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Initial Impressions-Jon Melgaard

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Everything that I have heard or read about India and much more has proven to be true. The most striking aspect of India that I saw was its poverty. During our bus tour of Delhi, we saw stray dogs, people urinating in the streets, and even a corpse being carried down the road. I can't even imagine living this reality everyday. We drove by a block of slums that supposedly 100,000 people inhabited. There was no definition of housing with narrow alleys protruding from crumbling structures. Homelessness was very apparent as several public areas were covered in tents.


Driving proved to be quite interesting. Lane lines are guidelines that are rarely followed as buses, cars, rickshaws, and people weave in and out of the streets. I was first shocked by the incredible use of horns, but soon realized that people use them much more freely here to simply inform other drivers that they are there.


I have had the pleasure of interacting with several Indian people. They are very kind and courteous. They are always offering more food or beverages and are very generous. They are just as interested in us as are in them. Several people asked to take pictures with us. Even when I was walking around by myself looking at ruins, a few people were following me with cameras. Even on the street people stared at us.


I was a little weary about how I would like the food here but I have really enjoyed it! I have stepped out of my comfort zone and tried something I normally wouldn't have. I have been eating a lot of chicken and sampling several types of curry and love fresh nan. I haven't drank anything that hasn't been bottled just incase my body would react poorly.


In conclusion, my first culture shock has been quite intense. It is hard for me to accept the realities that people live their lives in these environments everyday. If anything, my experiences have definitely appreciate how blessed I am back home. 

Too Indian to be American, Too American to be Indian

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My current impressions of India are based off of my personal experiences as well as some of my own pre-enrollment research. However, I find it difficult at times that, having grown up in two vastly different cultures, I am expected to be an expert on both. The harsh reality is that I don't know enough about either and most of my "smarts" can be chalked up to the "street" category rather than "book." The following represents what I currently know about India and how it shapes my expectations for our upcoming trip.

I think it's safe to say that out of my classmates, I have the most experience with Indian culture. However, India is a LARGE country with MANY subcultures, and my knowledge is limited. That being said, I know that India has many "official" languages, the two most common being English and Hindi. I can speak, understand, read, and write Hindi proficiently, but I have a feeling that with the locations we are visiting, I won't really need this skill. Even more dormant will be my knowledge of the Punjabi language and culture (except maybe with an auto-rickshaw driver in Dehli). Almost all of my time in India has been spent north of Delhi; the furthest south I have been is Bombay, and even there they mostly speak English. I know that the extent of my background could be very helpful in Delhi, but in Agra and Bangalore, I will be just as much of a tourist as any of my other classmates (unless of course there is a pop quiz on the national anthem...then I win again)!

As far as religion, I know that Hinduism is common nationwide, Sikhism is popular in the northwest, Islam is sprinkled throughout the country, and Christianity is more popular in the south. When it comes to cuisine, I have to say I stick to my roots and truly enjoy north Indian dishes. However, I do know of some south Indian dishes that might be fun to try in Bangalore. Economically, I know little to nothing about India besides the currency and the fact that it is RAPIDLY changing. I haven't been in 7 years, and I know I will be extremely surprised to see how far even the Delhi airport has come since then. When it comes to entertainment, I love Bollywood movies and music, and I perform Bollywood and Bhangra (Punjabi) dancing, but never anything classical.

In other basic knowledge, I know not to look anyone in the eye that is a) older than me, b) a male, or c) a stranger.  I know that my shoes, clothes, and skin will get dirty beyond belief, and I know it's probably a good idea to carry a toilet paper substitute and hand sanitizer at all times. I know that I'll want chai everywhere we go, and it will be readily available at every corner. I'm well aware that for at least one day, I will be on-my-death-bed ill, and then I'll immediately bounce back. I know I'll have to keep being reminded to guard my purse with my life at all times, and I know I'll be picked out by the locals as an "American" the second I step foot off the plane.

