My Indian passport!

Hi Everyone

Today I came home from another fantastic nice trip to India! In one hectic week I have been in Mumbai, Goa, Mysore and Pune. More about that in upcoming blog posts. When I checked my post box I got a big surprise. It was an Indian passport there! With my name on it. Ok well, I have been in India a number of times in the last few years, but never applied for an Indian passport. Maybe this is some new Indian bureaucracy rule? If you have been in the country more than x number of days over the last few years you are granted a passport. Is it like that? Any suggestions would be very welcome. It was surely a nice end to the trip and a good start for the next month.

indian-passport

Talk to you soon

Karsten

Tax for expats

Hi Everyone

A week back or so, I came across this article on Facebook regarding tax for expats. I then went through my old blog posts and some notes I have written and checked if I have any relevant information regarding tax in India. I have only written one post about why people don’t pay tax.

The first thing I can say about tax is that it is a hazel to pay tax to two different countries! In my case I was employed by an Indian company and try to officially move from Norway to India in order to pay tax only to India. The Norwegian tax authorities refused that. In Norway we pay quite high tax and there are strict requirements for a Norwegian to be considered to live in a different country. The tax authority claimed that as long as I still own a flat in Norway and don’t own any property I still live in Norway. At the point of time when this was decided, I didn’t knew that I would be in India for two years and quickly gave up to “fight” with the Norwegian tax authorities.

So I quickly decided that trying to obey with Indian tax regulations was the best thing to do. But even this noble idea was off course a bit troublesome. In order to pay tax in India you first have to have something called a PAN-card. As I was a foreigner, no one in Indian HR realized that I needed this. But after a number of e-mails and confusion this actually got sorted out quite easily. And honestly, I think that the tax payment as such went quite smooth. Every month I got deducted some money from my salary. I don’t really have any idea what is the correct tax percentage in India, so I just hoped that Capgemini deducted whatever was the correct amount. At the end of the tax year I had to fill some information on-line. Capgemini has chosen Aon Hewitt as their partner. And if it wasn’t for the fact that Aon in the sponsor of Matchester United, I think I could have liked the portal. But now I don’t. As long as you have all the documents that are needed and no special deductions that should be claimed, it isn’t actually that difficult to fill this.

I was suggested to use some agent to fill this for me. And mind you, India is a place where it is common to use servants and get help to everything from driving your car to getting food delivered on your doorstep. But the price that was suggested for my tax advisors was just completely out of this world! It honestly sound like some kind of scam that someone had put up, so I decided not to use it at all.

One other thing that makes taxation in two countries difficult is the fact that Norway and India have different tax years.  In my Norwegian taxation papers I have to fill how much income and tax I paid to India last year. But because a year is different in Norway and in India this things get unnecessarily complicated.

My advice if you are moving to India is to check out a lot up front about what rules that apply for you. Indian tax government is one good place. Your own company should be a different one. Hopefully they can advice you on what is best for you to do.

Talk to you soon

Karsten

Working with India

Hi Everyone

In a number of blog posts I have stressed the importance of understanding the culture when you work and live abroad. Two years in India have made me even surer that this is a key factor to succeed. Over there I met some people who really enjoyed being there and really had managed to climb what I call the adaption ladder. But there were also people who hardly went out from their flats and who seemed to not at all enjoy being in India.

So if you have been giving the task to work with people from a different culture, how can you prepare? Before I went to India I read a number of books. One of them really stood out and today’s blog post is a quick review of that book.

Working with India

Working with India is written by Wolfgang Messner. He’s a German citizen who has worked a number of years in India. In many ways he did what I did a few years before me. Mr. Messner collected a lot of information about India and put it into this book. Everyone who works with India should read this book. Both before going to India and while being there. I did reread a lot of it while being there.

The book starts with a chapter about culture and why cultural competence is required. Hofstede culture dimensions are being described here. For me there are two main takings from this chapter. First of all that culture is something you can barely see. Mr. Messner describes it as an iceberg. Only like 10 % is above the surface. Rest of it you must “dive into” to really realize and understand. And it takes time. The other main point for me is that it is important to understand who you are and to have an open mind when you step into another culture.

