Every country has a culture – the way things are done, how people think and more. To succeed with another country, it makes sense to first understand their culture – that way, we can adapt to it.
Cultural misunderstanding is at the core of our lack of trade and diplomatic connectivity with India.
The importance of cross-cultural understanding is not about focusing on “difference” – it is about knowing what those differences are, so we can then ADAPT our behaviour. Further, cross-cultural analysis is not claiming one view to be right and the other wrong.
Consider what the academics call “absolutism vs relativism” – we in the west are absolutist so we place all our energy on contracts, project plans and we never like surprises. India is a relativist culture, so it knows things can only be defined relatively, and whatever we decide upon will change as life inevitably changes. You can see how these two differing world views create problems for us.
The absolutist thinker puts rules above relationships – while the relativist thinker places relationship way above rules. Knowing this, we can adapt.
Also look at western “individualist” culture and compare with India’s “collectivist” culture. The west empowers individuals to make decisions, whereas in a collective culture, decisions are made by the group and can take more time. Not such a problem when you understand it.
Plus consider that the west is called a “specific” culture while India is “diffuse”. What does this mean? The westerner is direct, open and always in a rush – cannot stay for dinner. The Indian prefers to be indirect, works around an issue rather than confronting it, takes time, wants you to stay for dinner and never says “no” even when that is the right answer, preferring the often misunderstood “I will try”.
With these differences and many more, whether we are Indian or western, if we train to understand and ADAPT to the difference, we face much better prospects of success.