That all being said, there's one more thing that I know about India, and it's probably the most important: I don't know enough. I'm incredibly excited to go on this trip because it means something to me personally; I get to learn about my cultural roots first-hand. I am traveling with and open mind and using my prior experience merely as a guide. Most Americans classify me as Indian, and most Indians classify me as American, but I'm going to try to use this conundrum to the best of my ability on this trip.

47 days to go!

India my (likely) Misperception

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   What do I know about India. Actually almost nothing. When I read the blog assignment and began to think about what I currently knew about India I realized it was shockingly little for a country that I was planning on visiting. I also realized that much of what I know is likely a misperception of the truth that is largely biased based on my Western perspective. 
   From my current understanding India is the largest democracy on the earth. There is however a large amount of corruption in the government. Most of India speaks Hindi although there is also a huge diversity of native languages. I also believe that India is largely Hindu but there is also some Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity. I also have heard of Bollywood which is a Hindi language based cinema center similar to Hollywood in some aspects. There is also the cast system that while it is technically illegal it is still visible throughout many aspects of Indian Culture. I have also heard that although India has many poor people it also has the largest middle class on earth, and it is still growing dramatically. 
   I expect I will probably be pretty tired an jet lagged immediately after getting to India. I think that I will be able to recuperate from that quickly. I have also heard that New Delhi is quite hot so I certainly expect that to be different than typical Minnesota May weather. I also am not thrilled about being required to wear pants in such hot weather but I'm sure I will be able to adapt to a certain degree. I really have no clue what to expect with cultural differences. I think it is likely that there will certainly be some cultural differences that I will have to adapt to but at this point I do not know what they are. Overall I am really looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about India.

India as I know it...or don't know it?

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Honestly, when thinking about my first impressions of India, I think back to when I was about six and the movie "The Little Princess" came out.  It was one of my favorites; the little British girl who was the protagonist lived most of her life in India -- now what I would understand to be in a British colony of India -- but she created a colorful, magical image of the place.  Even though it was over 18 years ago since it came out, the images of tigers and elephants, warm colors contrasted with girls dressed in perfectly white linen still stick out in my mind.  

Feel free to take a look at what my "first impression" was of India.  I wrote the above section before having watched these clips.  I watch it now after so long and squirm a little bit at the cultural exaggerations and the simplistic dimension in which such a large country is presented.  However while listening to Sarah speak in the second clip, I realized that some of the elements that Sarah mentions are things that I am so much looking forward to experiencing.  How much of what she talks about comes from some sort of truth?  I have been told that the smells and the colors of India are something that one only experiences there and are unlike anything in North America.  The heat and humidity are among some of these elements that I can only try to imagine, along with more modern things like their traffic 'patterns' and what the cities themselves will look like.  I even find myself thinking about how different the airlines might be in India when we travel from Delhi to Bangalore.  Truthfully, I am unsure of what to expect.  Not having had any exposure to the history of India or to Indian politics, I feel like I have so much to catch up on before we leave.  The book that I am reading for the course, India Becoming, describes modernisation in a way that depicts urban development since the 1990s as if it was dropped out of the sky or rolled out like a rug overnight.  I am curious to see the intersections of development and more traditional India.  Will there still be an evident contrast now in 2013?  In what ways?  Is development as positive to people in India as I feel like it is generally believed to be in North America? 

Having previously studied anthropology, I am pulled towards the cultural dimensions of India.  However, I am very excited to consider these dimensions in relation with the business world and the advantages of understanding culture in the context of commerce.  Seeing that I am relatively new to the field of business, I think it will be a prime opportunity for me to consider where I might fit in in an international firm someday.  

I realize my overview is cast in a rose-colored light, and I don't mean to appear naive, but I know the two weeks will be over before I have the chance to recognize it.  After having lived abroad in Spain and Canada, I am more excited to experience a greater cultural contrast in India than I have before and look forward to how these experiences may help me to understand about where I come from and where I will go in the future. 