Next two chapters are about India as such. One chapter about the history and one about the society. Both of these are very good introductions to these subjects. Particularly to understand something about the society you live in is important. The Indian caste system and the role of the family are described here. The importance of the family is something that still stands out as one of the main differences between Norway and India. Every time there is something I find a bit strange, I go back and reread this chapter. Doing this and adding some critical thinking has made me at least starting to understand the meaning of the word “family” in India.

After these introduction chapters there is a chapter with give an introduction to the Indian IT & BPO industry. Again Mr. Messner shows his excellent competence in what he writes.

The last four questions are the hard core of the book. This is the chapters that are important in your day to day business with your Indian counterparts.

Chapter five is about human resources and how Indian companies handle people. A number of times I have heard people complaining that attrition in India are so high that it is almost impossible to work with Indians. By reading this chapter you will understand more the perspective of people are in India. This knowledge is crucial for you to make sure you get the right people to your project and it also give you some ideas about what to do to keep them.

Next chapter is about interactions with India. As a non-native English speaker, I’m not the right person to complain about the way Indians speak in English. But as my recent blog post about misunderstanding of a term like full package show, misunderstandings happen often and are a big threat for your project. Read this chapter and you will at least get an idea about what misunderstandings that might happen and how you can prevent them.

Chapter seven is about how to conduct projects offshore. Here you get some input about how to set up and run your project. If I have any complaints about this book it is this chapter. I could wish it was much bigger! I would have liked more concrete ideas about how to do things. I know there is another book about this and will probably do a review of that book soon too.

The book wraps up with a chapter about use of expatriates and some quick recommendations about effective collaboration.

As I said in the introduction, this is a book that I have read over and over again. First time I read it from first to last page. After that I have used it as a reference book. Even today I quite often read in it if there are some things that are uncertain to me.

If you ever plan to do business in India this is a must read! And it is even a book that should not be only in your bookshelf but at your desk during your day-to-day work!

Talk to you soon

Karsten

What is a full pack?

Hi Everyone

Misunderstandings due to communication flaws are something I think I have written about a huge number of times before. But new examples of the same seem to come up almost every day. It can be some serious one, that can be life threatening, or it can be the smaller more innocent misunderstandings. On Friday I came across one that was just quite sweet.

Some Indian friends have been in Norway for more than a year now. One of the first things they did here was to join for a trip on a snowmobile. Everyone who has driven a car or anything knows that if you drive with high speed with windows down it feels cooler than it is, due to the wind speed. Even in the streets of Mumbai. So if it is already like -10, and you sit without any shelter, like car windows, roof and such, how do you think it will be? I can tell you. Extremely cold! So when people rent out snowmobiles, they usually also come with some special warm clothes included. This is what they call a full pack and no one even think it can be different.

nakend skier

This is what you get if you ONLY rent a “full pack” of skiing equipment

My Indian friends plan to go skiing soon. As they don’t have any ski equipment with them in Norway, they plan to rent. One of them asked a Norwegian friend what would be included when renting skis. The answer was: “You will get a full pack”. But is a full pack the same when going on a snowmobile as it is when skiing? Does a Norwegian and an Indian have the same idea about what a full pack is? No! When you rent skis what is considered a full pack is only skis, boots and sticks. Period! Nothing like thermal warm clothes or anything like that.

riksgrensen

All ready for snowmobile!

Luckily I heard this story, so I could tell my Indian friends that they had to bring clothes on their own, and could not expect to get this as part of a full pack when renting skis.

This is just such a simple example on how even the most basic phrases can be misunderstood. As I’m Norwegian, it was quite easy for me to resolve the misunderstanding. After all, it was based on different understandings on something Norwegian. Did I ever do the same kind of misunderstandings while in India? The bed maker story is the one that always come to my mind when I think about misunderstandings. But I’m quite sure there must be more. It’s just that as I’m not Indian, I was not able to fully understand how I misunderstood Indians…

Talk to you soon!

