As human beings we are fashioned in such a way that our identical biological composition; with the obvious variations such as skin color, height, eye color etc, may be the source of the argument that we may as well have behaved the same and done things in the same way throughout the world. Perhaps the root cause of our variations is that we speak different languages. But whatever the reason one may come up with, it is crystal clear that no one culture is identical to another. Vast differences exist between people (Galanti, 2000). The Africans are different from the Chinese. Similarly; the British are far different compared to the Germans, the Hungarians from the French. The same hold true for the Americans and the Indians. There is a uniqueness that is found in the Indian Culture that is not present among the Americans (Nepal, 2009). The American culture is a mixture of not only many but very different cultures within. Perhaps this is why we hear of African Americans, Latinos, and such other classifications. However, the culture is bound together by what is perhaps referred as to the American Dream.
Common differences and some similarities:
Family is the basic unit that forms the cultural set up. The manner in which this is set up to a large extend does influence the overall way in which the culture shapes up. Americans and Indians are very different when it comes to family relations. Every American seems driven towards individual actualization. The primary pursuit of each American, perhaps best described as the pursuit of happiness, is that the individual gets what he is due and then all else follow. The values that are sustained by the individual are given proper prominence. However; the Indians approach family life and relations a little differently. The fact that they are quite family oriented ensures that the individuals are close-knit in this set up (Billikopf, 2009).
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It is rare that you will find an Indian that does not uphold and revere family values. Up to date Indians still practice arranged marriages and strict relations within particular castes. The Americans, on the other hand, would feel more than insulted if one were to suggest something close to an arranged marriage. Hitching; where two individuals are led to “meet” in peculiar situations, is perhaps the thing in American societies for individuals who wish to see a particular couple together (Galanti, 2000). At the end, though, the individual decision is upheld and respected within the American culture.
It is unheard of that a girl is to leave home and find a life of their own when they reach eighteen or when they achieve some financial independence. The Americans, though, relish that exact life situations. Most American teenagers, perhaps in the misconstrued spirit of the American dream, wish for the first opportunity to be free of their parents and to lead their own lives (Billikopf, 2009). Commitment to each other, which is cornerstone to the buildup of a strong cultural bond, is evidently stronger among the Indians than the Americans. The latter seem to have embraced the “me, myself and I” strategy towards self development.
Stability among the Indians is something that they not only cherish, but also seem ready to defend at all costs. On the opposite end, perhaps at a more ruthless scale, the Americans seem to want to always be on the move. Whilst the Indians want to hold on to their conservative ways, the Americans are on the lookout for the smallest opportunity to make a move towards a more advanced end. Politically, economically, socially, even scientifically, the Americans are at constant state of improvement (Park, 2001). In political and social spheres, the Indians do meet change with little if any interest, and at times with evident cynicism. Perhaps to use a more unorthodox term, the Indians are lazy while the Americans are risk takers to a greater level.
It is common knowledge that the risk taker is a better place to jump at opportunities than the one who holds on to their particular, conservatives” ways. The notion and believe that “it has always been done this way” may in fact be the undoing among the Indians, whilst the notion of “change we can believe in” might as well be the one thing that drives them to unimaginable levels of achievement. This as well infiltrates into their particular work cultures. And where there is talk of work culture; people pay attention to working hours, lunchtimes and meetings.
The working culture in India and the United States are as different as its people. Whilst the Indians are accustomed to longer hours of work than the American counterparts; performance effectiveness among the Americans seems to be at a higher scale. While it is evident that the average American works only eight hours a day, it depends more on where one works and their needs at the workplace. Lunch break is at the most a thirty minutes affair. This means that from eight to about half past four, the Americans are expected to be at work (Park, 2001). Whilst in India it is not as common, the Americans value convenience. Indians are great at following strict working systems that allows some getting used to some kind of schedule.
However, the Americans tend to be allowed the privilege of working at their own convenience at some companies. This therefore means that instead of reporting for work at the usual hour of 8a.m they may be allowed to report as late as 10a.m or even 11a.m and leave work at 6.30 or 7.30 in the evenings. However, some people, as most American cities are 24 hour economies, work from as early as 6a.m in the morning. This then allows them to leave work in the afternoon and to other businesses that they may see fit to be engaged in. it is not uncommon in America to find a worker attending to two or even three jobs a day.
