The following blog entry is written by Annika Hoeltje, a senior consultant with Lamson Consulting.
I wake up early in the morning in my hotel room in Bangalore, woken by the sound of a concert from what seems to be at least a thousand cars beeping their horns. I wonder if India just won some world championship. In Germany that would be the only possible reason for such noise, I look outside the window and see cars, buses and motorcyclist fight each foot forward on their way to work.
“Why do they all beep their horn like crazy?” I ask my driver later when heading to my business meeting. “Oh”, he says “It’s just for communication. I’m behind you. I’m next to you. I’m passing you – Totally normal”
“Ah…” I said, “In the US they call this noise pollution and road rage.” My driver seems confused.
He changes the subject and on the ride in, he manages to show me pictures of all his family members. He proudly tells me that he is one of the few Indians who married for love (uncommon in his culture) – But only because he was the 9th child and by then his parents didn’t care so much anymore.
It’s hard to stay focused as the traffic seems to be an all-consuming aggressive bumper car race, where the culture seems to be that everyone tries to force their way through cars, people, and stray animals. Usually the bigger vehicle wins. Motorcyclists and some other suicidal people on bikes often manage to squeeze through the tied packed lanes though.
In the middle in the city we pass a few cows and my driver lets me know, that in India they have the most intelligent cows in the world. They always find their way back home, even through the traffic. He tries to slow down, so I can take a picture.
“All foreigners want to take pictures of the cows in the city”.
Politely I take my camera out to take a picture of this main attraction. The picture of two cows standing in front of a building that bears a DELUXE LODGING sign (fabulous culture clash).
One can see that Bangalore’s population exploded within the last 12 years. Bangalore is the nation’s leading IT exporter and the boom doesn’t seem to stop. But unlike cities, such as Shanghai, China, in Bangalore, India the infrastructure doesn’t seem to catch up. The city seems to burst at the seams with all the people and vehicles.
“Twelve years ago” my driver tells me “everything looked different here”.
Bangalore or “Bengaluru”, which used to be known as the Garden City is the second fastest growing major metropolis in India and is now known across cultures as the Silicon Valley of India.
When we arrive at my meeting after two hours on the road, I’m a bit shaky, but the beauty of the architecture, culture, and the warm, friendly smiles make me soon forget all about it.
Now, I also understand why it was so important to book a hotel close to the company or meeting place. I laugh sympathetically, when the managers tell me about a French guy who took a taxi from the hotel across the street, because he was too afraid to walk, but I do feel very empathetic when the Indian colleagues tell me about their four hour commute every day from home.
Ironically, by comparison, the culture of the company grounds seem to me like a quiet and peaceful oasis. Everything is green and lush and while you are sitting at lunch outside eating excellent Indian food (with your hands) you hear birds sing and the water from the artificial waterfall splashing. Natural light comes into the offices to brighten the cubicles from which the employees look onto a micro green jungle in the courtyard.
Since Bangalore enjoys a pretty warm climate all year around, we go, as most others do every day, for a walk after lunch around the green campus.
Who would have known, that a work environment in India can be so much more relaxing than the city itself…
Later that day I’m fighting with the traffic again and I think I’m going to miss my flight. Before coming to Bangalore, I didn’t understand why all the international flights only come into the country at night. Now I can imagine why…
But somehow it all works out, as if everyone has become accustomed to the situation, adapted to it even – and all with a friendly attitude. In developing my global mindset, I understand that maybe time isn’t something we have to worry about so much in North America or Europe? Perhaps we should look at traffic as an opportunity for cross cultural interaction with others, good people-watching, or simply a reminder to appreciate what we have when we get to where we’re going.