Expatriate_Global Mobility, Expat Life In India

10 things that one could find (almost) anywhere in India – By Jasper Fortuin

I’ve talked about the huge differences within this immense country in some of my earlier blogs, and I will continue to highlight them in upcoming ones. However, it’s very hard to refer to ‘India’ as a country. Ask ten people who’ve traveled within India and you might get eleven or twelve different answers. This would be mainly based upon the experience in a particular part of the country. If you talk to a German couple after a 2-week trip to Kerala and Goa and compare their answers with another couple from a different European country after a trip to Varanasi, Agra and Delhi, there will be very few similarities. The language and/or the script, cuisine, nature, weather, architecture, people, vegetation and much more are different in each part of the country.

Despite the huge differences, there are many similarities. Some remarkable elements in India could be found all across the Subcontinent. I’ve created my personal list of Top-10 of things that actually make every corner of this country undisputedly ‘India’, even in the tribal or remote areas.

  1. One could buy a 10 INR milk tea (chai), with or without masala

 Although there is proof that tea was brought to India decades ago by the Chinese, the official introduction of tea in this country was done by the British. After the introduction, tea became the Indian version of a Red Bull all across the country. Tea is the most popular National beverage for almost all Indian people and is being sold everywhere. If you order a ‘tea’ or ‘chai’, chances are very high that they’ll serve you a strong black tea, filled with milk and lots of sugar. I’m a very big fan of the ‘Masala Chai’ edition, which is a strong black tea with milk, but also with a mixture of cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper and the strongest contributing powerful taste: ginger. Contrary to a lot of principles in the general cuisine, the quality of your tea will not increase if you’re ordering and drinking it in a more upscale place. I’ve had the best tea in India just on the roadside. These so called ‘Chai Wallah’s’ often sell a cup of tea for less than 10 INR (13 Eurocent) and the quality is very good; they often use fresh herbs for the flavor and the milk is full fat and rich, which – after brewing together – will give one the ultra-chai flavor.

2) ‘Horn ok’ signs on trucks

 Nobody will criticize me for sharing some of my ever-increasing irritation about the nending noises in India. People are loud and they don’t mind sharing these irritating sounds with everyone around. Don’t be surprised if people around you start spitting. Even worse: it’s not uncommon to notice a lot of human morning rituals during a early morning walk through residential parts of an average Indian city. And there is more: traffic is horrible in almost every part of India, mainly because ‘horning’ almost seems to be a national sport with an ongoing competition; who is the loudest ‘honker of the day’? One of the oddest things that one could observe on the roads in India is the ‘Horn ok’ sign at the back of almost all trucks. While trucks are actually encouraging other people on the roads to use their horn, there are actually a lot of ‘no horning zones’ within cities. India wouldn’t be India, if people would actually follow this public guidance.

3) ‘Stick no bills’ signs

India is the largest democracy in the world with a lot of government regulations. As a result, one could find a lot of state-managed messages, encouraging people not to spit in public, follow traffic rules or avoid using excessive much water. It’s very funny to see some of these messages, mainly because of the very direct forms of the (English) language. All across India, one would find signs on walls, fences or government buildings telling people to ‘stick no bills’. Even after being in India for over 28 months now, I still laugh about this; I’ve seen so many concrete walls with ‘stick no bills’ signs, partly covered with the latest announcements about a travelling circus, hair growing elixirs or job offerings.

4) Thali meals

People from all backgrounds visit public restaurants a lot for their lunch- or diner food-options. Especially on the lower end of the spectrum, one could find unlimited eateries. The menus at these places are often very simple, with a limited set of options. Although tastes may vary, there is actually one thing in India that could be ordered in almost every corner of this country: a thali. The objective of the thali is very simple: serve the customer fresh prepared food with a wide variety of tastes and dishes. In a basic thali are some curries, vegetables, rice, dahl, curd and sweets. They will start serving you the dishes on a metal round plate. Some of the curries will be served in smaller metal bowls. The idea of the thali meal is to serve a variety of curries (vegetarian or with meat/fish) as an accompaniment to the naan breads or chapati’s. A thali, which is a heavy meal, could be bought for less than 60 INR (0.75 Euro) if you’re ordering one in remote area’s or very crowded areas in large cities. There is a wide variety of thalis within each city. One of my favorite thalis is the Gujarati thali, in which the dishes are prepared with a sweeter taste.

