Desi fundas 101: Education – a fundamental driver of Indian success abroad

The big red letters on the front of our school used to read, in two languages:
In Punjabi: “Vidhya insaan di teesari akh hai!”
In Hindi: “Vidhya insaan ki teesari aankh hai!”

Meaning: Education (or knowledge) is the 3rd eye for a person.

Growing up, we all knew that some of the rules should not and could not be questioned; rules like:

  • Respect your books. Stepping on a book, even by mistake is a sin. A book never belongs under your feet.
  • Education is your priority number one.
  • Respect your teachers….

Continue reading “Desi fundas 101: Education – a fundamental driver of Indian success abroad”

How to improve your communication skills

Communications – the ability to share and exchange ideas and thoughts – consist of a wide range of skills. You cannot be a good communicator just by being a better speaker, or just by being a good listener.

And, if the conversation or exchange is not in your mother tongue (the first language) – such as some one from India living abroad – it takes some extra efforts to be good at it. For improving your communications skills, here are some of the main areas to consider :

Know what you are talking about: A communications or an exchange of ideas or the conversation is hollow and empty if it has no substance. Subject-matter knowledge helps with a meaningful discourse. And, if it is just a friendly ‘chat about nothing’ – the small talk – that can also be improved, just read on!

Be a good listener: Listening is the first and foremost part of the communication. It helps with understanding the topic of discussion (‘Know what you are talking about’ – the step above). A good listener also earns the respect or the speakers and is always in-tune with the discussion. For details on improving this skill, refer to the article titled ‘how to improve the listening skills.’ The importance of listening is highlighted in a separate article linked here.

Improve verbal communications: Along with listening skills, equally important is the ability to deliver the message – the talking part. A good command of the language, a good vocabulary and ability to effectively speak are the desired attributes for being good at verbal communication. Those with mother-tongue (the first language) different than the communication language often struggle in this sector. If English is your second language, or if you need to improve your accent in the new language, make sure to consider the tips and suggestion in the article titled, ‘A self-help guide to lose your accent.Continue reading “How to improve your 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”

How to change a perception

How to change others’ perceptions about you!

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” ~ Warren Buffett

“My boss thinks I am lazy!”
“Well, you are always last to the office in the morning.”
“But, I am always last to leave in the evening.”
“Yeah, but she is already gone by then, she wouldn’t know that.”
“I seriously need to do something to change her perception about me!”

Perception is you mind’s eye:
A perception is how we ‘see’ something or someone in our own mind. The common beliefs or assumptions play a role in the existing perception. Based on many factors including social and environmental surroundings, this is the way our brain ‘perceives’ something or someone. True or false, a strong perception is no less than the real truth. This is how we see things in our ‘mind’s eye’.
Once established in our brain, a perception becomes a part of our thinking, a part of our life; it is hard to change.

How to change the perceptions:
So, how do you change others’ perception about you?
Some perceptions are easy to change. For example, in the conversation above, the boss has a perception about one of her employees of being lazy. That perception can be easily changed by being proactive, by showing up to the office before anybody else does EVERYDAY. Note that to change a perception, you have to be consistent -again and again.

The most effective way to change a perception is to prove it – the perception- wrong consistently. Show everybody that what they believe is very different from the reality. Here are a few common approaches for changing a perception

Create awareness: Let everyone around you know that what they perceive is not true. Share the facts; share the information to prove your side. Nobody denies the facts – unless you are dealing with someone whose mind is already made-up no matter what; in that case, it is not a perception but a deep rooted bias and prejudice. Continue reading “How to change a perception”

The problem with Positive Thinking!

Theory of ‘Positive Thinking’ is fundamentally flawed!

Everybody is preaching ‘Positive Thinking’ these days. You probably receive these fancy quotes and messages in your email. Positive thinking is a fashion now.

Imagine that you are very sick and every part of your body hurts; you are in constant pain, and have no energy to even move. However, a medicine-man tells you to keep smiling and stay positive….
A single mother loses her job, her only means of income for her family. A motivational speaker tells her not to worry, not to be depressed; …. Everything will be okay…..
You are falling off a cliff. Well, don’t worry about your skull about to be crushed. Think positive!!….