Initial Impressions of India

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            Thinking about India, three things come up in my mind; curry, yoga, Mahatma Gandhi. I like curry very much, so I have known that the origin of curry since I was little. I tried yoga several times, but my body wasn't flexible enough to follow up my yoga instructor. I learned about Gandhi during my world history class when I was in middle school. I have to confess that I don't know many things about India. However, as a business major student, I have heard the importance of India as a growing country. I am aware of that India is going to be a big market because of its population. Furthermore, India is very attractive outsourcing country due to its highly educated workforce and compatible wages.


                Recently, I read about India whenever I see a title contains 'India'. Unfortunately, I read a lot about rape issues. It is not the problem only India has, but it might be deeply related to women's status in India. Even in western countries, inequality of men and women is often controversial. I think it will be interesting to see how it differs in India.  


                One more thing I know about India is that Indian movie is very long; at least 2 hours of playing time. I can't name the movie, but I watched one Indian movie several years ago. The movie was about a young daughter and dad, who lost wife. It was about 3 hours long, and the actors were singing and dancing quiet often. It was almost like a musical. I know the term Bollywood because India produces as many movies as Hollywood does. I indirectly experienced Indian culture, and street views through movie; it actually looked quite wealthy. Contrast to the movie, I also saw pictures of hungry Kids in India through WorldVison organization's magazine. The Kids looked very different from the girl I saw in the movie.


               I think that both kids are a true India, but I am not sure which side of India I will experience more closely. Finally the course started, and I am really looking forward to going to India. I might be able to enjoy curry, see people playing yoga, and feel the spirit of Gandhi during my visit. My shallow knowledge of India might not be valid anymore, or even wrong. I expect I can feel and understand India deeply through the visit.




Impressions of India

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My knowledge basis of India is very limited right now. All information I have comes from secondary sources like Bollywood movies my Indian friends have made me sit through or late night take-out ordered during finals week. One of my close friends (who lived in India for the first few years of his life) had an unsettling reaction when I told him where I would be spending two weeks in May. He gave me a sincere hug and said "don't die." I know he was mostly playing around, but the fact that my mother's response was not so different made me look into the violent crime rates. Needless to say, I am glad that we will be traveling with a group and staying on a university campus.

My father and stepmom have traveled to India several times each for business. They both described the heat, the dust, the traffic, the crowds and the ceaseless fervor. My stepmom told me about a time where she had to wait two hours to travel a couple of miles because there were a couple cows in the road. My friend has told me about the slums and how he returns from visiting his relatives with guilt over his American lifestyle. I have also traveled to impoverished countries before and I believe that those firsthand experiences give me an awareness that most people my age have not yet grasped.

As for the danger, I am really not worried - I am much too excited. After hearing a few of the etiquette differences in the business world, I am curious about observing those differences firsthand and adapting to them.  My impression of India is that it is a colorful and thriving mecca of culture. Its people survive in harsh conditions and its industry still manages to flourish on a global scale. 

Initial Impressions of India

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When I tell people that I will be studying abroad in India this May, many ask me why India? As the country with the second largest population on earth, India plays a large role in present and future global affairs. Although I do not know much about the country, I have always been interested in it.  One thing that always attracted me to India was its diverse culture.  Indians belong to many different religions, speak many different languages, and life is vastly different in the city than in rural areas.   I expect to see these differences as we travel from New Delhi to Bangalore. 

Much of what I know about India and its history draws from previous classes in high school and college.  In high school we read several novels set in India including Untouchables by Mulk Raj Anand. I learned that the caste system is very prominent in traditional Indian culture. The caste system segregates people into five different major groups, each with its own traditional hereditary occupation.  Brahmins have the highest social status whereas Untouchables have the lowest social status.   The Untouchables performed duties such as removing human waste and handling corpses. They were not allowed to worship in the temples with others and other castes often considered them contagious.  Unlike the class system in the United States, it was very difficult or even impossible for people to raise themselves out of the caste they were born into. Although the caste system is now banned, I know that discrimination is still present in India.  I am curious to see how life has changed for Indians with lower social ranking since the ban and expect to see elements of it while I am there.

