


To ensure that everyone is of the same understanding, Americans might reiterate things, emphasise, check understanding and then commit details to paper.

For Indians however, we are more likely to communicate implicitly by making use of body language and non-verbal cues. We expect our counterparts to ‘read between the lines’ and infer meaning.

Where someone is from a similar communication culture, then this may not be an issue but for Americans, it can cause confusions and might well be met with the reaction, ‘But they didn’t say that!’.

Indian expats, therefore, should bear in mind that their American counterparts are likely to be less able to read between the lines and they should, as such, try to express things verbally whenever possible. Where a shared understanding is important, then don’t assume your counterparts know what you mean. Verbally reiterate things and check their understanding.


Individual vs Group:

One of the challenges that Indians often take a while to acclimatise to is American individualism.

Americans are more likely to think about themselves than the group or the team.

In early times, Life was incredibly tough and mortality rates were high. Indeed, if you weren’t equipped to look after yourself then there was often very little in the way of support systems to ensure your health or safety.

As such, it was essential that people put their individual needs first. The enduring nature of this shared experience is reflected in many ways in America.

For example, businesses place considerable value on individual achievement awards, employees often have career growth plans which involve moving from employer to employer to gain greater experience and to progress their careers, rather than staying put for the sake of team harmony. Married couples are also likely to live independently, while, young adults are more likely to leave the home fairly early in life to ‘make something of themselves’.


For Indians however, the group is of precedence and identity is often very much integrated into the group. Team awards are far more celebrated than individual awards, young adults are unlikely to leave home, extended family members are more likely to live with each other and employees tend to stay put with the same employer for far longer periods of time.

It’s important that Indian expats relocating to the US appreciate the greater sense of individualism in the country. It might take some getting used to but don’t assume that this means that individuals care any less about their family or friends.

It’s just expressed differently. Likewise, teams are still important to American employees, but loyalty is demonstrated differently.


Conclusion:

We’ve shared broad outlines based on the experiences of many Indians who’ve worked here in USA. However, as time progresses, cultures evolve, and people evolve with it. The points mentioned above are mere guidelines to help you assimilate in a foreign country and should be considered as the final word. At the end of the day, Indians have become a lot more direct, more explicit and even slightly individualistic over the years. 

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