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?

Checklist_Expat_Employees_India_Relocation

A Safety Checklist For Your Expat Employees

The blurring international boundaries over the last few decades have created a whole new community of expats globally. Even though the boundaries are blurring, there’s a lot one needs to take into consideration while crossing them to another country. Every country has something unique and different about it that should impact the preparations, expats make before relocating to that particular country. Your incoming expat employees too are probably nervous and just that bit apprehensive and this is where you can help and support them.

There are certain things that one should have in their checklist before migrating or relocating to a new country. This is not about creating fear – it’s about being prepared for the worst, even if it may never happen. Here are some essentials in a safety checklist you can share with your incoming expat employee.

  1. Medical and healthcare

The topmost thing on our list is the medical and healthcare facilities in the host country. Shifting countries mean exposing the body to a different climatic zone. The sudden shift can be a little difficult for the immune system. Before planning the shift, it is essential for your incoming expat to know about the medical and healthcare facilities here. Guide them to sources where they can study the local weather and related conditions. Ask them to seek guidance from their local physician on how to get acclimatized to the new environment with ease. A check on how equipped the healthcare system of the host country is to tackle medical situations will help your expats prepare better.

In India, if the need arises, the expats will most likely have to avail the services of the private hospitals. Things like this will impact the living cost, and especially in cases when the expat of their family has a need for ongoing medical attention, they must factor that in. In addition to this, having a health insurance policy that covers most of the medical and healthcare expenses in the foreign land may be a good idea.

2. The social landscape

Relocating to a foreign country means becoming a part of the social landscape of that country. This means being ready to deal with the largely good, and the occasionally bad too. Countries around the world are battling perceptions of becoming more insular and unwelcoming. Help your incoming expats understand the reality of India in this context. Don’t sugar-coat the information you give them. For example, advise them of go and no-go areas in the city where they intend to live. Better safe than sorry is a wise policy until they build up their familiarity with the area.

It is important for them to study the general crime rate and socio-political scenario of the country too. Is it safe for a foreign national in general? Are there situations that are better avoided than confronted? Share emergency contacts numbers of people within your organization as well as in the local law enforcement and administration who can help in case of any emergency.

3. Financial issues

The financial checklist can be divided into:

a) Actual salary in the home country’s currency

In expat assignments, it is normal to compensate the expat in the currency of the host country. Occasionally expats also ask that the company offer compensation in their home currency. In either case, the most important consideration is the currency exchange rate between these two countries. Understanding this and getting a sense of the general trends helps in better financial planning.

b) Tax deductions and liabilities

In most countries, including India, a tax on the expat’s income is inevitable. This can add up to a substantial sum as the salaries get higher. Clearly, this can mess with the “real” income calculations of the expat. Help your incoming expat get a sense of the applicable taxes and the likely deductions to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

c) Banking and credit cards

Different countries have different rules regarding allowing foreign nationals to hold certain types of bank accounts and accessing certain types of banking facilities. This extends to the types of credit cards they can use and the situations they can use them in. Help your incoming expats understand more about how the banks would work and other involved costs in using their existing bank accounts and credit cards too.

4) Immigration

The most important factor to consider while relocating to a foreign country is the immigration and visa process. Every country has different immigration rules and regulations for every foreign national. The type of visa depends upon the nature and purpose of the expat’s visit. We have written previously about some of the prevailing rules in India for foreigners working here. Give your expat employees all the information they may need, including the documentation they must carry out, and any other mandated formality.

Relocating to a foreign land for better opportunities is always an exciting process. In today’s time, with a plethora of information online, it has become easier to know all about a country. Your incoming expat employees are also probably equal parts excited and anxious at making the big move. The support and information you provide them at this time will help make their transition smooth and happy.