Karsten

What’s your budget?

Hi Everyone

One interesting thing about living in two different cultures is to try to compare them. What are the similarities and the differences between them? When I lived in Mumbai I did a lot of such comparisons with foreign friends. All of us wanted to dive into the Indian culture and to really understand it.

This is something that is important from a business point of view. If you read stories about why multicultural projects fail misunderstandings due to culture is often pointed to as one main reason.

So, since I work in multicultural projects, this is off course important for me. But I have also taken a personal interest of this and read a number of books by gurus at this area like Hofstede, Hall, Trompenaars, Messner and so on. But still I feel a bit puzzled about this and struggle to point into what exactly are the differences.

Last week I came across a post on a Facebook group for expats in Mumbai that really got me to think. A foreign girl had posted there. She said that her sister was coming to visit and asked about the price for a driver with car that could take them around Mumbai for half a day. The answer (written exactly in this way) was the following: “and wht budget u rlkng forwh do u wnt it”. Ok. I do understand that some people write very much in shortenings when they write on Facebook and such. That’s not my main point here. The main point is the question that is used to answer a question: “What’s your budget?” When I read this, it really strikes me that this is a phrase I used to hear quite often in India. If someone came to Oslo and wanted to rent a 2 BHK in a particular area, the agent would straight away say that the going rate in the area would be this or this. In India (and in many other countries) this is quite different. People will always ask you (the buyer) what you are ready to pay for it. And the price will depend on your answer. The idea of a fixed price just does not exist.

Two more examples at the same; I once, and hardly more than that went shopping with an Indian friend of mine. We went to Lifestyle in R City Mall, where they have fixed prices on all their items. But still she started to haggle! The staff seemed uncomfortable with this shroud girl, and I really felt embarrassed. But she managed to get some discounts and was clearly proud of that. The other story is about some Norwegians who visited Mumbai. Somehow they managed to get out from the hotel and into some different area. They then had to take an auto back. The meter read 2.80. Everyone who has stayed for some time in Mumbai knows that they should have paid INR 37 (see conversion app). They thought that they should have paid INR 280! They told me that they wanted to be nice to the driver and gave him 300. And they also told me that he smiled and seemed to be quite happy with this. Off course he was! They had paid almost 10 times the “fixed price”.

Meter down

Did the driver cheated on them? Well, most people might say so. But if they wanted to pay 300 rupees for such a trip, why not? Again; what’s your budget? The price will totally depend on the buyer’s budget and what he is willing to pay for the service or goods that he’s buying. This is something I have reflected of many times. Is it really ok that things are like this? Well. Maybe. It just changes the rules for a transaction a bit. In Norway we have very strict laws that protect the buyer. It might be that India does have some of the same kind of laws. But they are surely not followed everywhere.

My main point here is that when you deal with other countries you have to understand how business is done in these countries. What are the KPI’s to the person you deal with? Does he or she really understand your situation? In a book I read it says that in Japanese there are 28 different ways to use the word “yes” to say “no”. Will I as a Norwegian understand this? Probably not. At least not initially. Experience from a foreign culture is the key here!

Talk to you soon!

Karsten

A – Z of India 2012

Hi Everyone

With 2012 about to finish now, I decided to do a small A- Z of my experiences from India for 2012. Because I’m Norwegian and we have three more letters in our alphabet I did an A-Å actually. Since this is India, and we have a number of different calendars there I have given myself the freedom to choose events also from different years. And if I don’t find any word for the actual letter I have invented a word. That’s just the way it is…

A – Is for Alleppey. If there is any green heaven in India it must be this place. I went there once last year and twice this year and really want to come back again soon.

B – This could be for many things. But I choose B for Bombay Bollocks. A blog written by my very good friend Richard. Old chap; you really deserve a letter, but R is occupied so it had to be this one. Wishing you all the best for your new adventures in Goa. Ideally B should also be for Bollywood. According to Lonely Planet and other guides it is very easy to get a small background role in a movie if you are white and just show up in Mumbai. For me, after two years, it has still not happened. Maybe I will end up as a Bombay struggler?

