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

Talking about IT outsourcing at Norway India Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Hi Everyone

Yesterday I was invited to do a presentation about IT outsourcing at the Norway India Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NICCI). First of all I must very much thank Mr. Trond Skundberg who invited me to do this speech with him. I must also thank Madhukar Rohatgi and Lars Børre Hasle at NICCI for putting this together. Trond is an India veteran with more than 10 years experience from the country so he had a lot of interesting thoughts to share regarding that.

On my part, I mostly talked about culture, and the importance of understanding the people you work with when you work across cultures. This is a topic I have talked about a number of times before. The more I talk about it the more interesting the topic is. Luckily there were a number of people in the crowd who have a lot of experience by working in both India and Norway. This made the discussion really good and I could also learn quite a lot from it. Thanks a lot to all of you who contributed!

You can see the whole presentation here

NICCI presentasjon

Talk to you soon

Karsten

Be a Gunner be a Runner. Skiing for Arsenal and a better world!

Hi Everyone

Like most Norwegian kids, I grew up being quite interested in football. When I got a mug with the logo of Arsenal Football Club at the age of around 6, I was “doomed” to support that club. So most of the youth I dreamed about playing for Arsenal, scoring for Arsenal, tackling for Arsenal, and so on. But sadly, I have never been really good in football and have never been picked to play for Arsenal. Not until today. Today I have skied for Arsenal!

Kidding you might say? Not really. Next month Arsenal foundation will host their annual charity event called “Be a Gunner. Be a Runner”. People are encouraged to sign up and run 6.4 kilometers around the Emirates stadium. And even better, this year they invited people who are not in London to run! Everybody can run a route of 6.4 kilometers and submit that information to Arsenal Foundation, and they will then be registered as taking part of the event. As you can see from the chart below, I completed 19.25 kilometers today, so I should be well above the minimum requirement.

BAGARRoute

The only slight issue is off course that Norway is currently full of snow, so I had to do this skiing rather than running. So when I skied today I was wearing my Arsenal jersey and the cap with a name of the former Arsenal left back Silvinho. Anyone remember him? The Brazilian left back who could score, tackle, head, intercept, pas a ball. Simply that Brazilian who played like a Brazilian. Ahhh, those Highbury days & Highbury highs. Why can’t Brazilian left backs today do the same?

BAGARSkiing

Why am I writing this on a blog about being a Norwegian in India you might ask? Well, fundraising is a global activity, and I’m quite proud of having sponsored a number of initiatives in India. Some of you have probably read about my contributions to Nanhi Kali, the Indian NGO that works with education for underprivileged girl children. Arsenal foundation also works in improving education for children. In China, 15.000 children attending some of Beijing’s most disadvantaged schools will benefit from a £300,000 donation over three years to Save the Children, aimed at improving their quality of their education.

My next target; to get Arsenal Foundation & Nanhi Kali to work together for improving education (and maybe even football) in India!

If you are not able to do any running, you can still donate to Arsenal foundation.

Arsenal.com is used as a source for this article

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

I blog therefore I am

Hi Everyone

The French philosopher Rene Descartes is quite famous for his phrase “I think therefore I am”. I just realized that my blog about innovation in India was my 300th blog post. For me, that is a huge achievement. For others, that is less than what they do in a year, maybe even in a month. For today’s modern people it seems like you need to have at least one blog in order to be someone. If you don’t blog, you don’t exist. That’s why I think this heading is quite good. I do blog, so I am (someone). The net indeed have been a vital instrument in bringing information to people in just a blink of an eye. Descartes on the other hand, could only do it the hard way; by writing his rich ideas on paper.

FRANS_~1

After having reached 300 blog posts I got a bit in a philosophical mode myself, and started to think a bit about why blogging? Here in Norway Cecilie Staude and Svein Tore Marthinsen have just published a book about the use of social media. And before you start to laugh about a book on paper about social media I can tell you that the book is really good. Anyone who understands Norwegian should read it!

Part of being a blogger is to read other peoples blogs. I have realized that blogging seems to be something “everyone” does these days. I don’t have any official numbers about how many bloggers there are in Norway as of now, but some statistics I could find indicates that there are more than 500.000, which means that one out of ten Norwegian do have a blog!

When I look at the different blogs, I find that some of them are quite bad. Or should I rather say incomplete? If you create a blog and then just put up one or two blog posts why do it at all? These blogs just basically end up as “digital trash”. Hardly anyone will read them. The German philosopher Martin Heidegger said that “language speaks”. We speak when we are awake and we speak in our dreams. If he had lived today he would quite surely have said that we speak when we blog. A blog is a way to express your feelings and meanings. What you write and how you do it is less important.

Staude and Marthinsen say that in order to succeed in social media, you need to have a strategy about it. Before I started to blog, I had a discussion with my dad regarding it. We discussed a bit who should be my audience and if I should write in English or in Norwegian. At that time the idea was to write for my friends. We still decided that the language should be English, so that my foreign friends could also understand it. The Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once said that words has its own context. The meaning of a word, according to him, takes its meaning from the use of it. Words are understod different(ly) by different people.  This is maybe something more people should think about when they write blogs. Writing something is mostly quite easy. But to get people to really understand what you want to communicate is completely different and much more difficult.

