Become friends with people who aren’t your friends. Hang out with people whose first language isn’t the same as yours. Get to know someone who doesn’t come from your social class. This is how you see the world. This is how you grow. This is what Capgemini taught me.
As new hires, we were sent to Mumbai, India for five weeks to train in our service lines – Custom Software Development (CSD), Oracle, and SAP. A good majority of the group had never been abroad before, so it was definitely a drastic change. Capgemini had sent us a travel guide weeks in advance to give us a chance to prep ourselves before we stepped into an unknown world we had only heard of and read about. But no matter how many articles I read or how much I talked to my coworkers about their experiences, I felt I would never be perfectly ready, to say the least. And it was just that. India is something every individual has to experience for themselves. No movie, no book, no secondary experience, can live the experience for you.
The night we arrived in Mumbai was definitely, no doubt, the start of one of the craziest, but best, roller coaster rides. People were running about the airport at 11:30 PM as I shuffled around to locate my luggage and make my way out to the entrance of the airport. If I didn’t have a watch with me, I would have doubted it was that late at night. As I stepped outside, I felt the intense humidity hit me, as the straight strands of hair on my head began to form a small afro. Although I had been forewarned about this from people who knew me well, I knew I couldn’t do much, but embrace India’s humidity with open arms. Stepping outside of the airport, groups of people stood with signs with names of family and friends. After scanning what seemed like hundreds of signs, I finally located one with my name on it and headed to the hotel with the driver.
Monday morning was the first day of training, where we went through a culture shock session – might I add, it was much needed. However, we already experienced and realized our first culture shock on the way to the Vikhroli office: honking was India’s music. People loved to honk, even if it was for no reason.
Turns out that the horns in India are specially made in such a way that it takes but the slightest nudge from a finger to honk. If that were the case back in the States, it would be utter chaos. The first week of training was very essential, as it helped us adapt to this new world.
Our first full weekend in Mumbai, we explored South Mumbai and went to the Gateway of India as a group.
As we drove up to the Gateway of India, what appeared to be a flock of colors from a distance, turned out to be hundreds of people gathered in their beautiful sarees and traditional Indian attires, to see the famous monument, as it overlooked the vast Arabian Sea.
Shopping at Causeway in Colaba, one of the top tourist markets, was definitely a great experience when it came to bargaining.
The times when the seller did not want to sell the merchandise for the price at which I bargained, and when I walked away, and they came running after me to sell it for my price, were definitely the best moments. Although it did take a few purchases to get there, at that point, I knew I had mastered the art of bargaining.
What humbled me the most while exploring was driving through different parts of Mumbai, which really made me realize how lucky I was to live in a country that offered so much.
Many times we forget to be thankful for the small things we have – a home, food, water – the basic necessities that we take for granted all too often. But seeing families in the slums, living in cardboard sheds, really opened my eyes. It’s crazy how one side of the world can be so different from another side.
Seeing, first hand, our Indian coworkers working life style helped our understanding of our colleagues. Not until we started training with our Indian colleagues did we realize that a majority of their workdays did not start until around 11 AM to 12 PM. When I realized that, I had that “aha” moment, because it finally hit me as to why they replied, to what seemed to me as, odd hours of the day. Because of the crazy traffic they faced, they would start their workday late and end their workday late as well, around 9 PM or so. As Americans who are used to the idea of punctuality, it was hard training and working at times, because we had to adjust to the Indian time of being “15 to 30 minutes late,” which was normal for them. Not only that, but getting to experience the language and cultural barrier first hand was definitely an experience that was much needed as it helped us to understand that we need to work with our colleagues more efficiently in order to ensure that those barriers are overcome and quality of work is achieved at the end.
These five weeks gave me the opportunity to see things from another side, from the side of our Indian colleagues. But what I will always be thankful for is getting the chance to live in a country that opens your eyes up and humbles you. To be in India, you have to open yourself and have an open mind to get the most out of it!