After-school daycare

“I don’t wanna go to the daycare after school”, she had told her mom before the bed time.
“We will pick you up soon after you get there. I promise.” Mom tried her usual trick.
“Yous said the same yesterday!”
“I promise, I will remind your dad to make sure!”
“I don’t like it there.”
“I am sure you will make new friends.”
“I already made two new friends – Hailey and Shira,” she said in a less complaining, and more of a bragging tone.
“See, I told you! Now get some sleep.”
“Goodnight mom. Love you.” As if she already forgot the quarrel from moments ago.
“Goodnight Isha, love you too.” She gave her a big kiss and tucked her in for the night. Continue reading “After-school daycare”

10 simple ways to improve cross culture understanding in a new country

The social adaption varies from person to person, some people adapt faster than others. Regardless, it is very natural to have some ‘opinions’ or biases against a new culture or a new place.

Once we move to a new country or a new culture, the adaption starts; we subconsciously start to get used to the new norms as time goes. And, in many cases, we don’t even realize that we are adjusting to the new culture; it happens automatically. It is a natural social change – adapting to the new circumstances over time.

However, the social adaption happens much faster if we make a conscious effort to interact with the local culture. To improve the cross cultural understanding and learning more about the local way of life, here are a few simple but effective things that we can do:

1. Adapt to the local language: Don’t isolate yourself from the local language and the local way of speaking – the slang, the style, …. the whole nine yards. The article ‘Self-help guide to lose your accent’ goes into the details on this subject. Continue reading “10 simple ways to improve cross culture understanding in a new country”

Whatcha say? – Importance of Communication skills

At home or overseas – Importance of communication skills

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”~ Lee Iacocca

“They don’t seem to fully understand me”
“Am I speaking a foreign language or something?”
“How come no body is listening to me?”
“Is it my accent that is limiting my range of communication?”

Your ability to communicate defines you as a person. You can be the most knowledgeable person around, but if you cannot share your ideas – if you cannot communicate – your knowledge may not mean much.

One of the main hurdles in adapting to a new place or becoming a part of the new culture is the difficulty of integrating into the new society. Our ability to effectively communicate with other is very important in adjusting to a new place, or a new culture. In fact, our success or failure in any walk of life often depends on how well we communicate with others. Any business, any workplace, any relation, any family, any society… built around communication.

In the basic sense, a communication takes place when two or more people share or exchange information, ideas, gossips, knowledge etc. The main ways of communications include:
Verbal or oral communications: This is where we talk and listen. The ideas are exchanged, the rumors are discussed, a mother sings a lullaby to the little one, a leader delivers her vision to the followers…..Most of our daily communications are oral, unless you are a writer hiding in the basement – writing away your ideas or fantasies, waiting to be discovered. The oral communication almost always involves personal contact with the audience, with some exceptions such as talking on the phone.
This is the area – the verbal exchange – where most of us struggle in a new place or in a new culture. The verbal communications are often different place-to-place, even if the same language is spoken. Every place has its own ways of communicating:

  • local slang
  • local style
  • local dialect
  • use of local terms that an outsider may not understand

Continue reading “Whatcha say? – Importance of Communication skills”

12 Self-help tips for Indians to improve English language command

Self-help suggestions and tips on improving Indian-English or Desi-English language abroad

“Are you enjoying the movie?”
Translated literally from Tamil, simply means absolutely.

There is nothing wrong with the above conversation if both sides know the intended meaning. Now, move that conversation to somewhere in USA or Canada or England, with someone who does not know the ‘Tamil-English’, the actual meaning is lost in the translations. 🙂

English language and English grammar is a bit tricky for those who are not used to it, for those with English as a second language. The basic mistakes we make are when we ‘think’ in our mother-tongue, and then translate in our head (Many of us say ‘translate in my mind 🙂 ), and then speak in ‘translated’ English. Here are some self-help tips on improving desi English overseas:

1. Knowing and Having – the problem of the progressive tense: many Indians often translate and speak with excessive and often inappropriate use of progressive verb form.

For example, consider this:
“I am having a fever.”
“I am having a small family”
“I am knowing that you are having a party without sending me invitation.”

Of course, the correct way of saying is:
“I have a fever”
“I have a small family”
“I know you are having a party without inviting me.”
Continue reading “12 Self-help tips for Indians to improve English language command”

Walking… in someone else’s shoes!

Treading the American suburbs, desi style

Like a Swiss watch, her timing is always perfect. Just before the sunset every evening, she appears from the far end of the sidewalk, turning the corner.
The sound of autumn leaves rustling under her shoes announces her arrival. The shiny white Adidas shoes seem a bit too big for a woman of her height – about 5ft. 3 inches tall. Nonetheless, the clean and bright shoes always stand out, treading the sidewalk, crushing the freshly fallen leaves off the maple trees along the path.
Always looking straight without turning her head, she walks with a constant and quick pace, the gait unruffled and strides undaunted.
There are always kids playing in the front yards of the houses she passes by, some riding their bikes along the same sidewalk. There is a lawnmower going here and there, everyone busy with trivial outdoor stuff. With all the activities going around her, she never look around to watch others, or to say hello, or just to acknowledge the surroundings. As if the rest of the world does not exist. She never strays from the side-walk, as if she owns it. She walks past everybody without a flinch, without a gesture.

