How local should an expat be?

Hi everyone.

Before I moved to India, I did read an article regarding trans cultural management. The author claimed that in order to do well in a foreign culture you must really adapt. He said that “You can absolutely be Norwegian inside your home, but as soon as you step outside you have to be Indian”. Well, he didn’t really use those two countries as examples, but that should be my reality.

So this is something that I have really thought quite a bit about lately. How Indian do I need to be? And also; how Indian should I be, if you get the difference here. Off course I do understand that I have to follow Indian rules and regulations while I’m in India. No problem with that. And probably I should also follow the Indian custom, but to what extend? Let me take one example; most of my colleagues and friends say that the auto drivers are kind of useless, and just want to cheat you and have no clue about how to drive and how to get to the right places and such. Remember that I live in a country where there is a huge difference between people, and some are probably more worth than others. But does that mean that I should treat the auto drivers the same way? I have no problem to admit that I have yelled to quite a few of them, and also had some quite bad argues. But on the other hand, I have found out that if I do treat them with respect, they are easier to go with. I hardly see any Indian tipping an auto driver, but I have seen that if I give them a little bit extra, they get very happy. And as I need to take the auto to the office every day, it is a huge advantage if I can make some friends among them. Maybe is it bribing to pay them a bit extra, but if that mean that the same driver will pick me up also the day after, why not?

Another question is about food. Some people say that you should always try some local food while you live abroad. And surely I agree with this, and I surely eat Indian food almost every day. But still it does not make sense to me to eat everything that I get offered. The risk of getting sick will then be there. Luckily I have managed to almost not be sick at all, and I’m quite happy with that! Once I did by a chicken at the street, and the day after I was sick. Not sure if it was due to the chicken, but why take the risks? It might be that I will miss some delicious food in this case, but I do think that my health is more important.
So my general conclusion is that yes; off course you should adapt to the local culture, but you still have to remember who you are and what you come from and to manage to behave also according to your background.

What do you think?


One thought on “How local should an expat be?

  1. I think you should be yourself.
    I think many Indians (such as myself) treat autodrivers waiters sweepers foreigners children old people etc with respect.
    I think that many autodrivers try to cheat you if they can. But we keep refusing their custom till we find one who is willing to obey the rules.
    Yes all people respond well to respect.
    Yes its nice to tip autodrivers and we do and it does make some of them happy.
    The line is between generosity and exploitation.
    Yes many Indians are so nic eto their autodrivers that the same chap picks them up for work everyday and responds to a cell phone call to bring them home from different places at odd hours.

    Many Indian non-vegetarians won’t eat chicken bough off the street unless they have immunity to that vendor/
    And when we go abroad we won’t eat all the food they sell.. only a happy compromise….

    You should be yourself.. I am only reacting to the bit of your post that makes Indians sound nasty in general…

    Regional pride.. What to do?
    Else I enjoy your posts and read all of them.


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