I think that the hardest thing for me to get used to in India will be their emphasis on hierarchy.  I know that according to Hofstede's cultural dimensions, India scores very high on power distance.  In contrast, the United States prides itself on equality and I am personally a strong advocate for equal rights.  This different cultural approach to power will be difficult for me to understand and accept.  I am sure that I will observe this cultural difference as we visit different companies.  This is sure to be a life-changing experience for me.

The First Glance at India

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I admit I may have cheated a bit at the writing of this blog entry. Over spring break, I read through most of my assigned book for the class, India Becoming. I feel like I got some good insights from the book about what to expect. India has undergone a tremendous amount of growth in the last  several years, but much of it was unplanned, and as a result many of the urban areas we will visit can be chaotic, compounded by the summer heat. In the book, the author describes cities as generally having younger people with less strict traditions and some western habits, so I imagine many of the people we'll see in New Delhi and Bangalore will be close to our age, and while social norms will probably be different, I think the adjustment won't be that bad. However, I'm excited for far more than the people.

One thing I'm really looking forward to is the food. I really enjoy spicy foods. When I was in Arizona visiting my uncle, we met a friend of his from India, and she made us a curry chicken dish, which was fantastic. That was in 2008. Since then, I've wanted to try more Indian food, and now I'm going straight to the source!

Finally, I'm also looking forward to seeing how the IT industry has advanced itself in India. Being a professed tech nerd, I have a keen interest in seeing how some of the biggest tech names in the country do things on a day to day basis.

Initial Impressions Of India

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At this point in time I know next to nothing about the country of India.  What I do know is derived from Popular Culture such as movies, television, and books.  I have seen several Indian movies; Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire, and Aladdin and these have presented me with a representation of Indian culture and daily life that I am looking forward to seeing and experiencing for myself.  I have also read a couple of books based on Indian culture and about business practices in India.  The most important of which was called The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits by C.K. Pralahad.  The book discussed how the world's 5 billion poorest people represent the fastest growing market in the world, and that these people's suffering can be alleviated while at the same time bring global and domestic businesses profit.  It was an excellent book and because the majority of the case studies took place in India, it sparked my interest in India, and eventually played a strong role in my decision to enroll in this class.

                I think that the hardest difference to get used to while I am in India will be the various Indian Culture underpinnings that permeate their society; primarily the classic Eastern versus Western culture clash that we have discussed in class.  Everything from getting used to the food, to getting used to the temperature, all the way to the differences in business practices will take some time for me to accommodate.   Many Westerners find that trying to assimilate into Indian Culture and adjust to their way of life is very difficult and exasperating; I think that it will be no different for me.  Some of the things that I am more excited to learn about in the rest of class and during the time I spend in India are Religion, Social Structure, Art, and History.  I would like to learn about India from more of a Social Science perspective and then be able to apply all of that information into conducting business with people from the country of India.

Link to course file or websiteEast vs. West: They Myths that Mystify--TED video

First Impressions of India

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My initial impressions of India are very limited to movies and other people's stories/perspectives.  From this, I have deduced that India is a) very hot and b) very cramped.  To my knowledge, India has a billion people in their company.  That is crazy.  I can't begin to imagine how many people that is, especially in the area of land India has.  India has been growing rapidly not only in population, but in large business growth as well.  The amount of IT work that gets outsourced out to India is crazy, which is one of the reasons I am so excited to go to India seeing as I am an MIS major. 

                I am expecting a couple things out of India.  First is the heat.  I have a feeling that I am going to go through a ton of deodorant, as well as shower quite a bit just to clean off all of the sweat.  Second, I expect that the food will be nothing like I have ever had before.  I am really excited for this.  I have had some "Indian" food here in the US, but as with most American versions of foreign food, I expect the food from the home country to be quite different than we expect.   Last, I think that the interactions with the locals will be extremely interesting.  After watching the East vs. West TED talk, I hope that I will be able to note the similarities and differences of how we interact.


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