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Some Essential Things You Need to Know About FRRO Rules in India – by Preeti Roongta – Founder – Lexagent Expat Relocations

A key responsibility of Foreign Nationals who wish to reside long-term in India (typically that exceeds more than 180 days) is to visit the FRRO (Foreign Regional Registration Office) within the first 14 days of their arrival in India. It is the FRRO that has the role of regulating their legal stay in India. To that extent, the FRRO manages all the tasks related to foreigners residing in India. This may include issuing residence permits, converting specific kinds of visas, and addressing matters related to visa extensions related to foreigners. In short, FRRO deals with all the legal formalities that need to be completed by the foreigners intending to stay long term.

Bureaucratic processes in India have the reputation of being lengthy and cumbersome and involving long waiting times. Automation and IT are being deployed to ease these concerns but, for expats and the companies that employ them, it pays to stay informed and to understand the FRRO rules well to avoid frustration and hassles.

What is FRRO and what are its registration requirements?

FRRO is the primary agency which deals with the registration, departure, arrival, and movement of foreign nationals who wish to reside long term in India. This applies to foreigners visiting India on a student visa, business visa, employment visa or research visa. The FRRO is also responsible for the grant of extension of stay in India, if required.

The FRRO offices in India have a presence across most major Indian cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Amritsar, Hyderabad, Trivandrum, Cochin, Goa, Calicut, Lucknow. They also function with the District Superintendents of Police located across all other districts. There are 13 FRRO’s and 674 FRO’s in India.

Foreign registration is necessary for all the foreigners arriving in India on a visa which extends to more than 6 months, except for certain exempted categories. Registration is required only once at the time of usage of the visa, irrespective of the times the foreigner exits or arrives again using a multiple entry visa.

The registration requirements at FRRO are as follows:

  • Foreign nationals including those with Indian origin who are visiting India long-term and intend to stay for more than 180 days on a Student Visa, Medical Visa, Business, Employment and Research visa need to register themselves with the FRRO. The requirement is to register within 14 days from the date of arrival at a registered FRRO/FRO office.
  • Foreigners below the age of 16 years(minors) need to report in person or via an authorized representative at the registered FRRO office in a specific location. No registration is required for children under the age of 16 years. *This regulation is applicable in select cities only.
  • Registration may also be required in cases where it is specifically mentioned as- “registration required”

Here are some top FRRO rules to keep in mind for foreigners living long-term in India

  1. Prepare a checklist of all the documents required

You must carry your original passport which contains the visa stamped by the authorized officers, a photocopy of the passport and the original visa, four photographs, and details about your residence in India. A copy of the marriage certificate may be required for those seeking an extension on the grounds of their spouse being an Indian national.

For students a bonafide certificate from the University or Institute may also be required. For employment or business visa, an undertaking from the respective Indian company may have to be produced for FRRO registration. For those involved in joint ventures, a copy of the approval from the Government of India must be provided to the FRRO. In case of an employment visa involving contracts or agreements, a copy of the approval from RBI will be necessary.

  1. Registration officers will provide the Registration Certificate / Residential Permit (RC/RP)

As a foreigner, once you apply for the Registration, the resulting certificate is called the Registration Certificate or Residential Permit. This is most often valid until your visa validity, or 1 year, whichever is shorter. This RC/RP is your valid address in India and can be used to open Bank accounts, Apply AADHAAR Card, Apply PAN Card etc.

  1. Seeking exemption from registration

There are specific categories which may be exempt for registration such as US nationals who are on a 10-year business or tourist visa and their continuous stay does not exceed more than 6 months in India.

-Foreigners with 5 year tourist visas who are engaged in tourism and who visit India frequently for extended periods of time, and whose visa states that, “continuous stay must not exceed more than 6 months”

  1. Restrictions in certain circumstances

If you are a foreigner coming from yellow fever countries, then you may be required to produce a vaccination certificate from a valid medical authority. You are allowed to visit restricted or prohibited areas by securing a valid permit as visa alone may not be adequate to visit these places. For Ex: North East India, Military and Cantonment Areas.