5) The Indian railways

With over 1.3 million employees, the Indian railways is one of the largest employers in the world. Offering a network of huge connections between the larger cities and a combination of a lot of local trains, the Indian railways has the largest network of trains within Asia and the second largest in the world. The trains are being managed by a huge organization. They are responsible for trains leaving and arriving on time, clean and safe railway stations and a wide variety of routes, offering seats in a wide variety of classes. Unfortunately, one could experience a lot of delays and it’s not uncommon that trains would usually be delayed by 1-2 hours.

6) Bureaucracy

 I really love India and try to avoid any judgements within the country. But some things are so tough and obviously funny and therefor it’s hard not to criticize it. Take the bureaucracy as an example. I often share my beliefs with people about India’s bureaucracy as a joke: the British brought bureaucracy to the Indian subcontinent, but the government and the Indian population did an excellent job in improving this. The bureaucracy is interesting in India, and it will actually consume a lot of your time here. While living in India, opening a bank account, registration of a rental lease agreement, extension of a visa…..things are definitely improving, but some of these processes could turnout in a time consuming and frustrating process.

7) MG Road

 The letters ‘M’ and ‘G’ refer to Mahatma Ghandhi. I always had the impression that he would be a hero for all people, but this is actually not true. Whereas Ghandhi has been seen as a leader and peacemaker in the Western World, in India there are many individuals who are actually opposed to his views and actions. However, the Indian government has actually created this myth about the man. One of the very visible signs is the inauguration of a MG Road in almost every Indian town or city. Some people refer to this street as ‘Main Street’, and I actually don’t know if the controversy about Gandhi is the main driver for this.

8) Jugaad

 In India, people will always come up with solutions, even if it’s not clear if things could be sorted out or fixed. They’ve even come up with a word for it: Jugaad. Go online and use google to search for ‘Jugaad India’ and check on the images. You will find the weirdest solutions for technical issues of day to day challenges. There is a lot of Jugaad in transportation: people use two-wheelers to transport huge things, very often risking their lives. I’ve seen a lot of big mirrors or large glass elements, being transported by two individuals on a two-wheeler.

9) Auto rickshaws

The rickshaw is a recurring theme in this blog. One could find rickshaws in almost every Asian country, but some of their models in India are so iconic that it’s hard to imagine an Indian city without them. Whereas human pulled rickshaws or cycle rickshaws could only be found in some cities in India, the Auto Rickshaw offers a service to you all across India. Funnily enough the colors of the Auto Rickshaw vary from state to state. I’ve seen green-colored Auto Rickshaws in the south, while yellow and black remain the main colors in my home state (Maharastha).

10)Beggars

 Although India has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world for years now, it’s still considered a third world country. I’ve written about the socio demographics of the country before, highlighting the huge disparity between various groups within the Indian society. There are very well-developed parts in India, with higher average incomes. But don’t let the stats fool you, because underprivileged people could even be found in Goa, Kerala or other more affluent parts of India. As a result, one could find beggars in almost every corner of the Indian subcontinent.

For more wonderful stories about India, through an expat eye please visit Jasper’s personal blog: https://bustlingpune.com/

Corporate Employee Relocation to India

How to make your expat employees feel at home? – By Preeti Roongta (Founder)

With the advent of globalization, every company now provides a global platform for their employees to grow professionally. Countries around the world are investing in other nations and working towards expanding their business horizons. These employees who migrate to other countries usually feel quite comfortable at their workplaces -the companies make that extra effort and the professional environment is usually not very different from what they are used to in their home country. However, as we have written earlier, a crucial part of making your expat employees feel at home is helping them and their families assimilate culturally. Your employees will only be as happy as their families, and therefore, their happiness, health, well-being, and adjustment should become a priority too. It’s often up to the Human Resource teams to help their expat employees, and their families, get familiarized with the country and its culture.