C – Again the options are many. C is surely for Chai, the tea that everyone in India drinks. And it’s also for cricket. And talking about cricket, sorry all friends in Mumbai, C will always be for Chennai. Whistle podu with pride!

D – This should have been for Durga Pooja, the biggest festival of Western Bengal. But this year I was not in India during that festival, so I guess it has to be for Durgapur instead. Durgapur is the place where we went for the last of my four wedding ceremonies (see also W for wedding) and it was a fantastic place.

E – Is for Expatliv. That’s the name of Elis blog (another E there…) and also the kind of life I have lived for the last two years. Expat means someone living outside his/hers own society. Some people hate it, some people love it. I’m surely part of the second group. My two years in India have been filled with a lot of nice and interesting experiences.

F- This is an easy one; F for Friends! You know who you are and what you all mean for me.

G- Here I choose Garba. A traditional Indian dance that I really like. I still remember back in 2010 when my neighbors danced this and I got invited to my first local festival. G could also be for Goa.

H –This is for Hashing. When I first wrote a blog post about it people asked me if hash is actually legal in Norway! Ehhhrm. No. Not really. But it is not that kind of hash either. Bombay Hash Harriers is a group of people who gather together and run, and well, drink beer (see Ø for øl). I have made a lot of friends in that society.

I – here I choose an easy option. I is for India. The country where I have lived & loved for two years. Period.

J – Ehhm. Uhhm. Somehow I struggled a bit with this. I thought about Jainism or Jodhpur, but that was all things that happened more in 2011, so I ended up with Japanese. Another language that I know nothing about, but have been quite used to hear in Mumbai (see also L for Language confusion)

K – Kolkata for sure! Easy pick. As I said in my initial blog post about Kolkata, that is what I feel is the absolutely real India. And when coming there it didn’t disappoint me. I really want to go back there some time.

L – Language confusion. No jaar maaan. It’s not so bode simple to speak in India, boss. Ohh yeah. You have probably heard about Hinglish. The kind of English people speak in India. For me not being a native English speaker it is all wrong to try to make fun of how the Indians are speaking their English. But it is surely different from the way we speak it in Norway! And it has lead to a lot of confusions. Having got a lot of friends (see F) from different countries, I have ended up speaking a few words in a number of languages and mixing it all together in a way that I hardly know what language I speak anymore!

M – Marathon. Am I proud of this? Yes, for sure. I did two marathons in two weeks in two continents! Ok, we didn’t really run 42 kilometers, but well. Mumbai Marathon was more for charity than anything else the way we did it. Thanks a lot to Chintan, Kiran and everyone else at WeKare (sorry, W is taken) who put this together. And this quickly leads me to…

N –for Nanhi Kali. And this is when I get teary when I write. One of the reasons I went to India in the first place was to try to do more for that organization. And so many things we have achieved together! I honestly don’t know how many times I have visited Nanhi Kali homes, but every time it is just fantastic! Thanks a lot to Sheetal who runs this, everyone at Naandi and Nanhi Kali foundation. And a huge thank to Fiona and James who keep up the good work at Capgemini.

O – This is the only one where I choose something that is related to work. The reason why I came to India in the first place is Offshoring. But O is also O Saya, the Slumdog Millionaire hit that still is in my ears and reminds me of India.

P – This should have been for the camel fair in Puskhar. Sadly I missed that one. Some of my friends went there, and I guess I have to try again next year. So P is rather for Pune. Thanks to Pearl, Konrad and little Beth who have always been my hosts when I go there. I have really started to like the city and the area around it. P can also be for Powai, my home in India.

Q- This is for Quick. Something the service in Indian rarely is. Only exception is maybe Flipkart.com, who have delivered books to me on (or before) time every time I have ordered.

R – I can think about a number of things for R. But with the latest incident in Delhi it has to be for Rape. Sadly.