Are you kidding me?
Stay positive and be optimistic all the time? Keep smiling even when I know that things are bad, and about to get worse?…

It seems like we are trying to find every excuse in the book to avoid the reality. Instead of facing the true situation, the advice is to ignore it –‘look at the beautiful sun-rise, isn’t it beautiful? Don’t worry even if you are not doing well! Just admire the nature- the moon, the stars, the rainbow…!!’
How could you think about the sun-rise if your own world is tumbling down?

The sad truth is that the reality of our mortal existence does not guarantee a rosy season all the time. Along with the sunny days, we are bound to encounter some storms, may be many more storms and cloudy days. That is how it is; just look around yourself, you can find many examples in your everyday life.

The fact is, you cannot stay positive all the time. You and I – all of us- are bound to go through highs and lows of life. So is the nature of the world; so is the life.

We – all of us – always have something to worry about. Even the kings worry constantly. Bigger thrones have bigger problems – more worries. That is how the world works. You cannot be happy ALL the time. If you are happy all the time, underline this – there is something wrong with your head. Continue reading “The problem with Positive Thinking!”

Life after Diwali

How to handle the after-Diwali blues! 🙁

“The past is behind, learn from it.
The future is ahead, prepare for it.
The present is here, live it.”
~ Thomas Monson

The Diwali celebrations are over. It is about time to clean-up the remains of the burnt candles, put away the party supplies, tidy up the kitchen and rest of the house….

The left-over sweets and treats are disappearing, at least the tastier ones. The festivities are over; back to reality!

For those of us who are lucky to get Diwali holidays or time off, the vacation is over. The kids have to focus back on the school and deal with the burden of homework once again. The grown-up are heading back to work; the boring and monotonous routine of 9 to 5 jobs resumes. It is a struggle every morning to get out of the bed and face the new day.

Welcome to the real world again, the daily grind!

With the winter knocking on the door, it is not uncommon to go through this depressing cycle and mood swings after Diwali celebrations.

Now, how can you boost your spirits again? What can we do to minimize the Diwali nostalgia?

Well, to help deal with this post Diwali syndromes, there are a few adjustments we can make in our thinking and the attitude. To help with the after Diwali blues, here are some of the changes you may want to focus on:

1. Thank God it is quiet again: Think about it. Now that it is all over, you can finally take a break from all the running around. No more chaos; no more decorations to worry about; no more cooking the special feasts. The deafening sound of loud music and fireworks is a past history. Continue reading “Life after Diwali”

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”

10 Simple but useful life lessons from Gandhi

Simple but very useful tips from Gandhi’s life

It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi

Today is Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday. On this day, here are a few simple lessons that we can learn from his journey and his life:

1. Believe in the power of simple logic: Want to succeed in something? – Then work hard for it. Want to get something done? -Just do it! We complicate our lives for no reason. Keep it simple!

2. Let go of the ego: Our ego is our worst enemy sometimes, well, most of the times. We are not so special all the time 🙂 ! What we think of ourselves is not always what others think of us. We should always try to stay grounded and be humble.

3. Discipline in diet to control/lose weight: Looking for a way to maintain healthy weight? According to most of the studies done, the body weight is most dependent on our eating and dietary habits. Have a will-power to say no to the food, especially the yummy ones! Find a cause and fast for it, like Gandhi did! May be not to the same extremes, but you got the idea, right? 🙂

4. Be kind and caring: Don’t bully anybody; be kind to one and all. Don’t harm others – humans or animals; don’t hurt anyone’s feelings…. All this is also good for our own peace of mind. It keeps everybody around us happy, and makes us more conscious as a human being. Continue reading “10 Simple but useful life lessons from Gandhi”

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!”

Fight Procrastination Day – Do Something!

“Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week.” ~Spanish Proverb

Today is the day to stop and fight procrastination

Okay, today I cannot procrastinate. There is no way, not today!
Every First Wednesday of September is ‘celebrated’ as Fight Procrastination Day. Today is the best day to get my acts together and start working on the projects and things I have been postponing for ever, today is the day to find ways to stop procrastination. I am already feeling good about myself….