A country’s culture is a window to its rich history and heritage and it can help one grow and learn. Also, of course, when one shows respect for the culture of the host country, the host country accepts you just as openly! The cultural growth of an employee in their host countries helps them adapt better and be happy in their life outside of work. A key part of that effort could be accelerated if they have the opportunity to join a close-knit community of like-minded people and make new friends. In a country as colorful and as diverse as India, where getting accustomed to the different festivals, geographies and culture can get a little overwhelming for expats, it is always a plus to have a social circle with people from all over the world who are going through the same transition as you. A circle like the Pune Expat Club, an initiative supported by Lexagent.

In India, it is often said, “Atithi devo bhava”, which translates to “A guest is like God”. We have always believed in going the extra mile to help our expat guests get that wholesome colorful Indian experience while they also strive for growth at their workplaces. In 2018 we conducted various engaging events that saw wonderful participation from the members & clients of our Pune Expat Club & Lexagent.

Any culture is defined by its food and India has a particularly rich and varied heritage to boast of. With Indian food finding its rightful place in fine-dining menus around the world, there is abundant curiosity among our expats about the right way to create some of the most iconic Indian dishes. To feed that craving, an Indian Kebabs Masterclass that was held at The Conrad, Pune. Here, the attendees experienced and explored the delectable flavors of Indian cuisine, learned various kebab recipes, and enjoyed a lovely lunch. A hands-on session with the expert chefs made this event even more delightful for our guests. This Masterclass was especially appreciated by the ladies as it helped them understand the whole cooking process, while at the same time letting them adjust the spices and the oils according to their preference.

Expats know of India as a land full of history, but they don’t get to experience much of that first hand in the rough and tumble of their daily lives. For the historically-inclined and the adventure-loving expats, we conducted a trek to the 400-years old Tikona Fort. Starting at 6 in the morning, our expat explorers witnessed a beautiful sunrise as they trekked their way up to the historic marvel of the Tikona pyramid peak. Once there, their view enclosed the breathtakingly beautiful Pawna Lake. The 3-hour trek was an exhilarating experience for all our guests. Monsoon makes the canvas of Pune even more beautiful and greener, making the trek even more exciting for all our members –including kids. Activities like this help make stronger communities for expats. They meet new people, make new friends, and their families come together – helping them build a fulfilling social life.

One must-do for every individual who visits Pune during August-September is to experience Ganeshotsav in its full glory -this may well be the defining Puneri experience. The expats residing in Pune too yearn to get caught up in this fervor they are Puneris too! To help them get the full sensory overload, we organized a Ganesh Festival Walk through the old city of Pune, visiting some of the oldest and best-regarded Ganesh Mandals. Walking from one Mandal to the next, immersed in the sights and sounds of the festival, all while partaking of some of Pune’s must-have street food offerings like Vada Pav transported these expats to a bygone age. If their experience had to be defined in one word, it would be mesmerizing. From the aarti to the different idols and their significance, the morning was incredibly enlightening and enriching. These expats felt a little bit of India and Pune take root in their hearts after this divine “Darshan”.

Here’s a suggestion for the companies out there that employ expats. To enhance performance and overall happiness of your expat employees, make that effort to help them blend in the local culture. Their performance at work directly depends upon how well they take this transition and settle into their new surroundings. Every company must take active steps to support their international employees during, what is, a difficult period for them. After all, that’s what the Indian culture is all about, isn’t it?

Relocation_Company_India_Lexagent Expat

6 Qualities That Make Lexagent Different

Expat relocation is not easy for any company. It is not only expensive but also a tedious, intensely involved process with many potential pitfalls. The HR Department or the folks tasked with managing the relocation have to manage so many things. The company has to hire the right person, get the appropriate legal sanctions in place, support the expat employee make the move from their home country, guide them in the process of settling into the host country, and then help create a life, socially and personally, for the expat over the duration of the stay.

The topmost issues faced over this whole process of expat hiring and relocation are:

  • Managing immigration compliance: Applying and obtaining work visas
  • Managing the relocation: Home Search, Settling-in, School Search
  • Social integration and connecting with locals
  • Cultural Assimilation and Language exposure
  • Post arrival compliance and dealing with culture shock

Most companies do not have the skills in all these areas or do not have the permanently allocated resources in-house to address these challenges. That’s what we at Lexagent are here for. With the vision of being a world-class provider of relocation services in India, we have come a long way in our 13-year journey. Since 2005, we have been providing professional support to organizations for the end-to-end management of their expat relocation needs. Testimonials from our clients and the happy expats we have worked with speak for themselves:

“I had the pleasure of working with Lexagent team during my stay in Pune India. Lexagent team is extremely driven and focused on customer satisfaction whatever the hour or task. I would recommend Lexagent to anyone looking to move to India or anyone who may have a problem with visas, housing or any other issue that will pop up during your visit or stay in India. You will be assured of a totally professional welcome and resolution to your issue.”

