Two New Yorkers spend six months 18 months!?! in Bangalore and other places in India.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Some Notes on the Office

So I've survived my first five-and-a-half-day work week here in India. Any new job creates a few disorienting days when you start out, but of course I've encountered a slew of cultural differences that have made this week all the more through-the-looking-glass. For one, regimentation is big. Time is regulated by a series of bells that announce the beginning of the day and its end, and when to go to lunch and when to come back. The 45-minute lunch break is a strictly observed affair -- everyone leaves and comes back at the same time. It's a little like high school. As a foreign guest I am free to organize my own time as I see fit, but that's something that most workers here would not expect to be able to do.

Another thing you notice immediately is that labor is cheap. While back home we have one very lovely woman who comes around after hours to clean the entire office as best she can, here there is a team of about six cleaners constantly on patrol with mops and brooms and dustcloths. At the lunch break, when the floor empties out, the cleaners swoop in for more in-depth cleaning, wiping down every monitor and keyboard. The office gleams as a result. There's also a couple of guys who come by with very sweet, very milky tea three times a day. The managers get their tea in china cups, while the workers in the cubicles are served in small plastic ones. There's a whole host of issues with this tea; it's almost impossible to refuse it and once you are served it, you are expected to drink it all. When I haven't managed to finish, the other managers have been sure to comment on this. So I drink it, and when I get back to the States I'll have a powerful caffeine and sugar addiction to kick.

Then there's the guy who comes around to take your order for lunch. You tell him what you want and he orders it from a local place and brings it back at lunchtime. He already knows I like palak paneer. Now this I can see myself missing when I get back to New York . . .

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