There are many things I have been lazy about. I guess the best approach would be to make a list of all those tasks and attack them one by one without any further excuses.
BTW, can’t they come up with a smaller word? It takes for ever to type it…no wonder I am lazy about…you know this long word… proc..
Anyways, without further delay, let me put together a list of things-to-do that have been sitting on the side for too long:

Exercise: I am always lazy about going to gym. I need to find a way to break this bad habit. But, I have been under the weather a little since yesterday. It is probably a better idea not to stress my body any more, and rest and relax. I will resume it as soon as I feel up to it, I promise, most likely by this week-end.

Organize the office: The things are all over the place in my office. The books, different gadgets, half full boxes of all kinds of mail that I never emptied…. The drawers need organizing; there are charge-cables all over. I need to get this going. Let us slate it for the week-end, because this could take some time!

Clean the garage: I cannot dare to start this one right now. I am not sure how long it will take, or what else I am going to stumble into in there. This is not one project, but many projects hidden under the mess. Need almost half day. So, may be this week-end. Yes, this week-end, for sure.

The garden fix-up:Need to trim the plants in the backyard; many areas need mulch and weed-control spray. I will certainly work on it once the weather gets better. It was so hot until last week, and now it is chilly all of a sudden. The week-end is supposed to be nice and sunny, so I can plan for then.

Organize the bills and papers: The mail and papers are every where – the kitchen table, living room, office and some even in the bedroom. This could get very time consuming, will do it first thing on the week-end.

Okay, these are the main things. I have my list to fight procrastination:

Things-to-do List:
Exercise: Start this week-end
Organize the office: This week-end
Clean the garage: This week-end
The garden fix-up: This week-end
Organize the bills and papers: This week-end.. Continue reading “Fight Procrastination Day – Do Something!”

10 Tips on English pronunciation and accent improvement!

Key tips on English pronunciation and accent improvement for people from India:

This post focuses on the specific difficulties that people from India encounter when speaking English, or during pronunciations of certain parts of English speech. For overall accent reduction and how to lose your accent, refer to the posts at the bottom of this article.

Based on common observations by everybody and feedback, here are some of the main problem areas, along with the tips to improve them:

1. The pronunciation of ‘Rs’, ‘Ts’, ‘Ds’ is not clear or hard to understand/distinguish:

‘T’ sounds almost like ‘D’: In some parts of American/Europe Pronunciation of ‘t’ is supposed to be less crisp. It should sounds more like a ‘d’ in many cases, especially between vowels. Katie is pronounced almost like KaDie, water like waDer.

R’ pronunciation: There are varying observations on the sound of ‘R’:

-Let the sound of R flow; don’t put too much stress on this sound especially in the middle or in the end of a word.

-Don’t totally chewing up the sound of ‘R’ in other cases. Practice the stress on this sound, and listen to how your American/English friends use it. In ‘Robert’, the stress is on first R; let the second ‘r’ flow, without any pronounced stress.

2. ‘Vs’ and ‘Ws’ sound: This is a common problem for many Asians and Europeans, so don’t take it personally. There is a clear difference between ‘w’ and ‘v’ sounds. Even though most of Indians understand the difference, the distinction is often not carried out in spoken English. Let us try this:

For the sound of ‘v’, place lower lip gently on the upper teeth and say the word. Don’t press it hard, you should be able to exhale through, while making the sound. Most of us find this hardest to get used to.

For ‘w’ sound, it’s a different than ‘v’, the lips are supposed to be rounded and puckered like when we say ‘u’, and with no contact between the teeth and tongue. Move your lips in the forward direction as you vocalize the sound.

-The key distinction between the w/v sound and the ‘B’ sound is the fact that the lips are closed when we start to vocalize ‘B’. Continue reading “10 Tips on English pronunciation and accent improvement!”

How to break a bad habit!