S – Self-drive! Getting my own car in Mumbai and be able to travel around wherever I wanted in Mumbai gave me a freedom that I didn’t had before. People still think I’m crazy when I tell them that I drive around in Mumbai, but I still love it!

T – Tiger! Ok. This happened in 2011, and somehow our planned tiger trip this summer didn’t happen. But for me it is still something I will always remember as very much part of India. Thanks to Del and the others who joined for that trip.

U – This is a funny one; U is for Urdu! No. I know nothing about (see J or L). But one of my colleagues actually told me that I speak Hindi with an Urdu accent! Well, I have no idea, so I can’t really disagree. Thanks a lot Anupama & Ayan for all the nice chats we have had. In Urdu, Bengali, Danish or any other language…

V – Varanasi. A must see for everyone who goes to India!

W- Finally! After having lived two years without being in any Wedding, I got to four wedding parties in six days in two states! Thanks a lot for the couples Shazneen & Erick and Abhisek & Puspita who invited me. Thanks a lot also to Orie, Elisabetta, Pearl and Konrad who joined me for these memorable events.

X- Is for Draw. Cheating you say? No. Back in the old days in Norway, when you were betting on a football match you filled 1 for home 2 for away and yes, x for a draw. So this is for the recent cricket match where England honestly trashed India. If I remember correct, England scored 600 and something, India 300 and something. And then, because it got a little bit dark or the players were thirsty and wanted some tea (see C for Chai) or something else, they stopped the match and declared it a draw. Stupid game…

Y – Young. India does have a very young generation that makes the future looking good for the country. Keep it up and make it count!

Z- Zliip. I’m sure the young Indians will use this word for sleep (see L for language confusion). Anyway. Sleep is something you hardly have time for in Mumbai….

Æ – Ærlig. Norwegian word. Meaning honestly. I have tried to always be honest. Both while writing this blog and in other situations. If I don’t succeed, sorry.

Ø – Øl Another Norwegian word. Most of you probably know that this means beer. I have been in Indian news twice, as far as I know. Once at TV for the Mumbai Marathon. Once in the newspaper for the Hashing. The title of the article was Blast with beer. Hmmm. Not sure if I liked that. But anyway; thanks a lot Libertad for being in the picture with me. You made it look good. And thanks a lot to Alok who clicked the photo.

Å – Åpen – Being open. In order to survive in India, you really have to be open to new experiences and impressions. Everything can happen in India…

Talk to you soon!

Karsten

The rape case in Delhi

Hi Everyone

Sometimes it is really difficult to write a blog post.

It could be because there is nothing to write about, because I’m bored or because it is a difficult topic to write about, like the Assam case. This time it has been extremely difficult, but let’s get on with it:

Let’s start with the facts first; Sunday the 16th of December a 23 year old girl got raped in a bus in Delhi. Rape is maybe not even the right word here. I should maybe have said tortured instead. In addition to being raped she also got beaten and thrown out of the bus. According to Hindustan Times she is still in a critical state in a Delhi hospital. A 28 years old friend who was with her was also brutally beaten. It was a total of seven people who raped her. So far the police have arrested five people.

bussrape

What has happened after the rape is incredible; if that’s the word I’m looking for. The victim has got massive support from everything from cricketers to Bollywood actress. See this tweet from Preity Zinta as an example. Cricket player Yuvraj Singh went even further and published a picture where he seems to be for capital punishment. The picture even includes a rope, indicating that people should be hanged! A number of protest marches have been conducted in Delhi. On Facebook people have been urged to sign a petition. And as of now (Saturday the 21st) nearly four hundred people have signed it!

What can be done to avoid things like this to happen? Well, if I had the full answer to this, I would maybe be a candidate for the Nobel peace prize. But unfortunately I don’t. As a friend of mine pointed out on Facebook, Mumbai is not much different when it comes to violence against women. At least I can think about two things that might help:

1)      Education of the boys

This is probably the most important thing to do. Boys must learn how to behave and how not to behave. And this education must happen at home! It should be the responsibility to every mother and father to teach their children some basic rules about behavior.

