'I love shopping on Commercial Street'

'I love shopping on Commercial Street'

'I love shopping on Commercial Street'

Georg Graf and wife Sabine Petra Graf  with sons Lukas Matthias Graf and Elias Johannes Graf moved from Germany to Bangalore about six years back.

Though Georg, who is the chairman of Freudenberg Regional Corporate Center, India has been on a lot of business trips across the globe, this is his first expatriate assignment.

“I’ve come to India earlier, but to experience the country, one has to stay here. I have been in Bangalore too but that was different,” says Georg. He says that though his family wasn’t so keen about moving here at first, after a few trips to the City, they became comfortable. “I learnt about the politics and the economy through my role with the company, but I learnt about the City and the country through the eyes of my family,” says Georg.

He says that it has been an interesting journey till now. “I used to handle operations in Asia-Pacific, which covers areas like India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Australia. I learnt a lot about Asian culture through this,” he adds.

He points out that for people from the West, it isn’t that easy to adjust here. “Our practices include being punctual, unlike the ‘Indian five minutes’ which is endless,” he adds. Georg says that he has had issues with deadlines at work.

“I was doing almost the same work in Germany. In the West, we work like any other teammate, despite the different responsibilities. But here, during the first few weeks, I had to work standing as the moment I enter, people would jump up from their seats and wouldn’t sit,” says Georg.
He says that he also has respect for anyone who is senior to him but he is not able to comprehend this behaviour towards seniors here at times. “As a Westerner, I can freely talk to anyone, varying from the guy who brings coffee for me to my personal assistant,” he says.

Georg says that work gets done here and people are energetic and excited to push themselves to goals. “In Thailand, if one talks about a task to be done, they would smile and agree to do it. But after the meeting, one knows that the work will not get done. In India, it will take time but the work will get done,” he says.

Georg adds, “But there are a lot of misunderstandings about the country. Now I feel responsible for the role with my organisation as well as for India.”  People back home ask Georg about what he would want to change about India and he says, “I want to hear people say ‘No’. I’ve always heard people say ‘Yes sir’, even if it isn’t something agreeable. People sure know when to say that something is nonsense.”

Many things had to be changed to fit the Indian work style, confesses Georg. “One talks more at work here. Everything has to be explained here. In the West, one just asks for a task to be completed, but here you have to give clear instructions about how something has to be done, and give them step by step directions,” he says.

“In the West, everyone has a formal and informal world. In India, if you work together for one day, he or she is your ‘friend’. If someone leaves your organisation here, they ask for your email to stay in touch. But that’s not how it is the West,” he says.

George says that the main difference when comparing India to other countries is that people are able to accept a Ferrari parked next to an ox on the road. “Nobody points fingers at this. What one sees in markets like in Shivajinagar is different from Whitefield. That is Bangalore, a space full of variety,” he says.

Sabine, his wife, says that she loves the City and the people in Bangalore.

“People are very friendly here. I also love the weather. India is an interesting place with the different colours, flavours and the smells,” she says. She says that one can instantly understand that the people are warm because of their smiles, unlike Germans who put a  serious face. “I’ve never felt like a foreigner here,” she says.

Whenever Sabine needs to buy anything for home, she goes to 1 MG Mall or Brigade Road. “I love shopping on Commercial Street and Russell Market, because they are more Indian. I like the small shops at these places. We also go to exhibitions at Chitrakala Parishath,” she says.

Ask the children about their stay here and Lukas says that he and his brother mostly have international friends, since they study in an international school.

“We do have Indian friends too and it is nice to get a chance to mingle with different people,” says Lukas. He and Elias sum up, “The City is a vibrant place.”

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