This is necessitated by the fact that living standards in the US are far higher than those in most Indian cities. Due to technological advancement, which has taken a firm root in India as has in America, people are continually being allowed to work from home for some hours of the week. This works best for parents who wish to catch up on the lives of their children or their homes. In essence, American work for eight hours, and anything above that then fits into the overtime category. The same applies to Indians, and compensation for extra hours worked is demanded as a right. However, as noted above, the culture of working extra hours or taking two jobs has taken root more in the US than in India. Very hard working lawyers or performance contractors are all too happy to bill their clients for the extra hours worked.
Lunchtimes are an important component for most working environments. The Indians may have a stretched lunch hour that is taken at leisure and used for social purposes as the people value the communal lifestyle. It is hardly so among the Americans who are happy to maximize any little time they have to use it carefully to cover a time they may wish spend otherwise. Therefore, lunchtimes among the American workers are spend swiftly, or used as meeting times. Some people bring packed lunch to the office to cut out the needed time they may go out looking for a cafeteria or a fast food store.
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However, most actually eat out at fast foods stores. This is an important contribution to the fact that most people in America are faced with the side effects of bad eating habits. Some cities are famed for the way in which so many people are obese, or approaching the rather than interesting state. Some companies actually have a order policy where they order food for their employees if they are to be held up in a meeting at the hour. The effectiveness of this is that there is no need to bring people from their work during company time as this may indeed prove a cumbersome affair. Lunchtime is always a time when every member of a scheduled meeting is likely to be found at the most convenience. This holds true to both Indian and American working environments, as is clear that there always exist similarities in different cultures.
On the very issue of meetings, there are differences between how Indians and Americans handle their affairs. Whilst an Indian maybe forgiven for walking into a meeting late; fashionably late, Americans are expected to be spot on. The work culture in the America”s has meetings as an integral part of its core foundations. The exactness with which meetings in America are started may a foreign concept to their rather liberal Indian counterparts but it is expected of them all the same. Every member in an American business meeting is expected to be seated ready at the exact scheduled time. Indians are prone to waiting for five, ten minutes, as this allowable in their particular culture.
The senior man in the meeting, for instance, would be deemed more fashionable if they walk in well after a few minutes when the meeting has actually started. To an American this may be very frustrating. On the other hand, the Americans deem being on time for meetings as a very necessary thing. It is not uncommon that there is a meeting that immediately follows the one that a person is attending; at the same time demand his spot on participation. It is a sign of respect that people are to be in meeting on time as they show sensitive to the pressed schedules of their colleagues. The era when people had to travel across continents is long gone. Both Indians and Americans enjoy superior telecommunication access. This therefore means that a person in Calcutta can attend a meeting with another in Mumbai. If the one in Mumbai, comes in ten minutes late, the other in Calculta may have to stare at a blank screen or keep guessing. His guess may be that the other party is no longer interested in the meeting, or that they have no respect for the deal at hand.
Time as a commodity, in essence, is give the same respect in the United States as it is given in India and in most other parts of the world. To ensure that meeting are ended on time, a time check ten minutes to time is necessary. In essence, people in India spend more hours at work than their American counterparts.
However, the difference lies in the fact that to the Indians, they are times take work as a way of life than just Work as the Americans think of it. The higher up the hierarchy at work Indians get, the lesser the hours they are likely to work. This therefore means that the life of Indian youth differs a lot from that of their American counterparts. Whilst the Americans are free to spend their “not working” hours pursuing the artistic lives they desire or love, the less privileged Indian youth are likely to spend most of it at work. This work which they eventually confuse for a way of life that suits them best.
While one is studying the issue of cultural differences as I have just briefly highlighted in the case of India versus the USA, it is important to acknowledge the fact that one is bound to meet with different people in the paths of their lives. It is important to understand that people of different cultures look at things differently from another culture. While Brahma and Lord Shiva may be divine gods in the Indian society, the majority Christian American people may view this as utter idle worship. Since Americans are fond of tourism, especially to places such as India, the understanding of the different culture is essential so that a person will not be filled with cynicism and prejudice.
