The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

September - 2007 - issue > Cover Feature

Yes means No!

Venkat Pulella
Monday, September 3, 2007
Venkat Pulella
I spent first two decades of my life in India as a student and another decade and a half in the U.S. working as an engineer. The cultural differences were not daunting when I first went to the U.S. It could be because I was prepared for a culture shock. It was challenging when I came back though. After all I know India, I thought. However I soon learnt that living as a student in a campus with parent’s support is one thing and living with a family in the society is another. For example, on a Friday I asked my driver if he can work during the weekend so that I can search for a house. To my surprise I found that by ‘Yes’ he meant ‘No’. At first these are annoying little things. One may even think people are being rude or inconsiderate. But this is just the beginning of the cultural nuances one needs to be aware of even when returning to his own motherland from fatherland. Working in a third country may be even more challenging.

I will cover some cultural aspects of leading a team with examples from India as well as the US. Understanding and awareness of various aspects of a culture will enable you to succeed with your global teams.

Business communication
You may have heard of the anecdote of the Indian engineer who thought his manager is going to take care of an issue since the manager said “I Would do …” Though Indians are characterized as expressive instead of passive in general, in business communications they are cryptic and short. On the other hand Americans are known to be elaborate. Every communication has a start, a body, and an end. Even in verbal communications you often hear at the end the phrase “in summary,…” that summarizes the theme. Asking open ended questions will help in opening up the engineers.

Even in personal communication, one has to watch out for the jokes that do not stick. In India, baseball and football analogies do not work, try cricket instead! Saying ‘Thank you’ and ‘Sorry’ too often is seen as not warranted and is viewed with amusement.


Share on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn
Share on facebook