 – Ian Smith, Magellan Aerospace Limited

 

“I would like to express my gratitude for the outstanding customer service my family and I have received recently from Lexagent. Their combined efforts made the visa renewal process almost painless – which is as good as it gets! Lexagent kept us informed throughout the visa renewal process and coordinated appointments and timing very well also made our time at the FRO low stress and as quick as possible. We truly appreciate their work and the service they provided to us.”

 – Chris Harry, PACCAR India

 

These are a sampling, we have many more such happy stories to tell. We believe it is our privilege to be in a position to impact the lives of so many expats and their families. That said, we wanted to take a step back and identify where we were able to deliver the most impact? In a sense, what is it that our customer organizations, and the expats we help, value about their association with us? What makes us different?

1.Pan India Presence

Some of our clients are large multi-national or Indian corporates with offices spread across the country. They look to fill key positions with expats at various locations and would not want to work with different agencies at each location. Lexagent’s pan-India presence provides that flexibility of location. You needn’t worry about the city – we have relocated expats in many different locations across the country.

2.Anti Corruption & Anti Bribery Policy

Organizations dealing with government processes and expats dealing with the nitty-gritty of life in India worry about things like ethics, dishonesty, corruption, and harassment. Our strict anti-corruption and anti-bribery policies provide them the assurance that every transaction and every activity that we undertake on their behalf will be clean, transparent, and legally sound. In an age of strict compliance and corporate governance codes, this is a definite plus.

3.Secure Systems and Processes and Clear IP and Privacy Policies

We understand that we are handling the private and personal data of some very senior personnel. We are also privy to sensitive corporate information. Our well-defined processes, clear policies, and professional-grade security systems ensure data safety of our clients. We secure all the data that we are privy to and take the utmost care to protect and manage it.

4.Adherence to Local Legal Compliance

Among the most important factors while relocating expats is the compliance with local laws and regulations. We understand the letter and the spirit as well as the nuances of the laws of the land. India is a complex bureaucracy, with specific Federal and State laws applicable in various cases. It pays to understand every small little legal detail involved in the process of the relocation, work, and life of the expat.

5.Client-Centric Approach

We are conscious of the impact that we have on the lives of the expats we relocate. Given that expats tend to come in at senior or otherwise key positions in our client organizations, we are also aware of the possible ramifications for our customers if the move is mishandled. Our services are based on our client’s needs and requirements that vary as per each client. Our clients are the fulcrum of our organization and drive everything that we do.

6.World Class Team

An organization is only as good as its employees. At Lexagent, we have a world-class team of professionals to take care of each of our clients. The services we provide cover a wide area. Despite the variety and scope, our team is well-equipped to deal with all these situations.

Of course, Lexagent’s role doesn’t end when the expat reaches our shores. It is a key challenge to ensure that the expat and his family settle down in the country. This means not only taking care of the logistical aspects like home and school, which we help with, but also helping them settle-in. We have helped expats create communities, make friends, and adapt to the culture of the land through initiatives like the Pune Expat Club.

Our attempt has always been to provide a professional, transparent, structured, and comprehensive bundle of services to our clients and the expats they relocate to India. Over the years that we have been in business, we have tried to be different in our own way -and it’s great that our customers appreciate us for just those things!

Our passion for service drives us, our diverse clientele motivates us, and our goals challenge us.

Lexagent. Local Expertise. Global Understanding.

HR’s Worry List For Expat Relocation to India

71% of expats in India report high confidence in the Indian economy -more than anywhere else in South and Central Asia. 63% of expats recommend India for the career advancements. HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey of 2017 has plenty of interesting numbers but if we were to summarize the results in 8 words it would be “More expats love India than ever before.” This is, of course, a very good thing -top international talent coming to India in greater numbers is good for business, good for the economy, and good for the expats too. The only people who are not completely thrilled with the whole deal may well be the HR folks in the organizations that employ these expats. Not that they don’t care for business growth -just that some peculiar challenges arise when it comes to expat relocation.

