Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Concept of "India Time"

Prior to my first visit to India I was made aware of something called "India Time." It seems that although Indians are mad for a good wrist watch (they love Fossil) they don't use it as a tool to ensure they are on time. For anything...

A good friend of mine from India initially explained the "India Time" concept with the following example: "If I call you and tell you I'm in the lobby of your hotel, that means you should start getting ready because I haven't left my house yet and I should be there in 1-2 hours." My response "Why don't you just call me and tell me you're leaving your house and will be to my hotel in 1-2 hours." His response: "This is India."

While spending time there I quickly adapted to this concept and loved the laid back approach. If I told someone I'd meet them at 1pm, I'd leave the hotel at 1pm and begin my long trek across the city. If I was an hour or two late, no one called demanding to know when I'd reach my destination. If you approach it correctly, it can be quite relaxing.

Pairing the "India Time" concept with "Instant Gratification" expectation in the US, however, can be quite unnerving. My most recent example involved a communication roadblock between myself and the individual providing me with the documentation I needed to file my Visa application. She told me repeatedly "I have sent your documents and you should be receiving them accordingly." To me, that means she sent my docs and I should have them. Now. To her it meant something else. I may never fully understand what that phrase means to her as several days passed in which I received that very same message yet no documents appeared. Additionally, when I asked when I should expect to receive my documents, the answer was always "Shortly." This went on for weeks. I compare it to someone telling me they are in the lobby of my hotel, then not even having left their house yet. Why would you say that, if it's not true? Conversely, I'm sure she was wondering what this rude American was up to being so demanding. Hadn't she made it clear that my documents would arrive "Shortly?"

I think either side of the equation is perfectly acceptable, as long as the other party is on the same side of the fence. From my current American perspective, it was maddening. I am happy to report, however, that today I received the documentation necessary to complete my Visa application, and in turn immediately shipped it off for processing. Now let's just hope the Indian Consulate has adopted an American approach of instant gratification rather then operating on "India Time."

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