Tuesday, September 19, 2006

International Man

Well my current freelance position has put me square in the middle of the latest U.S. employment trend: outsourcing. Only, as I've blogged about before, I've been outsourced in reverse. Or in triplicate, as the work I'm doing was sent from here to India and then back here, to me.

Anyhoo. The man I am working directly with is not a bad fellow, although he is a good tester of my cultural adaptability and my patience. Cultural adaptability in that there are many times that I need to work a little harder to understand him, and vice-versa, and patience in that he has none. And when I say he has no patience I mean that if you wait one beat before responding to him on the telephone, he says "Hello! Hello!" and if a computer program isn't loading fast enough he's all "oh god oh god oh god shit shit shit oh god oh god" in rapid-fire staccato succession. He also gets upset if you show the slightest bit of frustration when he's explaining something, even if he is doing it without the, how shall I put this -- the niceties you might use here in the States.

He also talks v.v.v.v.v.v. fast and explains things 500 different ways that could be explained once and talks over people and is quite excitable. And I think he's pretty lonely, because he told me last week "In India, we walk to the train and take it together" and now he leaves at the same time I do every day, or tells me when to leave, and then as we are walking together he asks me questions about how much to tip the taxi driver, where the banks are, and can I take his picture by Copley? All of which I am happy to oblige.

Finally, his wife was sick for a while, with jaundice. In India, most marriages are arranged, and his was as well. I was on the phone with cousin Molls the other night and she made an amusing remark along the lines of "Here is your wife. So sorry she's yellow."

Overall I would say the job is going well, and I am sure there are many irritating things that I and other Americans do (like, say, acting like the big bad boss of the whole entire world) that drive people in other countries crazy.



Blogger Teri said...

I relate.

A few years ago I was doing this self-discovery class, and one of the other attendees was an Indian fellow. (Older guy, looked like Gandhi, which made it easier to love him than, say, the outsourced tech support guy you get on the horn when your DSL is on the fritz...)

Anyway, one of the exercises in the class was to stand face to face with a randomly assigned person, and just be with that person and look into his/her eyes for a full minute. Well, didn't I get Gandhi. He was a head shorter than I and smelled like curry. (No joke.)

But it was very cool, because I truly began to see this person as somebody's father, somebody's son, a dear person to someone -- a dear person period. Any cultural assumptions I might have made evaporated and to this day I think of that experience when cultural differences make me uncomfortable. (and/or ashamed.)

Furthermore, when the class let out for a break, I of course bee-lined it to a remote location for a smoke. (Again with the shame. It always intruigued me how smoking made me feel repulsive and invincible at the same time.) The Indian man followed me (wasn't he repulsed, what with his vegetarianism and such?) and we started chatting. He pulled out a baggie full of trail mix and offered me some. He said in his culture, it was traditional to offer your food to company before you eat any. Damn, I thought. So kind. How many other beautiful, kind traditions do I NOT know about? How many beautiful, kind traditions do we Americans extend?


7:42 PM, September 19, 2006

Blogger McPolack said...

I don't know that we have many beautiful, kind traditions in the US. I think we have bombs and Bushes. But also people like you and me and others who do their best to be kind.

And thank you for letting me know of that custom with the food -- you know, he brought me a yogurt one day, because he was going to be eating one in front of me. Yesterday was his birthday, so I brought him some brownies. He was very happy.

9:41 PM, September 21, 2006


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