Working in India

Working in India

It is a fact that I am working in India! But, I would like to rephrase the sentence from “Working in India” to “Working in Chennai”, Tamil Nadu, a state within India. There are 28 states in India, and 127 languages are spoken. Each state has its own culture, language, food, and personality, so the point I am trying to make is that India is a small word for a large country. The population of Chennai alone is 8 million people.

Even though I have been working with people from Chennai and living on and off here since 2003, I am only beginning to understand how many layers there are. I like to think of India as an onion, with each layer a sensory overload. There is only so much that a foreigner (as I am known) here can take in initially and, as I dare say, ‘get used’ to in this layer, for another one lies underneath, with even more surprises to behold. However, working in India has given me many opportunities to reflect and learn!

Travelling to Work by AutoRickshaw

Many foreign writers have written well about India, but honestly, this country must be experienced by oneself. It will provoke a reaction that either appeals or does not. There is no in-between. This is a country that does not like to be controlled or forced; perhaps there are just so many people, communities, traditions, religions and so on, but India does like to flow, and if you allow yourself to be flexible, armed with bucket loads of patience and a great sense of humour, then you will find the India that people fall in love with.

Along the way, brace yourself for misunderstandings as they are part of the course because English is still the second, third or fourth language, and it is common for people to speak three other Indian languages. People do speak and understand English; however, it is a unique flavour of the English Language. I now talk about two new primary languages, Indian-English and Pigeon-Tamil, which are necessary and fun to communicate here. The reaction I get from my Tamil is priceless, especially from the auto-rickshaw drivers.

However, when they ask, ‘Your native place, madam?’ and I proudly say Ireland, there is genuinely no connection I have found yet (except for our Cricketers World Cup 2011, but most have forgotten that now) for the Indian people to our beautiful Island, so they respond Iceland? Holland?, a small country next to England, I say sadly.

What does it mean to be “Working in India”?

My daily one-hour journey to work is like a National Geographic programme in reality, which suits me as I have always been an adventurous person who loves travelling and new cultures and an avid photographer/videographer. So, by the time I get to work, I have a head full of images and feelings from what I have just seen, and every day is truly an adventure! This, of course, is true in any place in the world. However, I guess the difference with India is that the experiences here are so powerful and colours so vibrant, noise, smells and so on, it is more intense than the quiet, sparsely populated island I come from called Ireland.

Most days are amazing, but there are some, what I have termed ‘India Days’, where the patience runs dry, the misunderstandings high, and the answer to all your questions could be the same nod for ‘yes’ and ‘no’ or’ naalaiku’, which means tomorrow. In these cases, it’s best to lay low, breathe, and find yourself what I call an oasis. There are a few I have as a backup here!

My job here is what is called a ‘bridge’, which means I have an understanding of both cultures I work with. Naturally, the stronger would be my own; however, when one lives and works in another culture, the experience comes naturally when you try to integrate. This is by no means stating that I am an expert in the Indian culture, but I do feel very comfortable here, with many Indian friends, and I can now call Chennai my second home.

At our office, I am part of a team of multicultural bridges from Europe and India, promoting our banner slogan, ‘Bridging Culture, Building Quality’ in a global software development way. That’s why I am working in India! You can read more about it on my blog.

Áine Edwards
Manager – Business Development

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