  1. Online services are now available

A new online system has been recently introduced. This enables foreigners to apply online using an e-FRRO application and to then avail of all the services through e-mail or by post, without the need for an in-person appearance at the FRRO. These are currently available only at 13 FRRO’s. This is much simpler as you can gain access to a portfolio of 27 visa and immigration-related services during your stay in India. The e-FRRO scheme has been operating successfully since February 2018, after it was initially launched in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai and Mumbai. It has since been introduced in other Indian cities as well.

Like most countries, the government rules and regulations may appear to be complex and cumbersome, but with the right guidance, they can prove to be easier to navigate. Remember that the respective government departments are the final arbitrators of all the laws and rules, but we hope this information helps you as you engage with those authorities.

Lexagent Expat Relocations (www.lexagent.net) has helped thousands of expats, hundreds of Multi-national companies and several Chambers of Commerce and Industry to assist, educate, help with the maze of paperwork and dealing with the FRRO’s and FRO’s all across India. Write to us at info@lexagent.net if you want more information on this complex subject.

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.

 

Culture_Shock_India

Different Phases of Cultural Shock….Which Phase You Are In?

You may experience a range of emotions when adapting to a foreign culture, from excitement and interest to frustration, depression and fear of the unknown. It is important to stress that culture shock is entirely normal, usually unavoidable and not a sign that you have made a mistake or that you won’t manage. The experience can be a significant learning experience; it will give you valuable skills that will serve you in many ways now and in the future.

Culture shock has five phases, depending on which source you read.

The Honeymoon Phase: This is a fun time. Everything is great, exciting, and new. You love the differences, meeting new people, tasting new foods, seeing different architecture, doing new things, working in your new job. This phase can last days, weeks, or months.

Irritability and Hostility: During this phase, you’re noticing differences, even slight differences, and typically not in a good way. You don’t like people’s attitudes; you have had enough of the food and just want mom’s home cooking. During this phase, a person often feels anxious, angry, sad, and/or irritable.

Gradual Adjustment: Essentially, during this phase you decide whether you will succumb to negativity or negotiate past it to make the most of your experience. If you’re successful, you regain your sense of perspective, balance, and humor, and move on to the next phase.

Adaptation of Biculturalism: You feel more at home with the differences in the new culture. Depending on how big a change a person has experienced. The person doesn’t have to be in love with the new country (as in the honeymoon phase), but they can navigate it without unwarranted anxiety, negativity, and criticism.

The Reverse Culture Shock Phase: Sure enough, this can happen! Once a person has become accustomed to the way things are done in a different country, that person can go through the same series of culture shock phases when they return home.

Learn as much as you can about the new location before you go. This means the good, the bad, and the simply different — from time zones, to what side of the street people drive on, to climate/temperature, to foods, political system, culture, customs and religion(s), to “Can you drink the water?”.

Be open-minded and willing to learning. Ask questions. Don’t withdraw! Travel within the country, and visit cultural events and locations, such as museums or historic sites.

Build new friendships. Associate with positive people. Maintain a sense of humor. (Perhaps the most important!)

Keep in touch with people at home by Skype, email, phone— whatever. This can give you some comfort while away, and it will help you to minimize reverse culture shock when you get back home.

We would love to know your cultural shock experience in India. Please write your story in the comment box.

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Security in India: It’s a disadvantage to be treated with an advantage-Jasper Fortuin

Feeling safe and being safe are two different things. You could feel very safe, while still in danger. And you could be very safe, while actually being in danger. Amsterdam, my former hometown, has recently been rewarded “the safest city in Europe”. The very extensive research conducted has been based on outcomes of various earlier researches. I’m very proud with this reward, despite the fact that Amsterdam is known for its red-light district and tolerance towards soft drugs. Having many other controversial policies it still managed to reach the top position. Well done, Amsterdam!

 

The awesome achievement is party based on good luck. Yes, the city government has been doing lots of things to increase the city’s safety. However, a lot of the ‘work’ has been done by the population and its visitors. There are multiple factors which have contributed to the very positive result. A fall in crime in almost every annual report since the 90’s has been a result of this. And here’s something really funny: there are still a lot of people complaining about the crimes and ‘unsafe’ city. Thus, it’s all about the individual perception!

