Mark Needham

Thoughts on Software Development

India Cultural Differences: Tolerance/Patience

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Some colleagues have been asking me recently what cultural differences I’ve noticed working in India compared to my experiences in the UK and Australia and one of the biggest differences by far is the amount of tolerance and patience people here have compared to me.

These attributes seem to show themselves in roughly two situations:

With respect to the environment

We’ve had some building work done in the Pune office recently which has meant that there’s been extremely high volume drilling being done to the extent that you can barely hear someone who’s sitting a couple of metres away.

I was quite amazed to watch colleagues continuing with their conversations as if nothing had happened – I was totally distracted and had to go and sit in a meeting room away from the noise.

I’ve talked to a few colleagues about this and they pointed out that they’re pretty used to the environment not being perfect from previous experiences at school or just in general life situations so it’s not such a big deal.

I find it interesting to see how influential the environment (as far as I can see) can be on some fairly fundamental personality traits.

With people

People here seem to give others the benefit of the doubt much more frequently than I’ve seen elsewhere.

I’ve noticed this especially when communicating with people in remote locations.

I worked on a project distributed between two cities a couple of years ago and the distrust between the two locations was fairly evident in all methods of communication.

I haven’t noticed the same thing here as much and the majority of the time people don’t react at all to something which I would consider to be inflammatory.

There’s also much more tolerance for repetition of information than I’ve noticed elsewhere.

I get very frustrated if I hear the same thing repeated multiple times but the majority of people here don’t seem too bothered by that and take it in their stride.

It’s a strength not a weakness

I think that people here sometimes don’t recognise that their tolerance/patience is a strength rather than a weakness and I’ve frequently heard conversations where what I consider being tolerant is seen to be ‘rolling over’.

I don’t necessarily think the ‘western’ style of presenting an argument very assertively/confidently is the only way to go and I’ve seen colleagues successfully communicate while using their own style.

Of course these are massive generalisations based on my observations so it’d be interesting to see what other people who’ve had the chance to work in both cultures/environments think.

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Written by Mark Needham

December 15th, 2010 at 7:08 pm