Hiring and relocating expats is no mean task. There are many things to nail down before, during, and after such a move gets made. So much rides on a successful transition and there is so much more that can go wrong. Some of the major issues faced both by HR folks and the expats, concern family relocation, cultural acceptance, acclimatization to a new work culture, housing, government regulations etc. Lexagent has helped many expats relocate to India and it’s fair to say that, at this point, we have, more or less, heard it all when it comes to areas of concern. Based on that experience, here’s an “HR worry list” with the Top 6 HR concerns for expat relocation and how to address them:

  1. Government regulations

The most important task (and the biggest worry) for any organization is to be completely aware of the laws of the land before carrying out the expat hiring and relocation process. The HR groups responsible for making the move happen should prepare an extensive checklist covering every possible legal process to be fulfilled before hiring the expats. It includes work permits, visas, registration requirements, financial documentation, and other important documentation required for relocating to India. This will ensure that the expat employee faces no regulatory hurdles on landing here.

  1. Fitment into Indian work culture

Every country has a distinct professional and work culture. Even in India, the work culture differs across major centers like Mumbai, Delhi, and Bengaluru etc. It is a valid concern if expat employees will be able to fit in or perform in an alien environment. Things that they take for granted in their home environment may be unavailable here and that should not throw them off their stride. It is imperative for the HR groups to introduce the incoming expats to the prevalent work culture early in the move. This helps in faster acclimatization to the work environment and avoiding any work culture shocks.

  1. Home and Family Settlement

The biggest concern of the incoming expat, and hence of the HR group that would be caring for them, is the happiness and well-being of the expat family. This covers a gamut of areas – home, schooling, house help and staff, transport, social life, entertainment, and even community. All these are important areas. Discomfort or poor options in any one of these will distract the expat employee and ultimately frustrate and demotivate them. The HR group will have to take the onus of providing the expat with all the right information they need to make the right choices that will make their Indian life a happy experience. 

  1. Salary and Payment Schedule

Many reports now show that some Indian centers (like Mumbai) may be among the highest paying locations worldwide for expats. Clearly, money is a huge factor -and a huge worry for HR too. An extremely important aspect of consideration for expats while moving overseas is the salary and the terms of the salary. The terms of employment should be clearly stated. The salary should be transparently clear. The inclusions, and most importantly, the exclusions should be listed. The applicable tax laws should be identified, and all agreements should be in writing. This helps prevent any misunderstanding or debate later. 

  1. Cultural Assimilation

Starting a new life in a foreign land has its own challenges. We have written in the past how HR should help the expats settle into their new culture. Without this, the newly arrived expat could become lost, confused, and alienated. This support may include identifying Expat clubs and communities in the city. The case point is Pune Expat Club.These groups let expats socialize with other expat families to build a fulfilling social circle.  This may involve introducing them to the local festivals like Holi and Diwali. This inculcates a sense of belonging and oneness amongst the expats and their families. The sooner the expat feels at home, the better it will be for HR.

  1. Long-term v/s short-term

The tenure of the expat decides what kind of assistance the expats might need. The worries for HR are different in each case. If it is a short-term relocation then the chances are high that the expat might not be willing to get his family along. The focus is more on the expat himself and getting him (or her) up to speed on the job, settled into the new role, and providing them the specific support they need to hit the ground running. The worry here is often how to keep the expat employee motivated and engaged with the temporary assignment. If it is a long-term proposition then the family relocation becomes a major priority.

The expat’s performance depends upon how happy and welcoming they feel in your organization and country. The onus is on the HR group to make the expat employee feel welcome, settled in, and ready to take on the work challenges. As we have seen, that task is not a trivial one -but it’s something that organizations everywhere are taking on more than ever before. And, in many cases, they are doing so with help from Lexagent!