 

In India, security is a serious thing. You will see security guards almost everywhere and security procedures at airports, in official buildings and at places with big crowds – The Taj Mahal, The Gateway of India, large hotels, and malls – are always stressful places to visit. Do you want to buy a pair of jeans at your local mall? If so, your bag will be x-rayed and in worse cases they would even ask you to empty your pockets. Being in India for more than a year now and having observed a lot of security, I now want to state something very bold: A lot of security procedures have been implemented to give us a safe feeling, not to necessary create a safer place. You could even say that the approach often is a ‘safety and procedural theater’. I will explain. It’s my assumption that the very kind and loving security guards are not trained to be successful in their work. Thus, they are not trained to create a safer mall, nor are they trained to make the Taj Mahal a safer haven for the wandering tourist. No “the security guards are there to execute the procedures that were designed by people who work in offices and have almost never set a foot in this areas. The ability to think, to anticipate, to help and to solve problems; that has not been written in their job description, with ‘executing officers’ as a result. They only focus on following the procedures, not bringing real safety to people.

 

Let me give you some examples. Buying fireworks for Diwali is a big thing in India. I was surprised to see many temporary outlets selling all kinds of fireworks. In and around Pune I observed a lot of open fields that were temporarily transformed into fireworks stalls. Despite the existence of special guards, the whole thing seemed very dangerous. The actual outlets were placed very close to each other, only bordered by a very narrow open lane. Above all: the actual storage of the fireworks was very ‘open’. When the shit does hit the fan, things could go horribly wrong. We were able to purchase a trunk full firework that would be illegal in any western country. This was enough to cause a lot of damage. After purchasing our fireworks, we were a bit hungry and drove to a nearby 5-star hotel for a western-style lunch. When we entered, something funny happened. The traditional car-inspection and luggage check-up at Indian 5-star hotels is not unique in the world. Whether you like it or not, it emphasizes the exclusive elements of the ‘fabricated luxury’. It feels as if you enter another world. However, the guards at the security gate didn’t say anything about our trunk full of explosives, no questions asked!

 

It was also during Diwali that I wanted to ship a package from Pune to Hyderabad. Wanting to deliver 200 Diwali-lights in only a few days, I approached a courier company to research the possibilities of shipping this by air. He came to my house and took the package with him for delivery. Unfortunately, he called me within a few hours to inform me that air-shipping was not possible. They had found out that there were little candles inside the lights and it’s ‘forbidden to ship candles by air’. I was a bit angry about this, because the guy should have come to my house to inspect the actual delivery prior to the actual pick-up. He didn’t. He only showed up to pick up the actual delivery, so there was no time anymore for a plan B. A few days later I took off myself for a business trip to Hyderabad and decided to carry the 30 boxes of Diwali-lights with a candle. And guess what happened at the security? Nothing happened; it was ok for me to take the flight. One last experience. I went outside for an early morning run during one of my stays in a well-known 5-star hotel. When I came back to the hotel, there was nobody at the door. So no security checks at all!

 

Let me be very clear: there is nothing wrong with the ‘theatrics. It’s a major achievement if people in malls feel safer! And having all those guards in place will definitely have an effect on potential criminals or terrorists, they will hopefully think twice before they act. My point is this: things could be improved if security guards got more responsibilities. Therefore, you need more education and better management. But it all starts with a fresh new mindset towards this topic. In India, security jobs are seen as the ‘lowest of the lowest’ jobs. If you haven’t finished your school, there is always the possibility to become a security officer. That’s wrong and needs to be repositioned. The job needs an upgrade, with better education, better people and better PR!

 

And one other thing: as a foreigner, I’m not treated equally by security officers. In fact, I often feel prioritized! And here’s my point: they treat me better than Indian Nationals. When I want to enter a new fancy society in my car? No questions asked, while my Indian friends are always questioned very heavily. I cannot describe it, but it feels as if the guards don’t dare to question me. They look up towards foreigners; at least that’s my experience.

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

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