Tips: Self help on how to break a habit or change an addictive routine

For those who are working on accent improvement, or struggling with Internet addiction, or trying to quit any other old habit  that is affecting the quality of work and life…..:

A habit is a behavior that we regularly repeat, often without thinking much about it. Over time, our brain gets used to the routine, repeating it unconsciously. Smoking, playing video games, watching TV, net surfing – excessive use of any of these can become a habit or addiction. Once a habit is developed, it becomes a part of our daily life, it is hard to get away from it.
To break a habit or to minimize an addictive behavior is not easy. It is not something we can do overnight. While we can start the process of breaking a habit anytime we like, the harder part is to keep it that way for good – to break the routine permanently.
Here are the basic considerations to break a habit:
Willpower: The very first requirement is willpower, the desire to give-up something that is negatively affecting the quality of life or work. Without willpower and determination, one cannot overcome a habit permanently.
Be sincere- to yourself: Most of the problems get solved if we can put in a sincere effort to fix them. Be sincere and honest to yourself. After all, you are not trying to change other people’s perception about you; you are trying to change yourself, the behavior itself. Continue reading “How to break a bad habit!”

Stretch your goals…land somewhere!

“You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” ~Yogi Berra

Consciously or unconsciously, we are setting new goals everyday. We always have a wishlists, targets, milestones and things to accomplish.
Some of the goals are simple and straightforward:

  • Lose weight: lose those few extra pounds from last winter
  • Quit smoking: Give up smoking in next 6 months
  • Finish MBA studies in next 2 years….

Then, there are other goals that look easy on the surface:

  • Drink less coffee
  • Play with kids more often
  • Spend more time with family
  • Sing only in the shower…..

These goals are equally, or may be more important. Many times, some of the better goals are left vague, not fully defined. These goals are easy to miss, because they are easy to justify, in case we fail to meet them.

But, there are some goals which we don’t set often enough, or don’t consider them seriously. Continue reading “Stretch your goals…land somewhere!”

Job search Tips: How to look for a Job effectively!

Job opening leads and searching for reliable job:

“Never turn down a job because you think it’s too small; you don’t know where it can lead” ~ Julia Morgan

The jobs are scarce in today’s economy. The good jobs are even harder to find. There is too much noise, too many misleading advertisements on dream jobs that don’t exist. Based on various sources including a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics division of the U.S. Department of Labor, here are the key resources for job search:

Personal contacts: Many of the job openings are never advertised. Talk to your friends, family, neighbors and others; tell them that you are looking for a job. They may be able to help with the new leads and even recommendations. Find ways to network and advertise yourself among peers and the community.

School career planning and placement offices: Placement officers in schools and colleges can be very helpful in finding jobs. They have lots of resources at their hands to help in this area including possible lists of open jobs, career counseling, aptitude testing and job search advice. Some of them also have career resource libraries and may host workshops on job search strategy, resume writing and effective interviewing.

Employers: One of the effective way to find reliable job openings is to go straight to the source. Contact the company or business directly. If an employer is on your wish-list, find out if they are hiring. Contact their HR department. Send them your resume and follow up; show sincere interest in working for them.

Classified ads: There are lots of commercials and advertisement about job openings. The main sources of classified ads include:

  • National and local newspapers
  • Professional journal
  •  Trade magazines
  • Library and other local bulletin boards

Continue reading “Job search Tips: How to look for a Job effectively!”

30 Tips on the art of small talk!

Communications Tips (NRI and ESL Tips): Small Talk – how to carry-on a conversation effectively.

“Conversation should touch everything, but should concentrate itself on nothing.” ~ Oscar Wilde

I have written before on the importance of small talk . Small talk is a conversation, chit-chat or an informal discussion without any specific topic or subject. Small talk generally is not a problem if we are among our family and friends; there is always something to talk about. However, once we step into a wider social circle, it may become challenging at times to keep the conversation going or even start a conversation. Here are some of the tips on how to avoid uncomfortable situations, and carry on a small talk in all types of social settings:

1. Be a good listener: Pay attention and listen to what others are talking about. Good listening provides additional understanding about the people we are communicating with.

2. Introduce yourself if needed: Introduce yourself first, especially if you are in a new to the gathering, party or event.

3. Take queue from other’s conversation: This helps with the continuity of the discussion.

4. Ask questions…small ones: Questions or clarifications are important to understand the others involved in the conversation. The questions could be about the discussion going on, or general questions to ‘get-to-know’ the company. Continue reading “30 Tips on the art of small talk!”