Adapting to India Work Culture and Environment

Going into this project, the Cali-Cuttas well understood that working in India would be a far different experience from doing similar work in the United States. After having numerous troublesome Skype conversations– where the calls would drop at least 4 times or our partners would plan to be on the call an hour later than originally planned–we thought that actually being in Kolkata and interacting face-to-face with everyone would make the project deliverables much easier to accomplish.

However, as this is India, and considering we are working on a very complicated problem in health care delivery and public health research, the Cali-Cuttas have quickly realized that our problems were not simply going to disappear… much like the monsoon rains have here in India. A list of our ongoing difficulties working in Kolkata are outlined below:

1) Will we ever get an Uber driver who knows how to get around the city? Something seemingly straightforward (and easy) as calling an Uber cab to drive us to and from work takes almost 20 minutes both ways… and even then, the drivers don’t always know how to use their GPS to get us to our destination. A very frustrating task when work ends at 7:30 pm and we are tired and seriously hangry.

2) Adhering to office “rules.” There seem to be rules in place at the office, which mandates that employees come in promptly at 10:30 am and stay until 7:30 pm with a 45 minute lunch break at 2pm. Whether or not these rules are actually enforced is a good question. The HR person made a point to send an email to everyone stating these timings, and even questioned where we were when our team took a longer-than-expected lunch break. However, she asked someone else where we were, and never spoke to us directly. Does that mean we were in trouble for not obeying the 45 minute lunch rule?

It certainly seems that the unspoken  expectation is that everyone shows up to work and stick to the timings. However, what you choose to do in that time is up to you. I definitely saw one of the interns spend an entire day of work watching movies on her computer.

3) One full day of “good” Wifi is a miracle. The only people who get consistent internet connection at the office are the people with an ethernet cable… not so for Jackie and Nick, who have newer versions of Macs that are incompatible with the cables. Upon returning to our housing around 8:30 pm or so, it is not uncommon to discover that none of us can connect to the hotel’s three different Wifi networks. We have asked numerous times for the staff to reset the servers, but of course that does not solve the problem. It really does seem that once work hours are over, our actual use of the internet is over as well.

4) Over 100 degree heat, enough said. Over 1100 dead from heatstroke and melting roads. We *might* be starting to miss the Ann Arbor chill… We don’t mean to be complainers. Working here in Kolkata has been mostly wonderful and interesting, and we have greatly enjoyed getting to know our co-workers. However, these continuous annoyances have made it slightly more difficult to get our work done everyday, which is something we really cannot afford on such a restricted timeline. Nevertheless, the Cali-Cuttas cannot be deterred! Not when we have taken the time to go on incredible adventures like these:

Arsalan: A biryani heaven. Nick was super excited
Arsalan: A biryani heaven. Nick was super excited
Cali-Cuttas at the Victoria Memorial!
Eating delicious Lucknow cuisine with Joyojeet’s aunt
Spending a Friday lunch break trying out traditional Bengali cuisine
A beautiful weekend at the Princep Ghat, aka one section of the Ganges River