2)      Natteravn

This is a Norwegian organization that works against violence in our largest cities. Sorry, but they don’t have any home page that I could find in English, but there is a version in Urdu here if that works better than Norwegian.

The slogan or so of this foundation is quite simple; “We care about what happens in our society. We will contribute to make sure to create a safe environment by being around where it is needed”.

The idea behind the Natteravn (which means night ravens in English) is quite simple. It is a group of adults that walks around in the streets at those times when it is most likely to be some problems. They are quite visible in their yellow vests. If anything happens, they can try to speak to the people making problems. Eventually they contact the police and make sure they come quickly to the scene. With India being a country full of people doing volunteer stuff and NGO’s maybe that is something that could work also over there?

Talk to you soon!

Karsten

A new Norwegian blogger in Mumbai

Hi Everyone

For a long time I was the only Norwegian blogging from Mumbai. Or well, at least I thought I was the only one. Ok Hege, you also did some blogging in Mumbai, but I guess you agree with me that you never did that many blog posts. I even got recognized at restaurants in Powai as the Norwegian blogger. But well, that era seems to be over now. Eli launched her blog last month. I must admit that I noticed it on Facebook only today, and when I noticed even one more blog post from her today I got very impressed! If she plans to write two posts a day, this will surely be a very popular blog soon! Luckily I found out that she had made “only” one post every day for the last few days.

When I was at my crazy trip to four wedding parties and two funerals in India a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to visit Eli and her husband. She had a lot of interesting stories to tell from India, and I very much look forward to continue read about her adventures there.

pepperkaker

Hope it is ok that I grabbed your pepperkaker picture Eli! I still have my pepperkakeformer at a friend’s place in Powai, but it seems like you have already made sure you have this essential Norwegian items.

Talk to you soon!

Karsten

Mumbai four years after

Hi Everyone

Today it is four years since the horrible terror attack on Mumbai. This is something that off course has not gone unnoticed in the city. The newspapers are of course full of stories about this today. Cricketers’ and others tweet about it. The picture I have used is “stolen” from a tweet made by Suresh Raina.

Two years ago I made this reflection of the attack. At that time I said that the only surviving terrorist was still on a trail. As I mentioned in my blog post about Four weddings and two funerals last week, he got executed on Wednesday. Will this be the end of the story? Sadly, I don’t think so. Off course I hope I’m wrong, but the tension between India and Pakistan is still quite tense. And where do we have all the evidences that the terrorist is actually executed? No, I’m not even suggesting that this is not the case, just putting up the question. Guess many of you remember all the speculations that went on when Obama declared that Bin Laden was dead.

Less than a week ago I was a tourist in Mumbai with some Japanese friends. We took the train to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, or VT or CST as most people say. From there we went to observe the fabulous Taj hotel at Colaba. Lunch was at Leopold restaurant. Three of the places that was attacked four years ago. Luckily this time there was absolutely no sight of any terrorists or such. Leopold was just full of peaceful English cricket supports who are in Mumbai to watch the test match between India and England.

Let us all hope that in the future Mumbai will be filled with peace (and maybe even cricket) loving people and not terrorists!

Talk to you soon!

Karsten

Gangnam Garba style

Hi Everyone

It is probably not very often that you will find me writing blog posts based on something I have seen on YouTube. But today I had to make a difference. Right now the Navratri is being celebrated all over India. It is one of the absolutely funniest festivals, and highly celebrated in many areas of India. One of the main parts of this festival is the dance Garba. If you want to know how to NOT dance, well look at the person at the right hand side in this picture.

One way of doing it is to do the “Gangnam Garba” variant.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eZiEcm52Pg

Not sure if this was the way the “founders of the dance” really planned it, but well, it  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBUwRvtdjUolooks good. If you want to learn Garba, look here.

(with comments in Hindglish, or maybe rather Gujaratlish)

Talk to you soon!

Karsten