Work Place Cultural Differences, Eating Lunch and Dining While Living in India
Who would have thought that eating lunch would be such a unique adventure here in India. This time I’m not talking about the food…I am talking about basically every single piece of the lunch pie ASIDE from the actual food itself. Now I can’t be sure that my adventure is something that every Indian office worker experiences but I swear that it is completely different from anything I have experienced in all my (yes, long) years of working.
I am not the most organized person on the planet when it comes to keeping the refrigerator stocked and I can’t think of anything less likely to happen than for me to pack up food to take to work each day. It’s not going to happen. It’s a really smart thing to do, don’t get me wrong. It saves money and you can be sure you’ll love what you are eating. But I’ve just never done it. And the past 8 years in Barcelona I ate out every single day at work aside from the odd times when I’d grab food to eat at my desk in order to keep working. Depending on the location of the office, I was either eating at basically the same place every day, as was the case at the World Trade Center in Barcelona. Or when I worked in central Barcelona for a multimodal software company we went someplace different everyday – Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Catalan, Italian, Thai or Continental. It was fab!!
Generally speaking, every day we all drank wine or had a beer or a “clara” with lunch as well. Sometimes a couple of glasses if there were no meetings in the afternoon. But I have never so much as even seen someone drinking a caffeinated beverage here in the cantina. So you can only imagine that glass of Rioja is certainly out of the question here 🙂
At my new job in Bangalore things are done quite differently. Yesterday was my 2nd month anniversary at work and in those two months I have gone out to a restaurant one time. That’s it. I still can’t believe it either. And the truth is that I eat really well every day, and I’ve only eaten twice at my desk so far so that’s good! Several months ago our company moved the cantina from inside the building to a penthouse location. We have an amazingly stunning cantina located on our rooftop with protection to keep the sun off of us and a nice breeze that blows through to ensure that we aren’t wilted flowers at the end of our meal during the really hot months. Some of the team has even dedicated time to adding plants and flowers around the area so it is very pretty up there. There are around 15 tables with chairs that fit 6-8 people. There is a water cooler, a sink for washing up dishes and a sink for washing your hands. Basically anything a girl would need to eat lunch up on the roof 🙂
So here is a typical lunch experience for me. Around noon or 12:30 I place an order for whatever I wish from the sweet guys at the office who make the tea. We have a few menus from local restaurants to choose from and depending on my mood I try something I know is going to literally kick my ass with spices but will be new and yummy. Or I order one of a few dishes I know I can eat without my mouth catching fire like Malai Tikka Chicken. I’m still off carbs so I haven’t had rice in AGES but it’s really helping so it’s all about the chicken, baby! Haha The food arrives normally around 13:30 and I head up to eat with my incredibly fun work mates for a guaranteed half hour of laughs.
Somehow, as if by magic or Keebler elves, when we arrive on the roof there is one table setup with plates, utensils, glasses filled with water, napkins and little empty bowls to place sauces into waiting for us. And the food that I odered. Sooo convenient. Because we are on the executive team we are given a bit of special treatment but I have to admit that I love the convenience it offers. It’s nice not having to worry about what I’ll eat or if I have a spoon with me. And I especially like eating “family style” with my colleagues. It’s really nice. We all share and insist that everyone tries a bite of this or that. It’s like that every single day. Nice, right?
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows but almost.
First, I am still trying to train the guys to bring up a knife for me because no one else uses one. Never. Regardless of what they are eating. Yet I still seem to need one from time to time. And I really don’t care and it doesn’t embarrass me…I’ve always eaten with a fork and a knife and it’s hard to kick some habits and this is definitely one of them. I know I should be able to rip my meat apart with my fingers, and I do it, but not 100% of the time. It’s the “junk under my nails” thing that still bugs me. There has to be a trick that I just haven’t learned yet to not lodge stuff under my nails!!
Second, our special treatment as execs ends at the table. Once we are done with our lunch then we each go over to the sink and wash our dishes like good boys and girls!! Well, okay we cheat a little. We don’t wash our water glasses but we do wash everything else. I’ll never forget the first time I queued up to wash my plate and utensils. I hadn’t really been paying attention to the people ahead of me and when it was finally my turn I saw the sponge but couldn’t find the washing up liquid. Come on, it had to be somewhere, right? But honestly I couldn’t find it. So I asked my work mate where it was and they pointed to a bowl with a small brick of soap in it and said “there it is”. They actually thought it was funny I didn’t know this. But I had never before seen washing up liquid in any other form than… well … liquid. It’s an aqua green color and smells really nice but dries out the hands like crazy. At home I went for the traditional liquid FYI 😉Sometimes I think that I would love to convince my work mates to eat out more but it seems like we like tradition so I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. And I actually do love the “home style” feeling that it gives me every day, hanging out and laughing and swapping stories. If we went out we’d lose some of that quality time in the commute too, wouldn’t we?
Well, monsoon season is coming upon us very quickly and I promise you that I will not be going up to the cantina in the rain. All the reasons are very girly like I look like a wet rat or a frizz ball when mist or rain mixes with my head. Plus I refuse to adapt my footwear so unless I keep a pair of flip flops and a towel in my desk, I won’t want to walk the open air stairwell in my shoes when it’s raining. Although I still think the Wellies idea is a good one… my work mates laugh their asses off whenever I share my brilliant plan. I have a feeling everyone would get used to them eventually but I would be seriously mocked for a good long time.
XOXO from Bangalore
© Angela Carson and Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore blog and photos, 2011