I work with people from a rather diverse set of cultures. We are spread across several cities, so most of our communication takes place on Slack.

I have several co-workers who are from India, and I have noticed that they communicate a bit differently than my other co-workers. Specifically, when they send me direct messages, they start with a message containing just a greeting, and wait for me to respond before bringing up whatever it is that they wanted to talk about. Our conversations will go something like this:

Co-worker: Hi Rainbacon

Me: Hi Co-worker

Co-worker: What is the status of the new data model you were creating?

Me: The code is being tested, it should be available by the end of the day

What I am used to when communicating with most other coworkers is something more direct like

Co-worker: Hey, what's the status on the new data model?

Me: The code is being tested, it should be available at the end of the day.

My question

The greetings seem to only happen with my co-workers who are Indian, so I am guessing that there is a cultural difference. I don't want to appear rude or offend anyone through accidentally responding the wrong way to their greetings. Is there any etiquette specific to Indian culture around greeting someone in an informal conversation, particularly online? Note that I am not looking for ways to get my co-workers to stop sending me greetings, I am just trying to understand the cultural differences between us.


2 Answers 2


I am an Indian female and I have encountered such situations from my other Indian colleagues as well.

Most of them assume that it is bad manners to shoot a question directly and hence get into such greetings. I have even had colleagues initiating the conversations by asking me how my weekend was or how I am these days or the kind of tasks that I am working on at that moment.

I used to answer all such questions but it did get irksome at one point. I started asking them a few questions like, is there anything important that they want to discuss or ask them directly to shoot their question. I even replied to their greetings that they can ask their question right at the beginning.

Doing this repeatedly made them realize what needs to be asked and what can be ignored.

Most of us do understand this and are more than willing to cooperate.


Disclaimer: I have no personal experience with communicating with indians. This answer is based on what my family members have told me (they have worked with Indians) and on what I remember from reading on stackexchange.

Quoting Enderland from his workplace.SE answer explains a lot:

Westerners are normally blunt and value "efficient" communication as best possible. It's a "goal" to be as clear as possible in as few words as possible. This comes across as harsh/aggressive to Indians.

What I personally hate the most is someone getting your attention (with a friendly greeting) and then waiting a multitude of seconds for them to type their actual question. This feels like completely wasted time because they first take you out of "the zone" and don't allow you to get back into the zone because you're expecting a question in a couple of seconds. (And I know plenty of other Westerners who reason the same way).

The usual Westerner way is thus to either skip the greeting or directly include the question:

co-worker Hi Imus, What is the status of the new data model you were creating?
Me: Hi co-worker. The code is being tested, it should be available by the end of the day.

You get a ping, you handle it quickly and you continue your efficient work.

Indians on the other hand (in general) value the interpersonal side far more than the work efficiency. Their number 1 priority is to never "lose face". This results in 2 obstacles from a Westerner's point of view.

1) It takes longer to communicate anything. (Because of the greetings and often roundabout ways to formulate things friendlier instead of bluntly efficient).
2) They have a really hard time admitting they don't know/didn't understand something.

I have heard more than once from a family member that they had asked an Indian if they understood everything they responded affirmative ... and then the Indian wasted a week trying to figure out what was asked, failed to do so and they had to start all over again.

Once you expect this, you can work around it, like asking them to explain what is expected of them, requesting more intermediate checkups on their work to see if they're doing it correctly and with some luck get them to realise that communicating with Westerners works differently. That it's actually appreciated to admit early on that you don't know something.

It should be noted as well though that I have plenty of Western colleagues who annoy me by starting a conversation with:

Hey Imus, can I ask you a question?

They do this to prevent typing the entire question and getting a response similar to "sorry, I'm in a meeting now, can't answer". So it's still focused on efficiency ... only it's their's, not mine.


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