 

Expats, Expats Life in India, Employee Relocation, Relocation

Strong hierarchy is still the dominant approach in India – Jasper Fortuin

Micromanagement sucks! I have had micro-managers for some time until a new wave of managers within our company came to light. If I hadn’t moved to another role, I wouldn’t have developed myself to what I’m now. A brilliant young and modern manager gave me one of the most valuable drivers in corporate life: autonomy. I have been reading a lot about how to motivate people for the last couple of years. Every book is different, they write about this topic from various angles. However, they are all very clear about micro-managers: their approach only works in very specific companies and the success rate is very limited.

Daniel Pink: Drive

If you want to read about this subject I would strongly advise you to start with Daniel Pink’s masterpiece ‘Drive’. He’s a great storyteller and the book includes a lot of proof that already has convinced a lot of managers and CEO’s to change their management approach. More recently I just read ‘The Best Place To Work’. The book has been written by Ron Friedman, an award-winning psychologist and behavioral change expert who specializes in human motivation. If you want to draw one bold conclusion out of the many books on this topic, what would it be? The very brief and bold summary after reading thousands of pages is actually simple and logical: it’s important to give people a purpose in life, invest in enhancing their knowledge and give them the trust to work in an autonomous way.

We’ve moved to Agile

Usually I’m a bit reserved in talking about company-related topics, but our corporate Agile- journey has gone public in many ways, so I wouldn’t reveal a lot of company secrets by sharing any insights. A couple of years ago my former department chiefs decided to move to Agile. It wasn’t far from being easy, but the new way of working brought a lot of new energy and some of the latest innovations have been built based upon these new principles. The working ways of my recent department has also been transformed, we are completely Agile now. The result for me is that I don’t have a traditional manager anymore. My ‘chapter coach’ has some HR-responsibilities but he mainly focuses on my personal development. Apart from ‘having’ a coach, I don’t have any people around me to direct my work. The peers around me are responsible for creating an energetic working environment in which I can succeed. Furthermore: everything is centered on the actual (virtual) teams.

Most companies are being managed very traditionally

Working in ‘Tribes’, manage your work in short ‘Sprints’ and operate without managers for giving direction? You might assume that this would be a bridge too far in India. Let me start with some positive news: India has changed drastically in this aspect, especially if you look at the very flourishing start-up scene and some innovative companies in the corporate world. I’ve heard and seen a lot of good stories about companies adopting Agile, Lean or other ways of working in order to speed up the innovation process. Also our Indian partners have completely moved to Agile, often being an example for other (potential) clients. However, most of the companies and institutions in India are still being managed very traditionally. They’ve implemented a very dominant hierarchal structure, with checks and balances. The regular modus operandi of Indian managing directors and/or CEO’s; they treat their employees as family, with a lot of loyalty flowing in both directions. However, there are sad examples where employees are being treated very suspiciously.

Worship the owner or director 

As most of you, I’m also part of a lot of WhatsApp groups and I’ve recently received a very good joke about Indian working culture: ‘A manager told a joke. Everyone in the team laughed except one guy….Manager asks him: ‘Didn’t you understand the joke?’ The guy replied: ‘I resigned yesterday”. I probably will have enough material for writing a book about Indian office politics, but the joke actually says it all: the boss, owner, managing director or CEO has a very dominant role in the Indian corporate world. He or she is being worshiped. And to be honest: while being far from a comedian, a lot of people are laughing when I’m telling the joke….

Autonomy doesn’t exist in India; it’s a very ‘directive’ society

Unless one is working for a fancy or modern corporate in a responsible role, in India, people are regularly being hired to execute things. The owner, CEO or manager is on the other side of the spectrum. He or she is not only the boss, but also the full time strategists. They have been put in place to be very directive. Where most employees in Europe are only being told to get from A to B, in India they will also receive some extra guidance: please go from A to B, take this route and inform me about your whereabouts on every crossing.

Changing the mindset does work, but it will take years

It’s a pretty bold statement but unfortunately it’s true. However, things are changing and moving in a faster pace than one might think. After India opened up its economy for outside joiners, the service industries has grown very rapidly. The banking industry, IT and general corporates are still being managed in the Anglo-Saxon model, mostly with strong hierarchical structures and a lot of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to control employees. Fueled by the demands of western companies or people who have worked outside India, the newer ways of working methods are being introduced into India. I have spoken to some people who recently started their company and almost all of them have launched modern structures, based on trust and autonomy. Let’s all hope that the new ways of working will be adopted by more companies and institutions!