Little did I knew (at)that time, that my blog would be read from people all over the world, and that most of my readers would actually be Indians that I have never met, and that I will most probably never meet. This is maybe one of the really fascinating things about having a blog. You never know who will be the readers and who will comment on it.

What about Descartes? Would he have used social media today?  Well. He is at least on Facebook. But I hardly think this is something done by him. It seems like he is quite modern and (would) have outsourced that part.

Talk to you soon

Karsten

Supporting a football tournament

Hi Everyone

Quite some time back I wrote about a football tournament project in which I sponsored. The project is now going on well, and here is some update from it:

There are some good news and some bad news. We start with the bad news: for one entire month the Yuwa Dharavi Girls Football Program had to take a break because we had a shortfall of coaches. The initial coaches Anand and Hiralal as well as the assistant coaches had to go back to Jharkhand. Reality Gives found it very difficult to find new skilled coaches who will accept the commitment to daily training sessions.

But now with the help of another great NGO, the Oscar foundation we have found a new coach and the training has started on the 14th of January for the 20 regular participants. The goal for the next months is the first match against another team and to recruit more girls. With the commitment and enthusiasm of the girls and the new coach we are very positive to report you better results in the next report.

Saturday, the 12th January the girls even performed a second time in front of a even bigger audience at the TedXMasala event in Powai. The team of Reality Gives and Yuwa is very proud of the smart and talented girls and how they handled the big crowd observing them.

But now it’s time to get back to football as the girls are already very excited to play again. A number of volunteers also participated in the Mumbai Marathon on the 20th of January. Before that the whole team had a training session for all runners of the “Dharavi Dream Run Team”. Find out more on our website: www.realitygives.org/dharavi_dream_run_team. To see photos of the event itself please stay tuned on Facebook.

Empower Girls through football in a slum in India, a project on GlobalGiving.co.uk. Hope you get inspired by this and would like to join as a contributor!

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

The most Norwegian of all Norwegian traditions

Hi Everyone

For more than two years now, I have been writing about India and Indian culture and how well I have adapted</> to that. At least according to my own understanding.

Now that I’m well back in Norway, I have to try to behave as a Norwegian again. So far I think I have done quite well and yesterday it was time to get back to the best thing any Norwegian can do; skiing!

Soloppgang

I woke up pretty early in the morning, before the sun came up, checked that it was like -12 outside my place, and went to the train. The train took me to some hill in the outskirt of Oslo. Over the last few weeks there have come some snow here, which is really nice. As you can see from the picture, all trees are covered with some snow, or honestly, I think it is more like ice, as there is not that much snow here. But it is enough for some nice skiing for sure. It was quite cold when I started but got a little bit warmer when I went on. Like most Norwegians do on a Saturday, I skied to one of the nice cabins that we have in the forest.

Kikut

For those of you who are not used to Norwegians and our skiing behavior, I’ll try to describe something special for us. Or well, not special for Norwegians, but special for skiers. As you can see from the thermometer, there is some color code.

Termometer

This code indicates how you should wax your skies. The whole concept of ski waxing is a science, and Norwegians are kind of obsessed with that. As you can see, there are some color codes that we use. Green for very cold (and yes the thermometer shows -17 I think), blue for a bit warmer, then violet, red and orange. If life had been just that simple. There are different waxes for new snow and old snow. And for soft snow and hard snow. And there are overlaps between what waxes that can be   used for different conditions. At the picture below you can see some of the different waxes I could consider (and no, I didn’t even considered the red one). Those who are really serious about this will bring a full suitcase with different waxes just for a training trip.

Smøring

So all Bombay hashers this is my excuse for not having participated in the runs lately. And I can promise you that this was very much colder than the usual ice!

The other main news for today is that it was time for Mumbai marathon again. Due to my skiing I could off course not participate. I know there are a lot of my friends who have done that, and hats off to all of you!

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

More about the rape case in Delhi + some changes on the blog

Hi Everyone

So far I have written only blog post about the rape/murder case in Delhi. It seems to be a lot about this case all over the world right now. So I have tried to keep away from writing too much about it. As I don’t currently live in India, I don’t really have the firsthand insight into all the details happening there. Off course I do get a lot of information from friends there, but it is not the same as if I had been there myself and been able to see it all.

It’s also a bit difficult being a foreigner and write about a topic like this. I found this write up over at White Indian Housewife the other day, and I think it sums it up well. Most probably I will write more about this case later, so please do stay tuned.

I have also done a few changes at the main page of the blog. During 2012 I experienced that most people reached my blog to searches and not from my Facebook or Twitter pages. I would guess that this is also the case for other popular blogs. Over the year I have also come across a number of interesting blogs in Mumbai. Due to this, I have now added a list of other blogs on my front page.  If you know about any Mumbai blog that should have been on the list but is not, please do let me know.

Some minor graphical changes are also done.

Talk to you soon!

Karsten