She does not look aloof; she pretends not to be superior- looks like she just wants to focus on her walk. The residents -mostly white families- chat with their neighbors across the yards, casually looking at her and then at each-other.

“Hey honey, look who is coming again”, announces a young mother in her front year, cradling a baby in her arms.
“I know Tracy, shush; she can heart you!” he looked up, taking a break from raking the leaves off the driveway.
“No seriously Steve! Look, she is going to ignore us again today”
“May be she is just shy!”
“She probably doesn’t speak English,…Where you think she is from?”
“Don’t know; may be Pakistan or Turkey, or somewhere else in the Middle East.”
“You think she can belly-dance? She doe not look the type!”
“She can hear you!” Continue reading “Walking… in someone else’s shoes!”

How to overcome the Culture Shock abroad

10 tips on how to overcome the overseas culture shock

The overseas culture shock is common for anyone traveling or migrating abroad. Some of us are quick to adapt, willing to accept the change. Others hate it and don’t like customs or traditions of living a life different that what they are used to growing up.
The fact is that it is not a matter of one or two days; if you plan to live abroad, you should be willing to adapt to what comes with it – the new culture, a different society and an entirely different everyday life.

Adaptation is not a quick or overnight thing; getting used to the new place can take a long time. However, here are 10 tips on how to overcome or minimize the culture shock abroad:

1. Accept the change: Change is part of life; it is a part of the journey. Don’t resist something just because it is different. Give it a try. Millions and millions before you have gone through the same experience abroad. You may actually like the ‘new you’ if you try.

2. Learn the local language: This step is very important, actually the most important. If you really want to adapt to the new place, learn the local language, the local way of communicating. This includes getting used to the new accent and losing the old accent; the local way of pronunciation and the local slang – the whole nine yards. And, don’t forget to learn the art of small talk in a new society.

3. Venture out and try first hand: Don’t isolate yourself from the local culture. Expose yourself to the local common places where social life breathes. The shopping mall, the hair salon, the barber shop, the community center, the local parks….. – go be a part of the day-to-day outdoor life. The best way to adapt is by trying it firsthand. Continue reading “How to overcome the Culture Shock abroad”

The overseas culture shock

Culture shock for new immigrants abroad

“The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water moulds itself to the pitcher” ~Chinese Proverbs

The culture shock is the feeling of anxiety and emotional discomfort that an immigrant suffers when moving to another country or another place with very different culture, customs and social environment.

No matter how open minded we are, it is hard to ignore the differences around us when we first venture out to a foreign land. Be it as a student or as an immigrant, the vast difference in culture and customs is a part of the new encounters, and the early experiences in a new land.

The surroundings and the social settings of the new country are always dramatically different for a newcomer. Everything that was once taken for granted in home country is up for recalibration: the language, the accent, the skin color, the dress code,…. Everything is new; everything is different. The system works differently; the food is not the same, the traffic laws are confusing…

All of a sudden, our own way of life, our own way of speaking and our own customs become a foreign concept in the new land. This radical change and the sudden differences everywhere in the new country is what we call the culture shock.

This culture shock basically comes from the significant differences in the cultural and social settings as one migrates from one place to another. These resulting effects of all this could include anxiety, confusion, lack of direction, the feeling of not knowing what to do, or how to do things in a new country…. Not knowing what is appropriate or inappropriate, what is accepted and not accepted etc. are the daily dilemmas.

Migrating to another country is an adventure that involves many ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ – the culture shock being one the very first ‘downs’. 🙁

The feelings and symptoms of culture shock: This mental and emotional phase of confusion from culture shock comes with many new feelings. Depending on the personal tolerance or attitude, the feelings may include: Continue reading “The overseas culture shock”

Crossing the language barrier abroad!

“The language barrier is probably the most difficult and takes the longest to overcome.” ~ Stephen Lee

Most of the times, the phrase ‘Language barrier’ refers to the difficulties people face during communicating if they don’t speak the same language; or if the speech or accent is too different to communicate effectively.
Almost everyone who ventures out to the worlds far-far away, the language barrier is one of the many hurdles encountered in the new land. For people migrating from India, even though they speak and understand English in most of the cases, the communication problems still exist. The fact is that spoken English in America or other Western countries is not the same as in India. The style, the slang, the acceptable norms…everlasting is different. One is bound to feel out of place in the beginning of the overseas journey.