The Americans may love their miniskirts, tight jeans trousers among their females, or even a lot of bodily exposure, but the Indians loved it covered, and covered well. While a huge chunk of Indians are Muslims, insisting that their women respect Islamic laws and dress up in the Hijabs and cover all that is to be covered; the Hindu also dress up in the Sari and ensure absolute decency. This is to be taken in the positive light and treated merely as an existent difference that has to be respected from both sides.
How the Americans express love and affections is a world different from the way the Indians do. While it is no big deal that an American father is to give their daughter a hug or even affectionately peck them on the cheek, the Indians insist on their respectful distances. It is to be expected that the Indian girls are to bow to their male counterparts and the American teenagers are to jump on them depending on how free they are. Neither is wrong, but a mix up of the same can be dreadfully misconstrued.
Dimensions of cultural variations
The Americans may fall into the category of low context cultures where things get to be fully explained even though concisely. They lean more to what is said or written as it is their endeavor to make everything more complicit. Expected to plunge themselves into informal networks, the American has a sole responsibility as a listener to expand their knowledge base. However, being a people who love less spelled out to them, the Indians have a lot of their communications made more indirect.
This may be the reason why the interaction between these two cultures may prove a little bit too troublesome. Indian merchants may piss off American by the mere fact that they occurred to them as extra secretive as they are baffling and unforthcoming with information. Even though they may as well appear to the Americans as devious, there may be no limit to which the Indians themselves hate the bluntness with which the Americans approach issues. It is insulting to Indian intelligence that an American wants to explain what in the fore seems obvious, but the Americans are keen that guidance is offered and understood and feel that the Indians are quite assumptive on the field.
In the sense of monochromic and polychromic, the Indian are lover of one thing at a time as there are monochromic to the core. It is in their belief system that there is an appropriate time and place for each thing to be done and people need not jungle up stuff. Interruptions are not welcome at all. However, the Americans, perhaps for their flexibility, are polychromic. This means that they see nothing wrong in handling a number of things at the same time. The Americans are likely to operate in an open door policy, pick up the phone the moment it rings, and still have people with whom they are discussing important things. In this case, therefore, an Indian attending a meeting chaired by an American may not understand how come that their meeting is being interrupted for the reason that the American chairman has to pick a phone or answer to an inquiry from the secretary. On the other hand, the American may feel caged, or limited, or locked in a web of corruption if the Indian has only to operate behind closed doors strictly marked “meeting in progress, no interruptions!”
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Problems that may arise as a result of cultural differences
While in America it is usual for a person to call another they are meeting for the second or third subsequent time by a first name, the Indians may consider it absolutely necessary to be official. This therefore means that if one of the parties involved is not privy to this simple fact, a misunderstanding may occurred as the unofficial may feel the official is not being at all friendly.
If an Indian high ranking official come to Chicago to meet an important business counterpart, perhaps their expectation is that they are going to be treated with the same servitude accorded in India. If not, he may begin to wonder whether he is being treated seriously at all. Due to the openness with which American businessmen conduct their affairs, the meeting may end up being interrupted for one reason or another. This may not sit well with the Indian partner, just as the American may feel terrible being locked up in a closed-door room where no apparent transparency is evident at first sight (Billikopf, 2009).
The way something is said in India may mean a hella lot different from what it would mean were it said by an American to another American in an American context. An offer for lunch may be made in the kindest and clearest of hearts by an American, but the casualness with which he makes it may sound abusive, if anything, for the Indian to whom it is made. The simple misunderstanding may heighten and infiltrate into other totally unrelated matters.
Sometimes it is not about how it is said; but what it actually means in the other culture. If the Indian says something is “difficult” whilst he means that it an impossible feat. The American may wonder how, and even help, but the insistence may infuriate the Indian a lot.
Culture is an important aspect in human existence and the daily interaction of men and women the world over. It is therefore of absolute importance that it is explained and understood. The most problem lies in the fact that many people are static to change, and when faced with something different feel that their “way of life” is being impinged. If only people can come to the understanding that different cultures are there to edify each other but not to pull each other back, perhaps then people would appreciate each other more and ensure a beautiful coexistence. Perhaps people should endeavor to interact with people of other cultures more and seek to learn their particular culture in a more open-minded way. This way, troubles caused by misunderstanding will be avoided.