For more wonderful stories about India, through an expat eye please visit Jasper’s personal blog: https://bustlingpune.com/

Culture In India, Cultural Assimilation, Expats Club in India,

The Why & How of Cultural Assimilation for Your Expat Employees

Business is going global rapidly. Companies are leaving no stone unturned to be the best in their industry. And, to be the best, companies need to employ the best talent, local as well as international. Sure enough, international talent has become an important part of the strategy of the modern business enterprise.

International talent, is by definition, likely to be more senior, potentially more valuable, and almost certainly more expensive for the company. It follows that these valued international employees need to settle well into their new surroundings for them to feel happy and to perform their duties up to their maximum potential. This is where cultural assimilation can play a vital role in helping these expats adapt to their new circumstances and role.

Living and working in a new country and surroundings presents employees with significant challenges even outside their new workplace. It is important for the international employees to understand the foreign culture and ways of the host country. The better they assimilate the foreign culture the sooner they will ease into their new life. Initially, many expats go through the so-called ‘Honeymoon’ phase where they are excited about coming to a new country and experiencing the new culture. Others go through a “Culture Shock” phase where the sheer newness of everything threatens to overwhelm them. The crucial part comes after this initial phase, where many of the expats start feeling homesick and missing their earlier lives. This period is the make or break period, as it determines whether or not the international employee be wanting to give up and move back to the home country or stick through.

The company and its Human Resource management group must take necessary steps to support the expat employees during this phase. There are various things that can be done to support expats with culture assimilation:

  1. Initial training:

Companies should sensitise their expat employees with training as they get started with their new job. They should be given an introduction to the new culture that they are going to be a part of. Communication is key here. Clear, detailed, and strictly relevant, information will allow the expat to understand the scenario in the host country and will allow him/her to prepare mentally accordingly. Climate, language, traditions, lifestyle, and security are some of the important factors that affect expats while settling in. The company should make sure that relevant information is communicated to the freshly-minted expat.

It is also very important for an expat to understand the prevailing social norms regarding public behaviour, etiquette, and even acceptable dress-codes. Understanding and following such traditions and values are important on the road to adjusting to the new culture. The expats should share that information with their family members, with whom they have moved to this new country.

  1. Festivals:

Whether it be Diwali and Holi in India, Christmas in most countries, or St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, festivals have always formed an integral part of any nation’s culture. This offers an opportunity for HR Depts to take the initiative and help their expats understand and participate in the host country’s festivals to blend in with the culture. Fun group activities aligned with the theme of the concerned festival where the expats can dip into the festivities along with their local colleagues will help them feel a part of the celebrations.

  1. Expat clubs and communities:

Even if it is outside the workplace, it is very important that expats meet other expats so that they can share their experiences and support each other through the cultural assimilation phase in the new country. Companies can seek out appropriate forums like the Pune Expat Club. They could introduce their international employees to these communities in and around the city. These are the platforms where not only the expats, but also their families can get together with other expat families and build a fulfilling social life.

  1. Company outings:

Employees look forward to a break from the routine, so that they can sit back, relax and rejuvenate, even as they get work done. Company outings can be used as a platform to help expats and their families understand the lifestyle of the people in the host country. Company could plan off-sites and occasions in such a way that their international employees along with their respective families bond with the other local employees. The more the time the expats spend with the locals and their families, the better they’ll understand the lifestyle that the locals lead and the easier it will be for them to blend in.

  1. Expat’s family:

It is often true that more than the expat, their family suffers the most due to culture differences. The expat has the preoccupation of work but the other members of the family especially children have to start their life from scratch. The company should make an effort to ensure that the needs of these children are taken care off. This includes providing advice and help in finding and securing admission for them in an appropriate educational. This is the most critical element in ensuring the children settle comfortably into their new surroundings. The right choice of educational institution will go a long way in organizing not only the schooling, but also the hobbies and playtime of these young expats.

Thus, in conclusion, cultural assimilation plays a vital part in the happiness and performance of an expat. It’s fair to say that the performance of your international employee directly depends on how well they settle into their new surroundings. That being so, the company must take active steps to help these international employees understand and blend in with the new culture. You must support the international employees during the adjustment period and welcome them with utmost warmth -they could well be your most valuable employees after all.

 

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