The key issues surrounding the language barrier and the best ways to approach or alleviate them are:

The language knowledge: Knowledge of the English language is the most important step toward adjusting and adapting to the English speaking culture and society. The understanding of grammar and a sound knowledge of vocabulary are necessary to build a reliable foundation for any language. For people from India, this is not a major issue because most of us learn English in the school and have a good command of the language itself.

The ‘thick’ accent: The accent is natural; this is how we talk and speak in our native country growing up. The Indian accent of English –commonly called ‘thick’ accent- is very different from the way they speak English overseas. While there are ways to soften the accent or dramatically reduce it by practice and with conscious effort, it takes time to lose the accent. For details on this topic, refer to the previous post titled ‘A self-help guide to lose your accent!’. Continue reading “Crossing the language barrier abroad!”

Do you ‘think’ in your mother tongue?

The ‘unconscious adaption’ to the foreign culture and language.

When the mind is thinking it is talking to itself. ~ Plato

sxc_man_thinkingI talk to myself all the times, I always have. Bigger the dilemma, more I talk; this is also another way of my brainstorming and mulling over new ideas.

Be it a thinking out loud or in whispers or in silence, thinking is part of being human. Thinking and logic is what separates us from the animals. We all think, it is a part of our problem solving nature.

For those living overseas or away from the place of your childhood, do you ‘think’ in your mother tongue or the adopted foreign/new language?

Back home in India, my train of thought was always in my mother tongue. It was natural; speaking the same language as my brain, thinking something and then saying it loud during the conversation. It was automatic -without noticeable delays.

And then, I came to America. 🙂

When I first came here, I recall that I continued to think in my mother tongue, even when talking to my American colleagues – in a meeting at work or any other social settings. I used to think in my mother tongue, and then I would translate my thoughts it into English for the verbal exchange. At times it slowed me down; It was no longer automatic. I used to re-phrase a lot. This is how it was; I never thought it would change much.

However, lately I find myself thinking in English more and more often. Continue reading “Do you ‘think’ in your mother tongue?”

NRI Tips: Key hurdles to overseas adaptation and adjustment!

NRI Tips:  The habits that hinder our adaptation abroad

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” ~ Maria Robinson

Migration from India to a foreign land is often considered a grueling process, probably one of the hardest thing ever for a new NRI; right?
Not really, it is just the start :). Once we get to our new destination abroad, -USA or Canada or England…- the things are not as we imagined. As mentioned before in NRIs and India diaspora – the key challenges abroad!’, the most difficult part is adjusting to the new society, the new culture; and then building a career that matches our professional background and education.
Why is it that so many of Indians find it so hard to adjust abroad? Even after years, we feel strangers in the land that is dubbed a ‘melting pot’ of multi-culture society.

One of the key reasons for our failure to adjust, even after years, is the isolation from the American society and western culture; our inability to adapt to the local language and norms. Many of us find it hard to carry on a real conversation with locals; the conversation that involves local slang and local style.
Here are some of the main reasons that hinder a desi immigrant from being a ‘Roman while in Rome’; the key habits that won’t let us adapt to overseas’  life:

1. Self isolation:This is a natural tendency of early days in foreign land that becomes a habit, a habit of hiding from everybody and everything that is not India; living in an Indian bubble. If our social circle and desi passé speak no English,- not the kind they speak on the street anyways- there is very little hope for a quick adaptation to the new place. Continue reading “NRI Tips: Key hurdles to overseas adaptation and adjustment!”

O Karma! Where Art Thou?

As she has planted, so does she harvest; such is the field of karma.~Sri Guru Granth Sahib, The Holi Book of Sikh Religion

Me and my karma often talk to each other. Well actually, I do most of the talking.  And, I hope and wish that my karma listens to my one way communications, at least once in a while!

‘The karma has a mysterious way of responding’, so I was are taught. I have never been able to figure out how it works. Our karma is the result of our actions – good or bad; but when, where and how will you see those results is a not a planned outcome, as far as I can tell from my own experience!

To solve these mysteries of my karma, I have tried some out-of-the-box ideas for a long time. I even once befriended a Punjabi dude with the same name – Karma. However, I found out that my karma had nothing to do with my new friend,  so we have drifted apart since. Now and then, I still get calls from him, some times in the middle of the night, due to time difference between Jalandhar and Chicago. He mostly calls me to ask for more money; “it will ‘clean’ my karma and make it better”, he says. I tried it a few times a while back, but I did not win any lottery; nor did it help me with any other stuff that would prove this ‘karma cleaning’!

Since I came to USA,  I have realized that my overseas karma is no sharper or better than what it was back in India. Everybody used to tell me, “Going to America is a sign of good kismat and good karma”. So, I thought my good karma would follow the glory of my new NRI status. However, I am not-so-happy to report that the whole thing, – this going to America – may be a bit over-hyped. My karma has been quite sluggish, especially during the first few years of my farang experiences. Just like most of the new-comers, I have had my share of overseas hurdles and challenges.. Continue reading “O Karma! Where Art Thou?”