Why India remains a difficult terrain for 7,000 Chinese expatriates living in the country
MUMBAI: Amit, the informal Indian name Li Jian has taken on, is a rare Chinese expat who has imbibed local influence. The 31-year old’s favourite Bollywood film is the Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukerji starrer Paheli set in Rajasthan, his preferred travel destination.
Li Jian’s Indianisation is a conscious attempt to get better at what he does for a living — help a growing number of Chinese firms set up business in India. He has married the dragon and the elephant like nobody else, naming his company Draphant. But unlike him, most of the 5,000-7,000 Chinese expatriates living in India prefer to remain isolated from Indian culture.
The Chinese expatriates form close communities within themselves. “Majority Chinese expats don’t integrate into India. They live together and hang out together. Very few mingle. They feel safer in their community,” says Nazia Vasi, founder and CEO at Inchin Closer, an India-China language and cultural consultancy.
Inchin Closer estimates the number of Chinese living here has doubled in the past two years. Hundreds more Chinese nationals are likely to move to India in search of business, but most of them are likely to live clustered among themselves due to language and cultural barriers and their inherent shyness. Oppo employee Shengyu Yang is here to help the Chinese phonemaker make inroads into India’s fiercely competitive handset market. The 29-yearold Yang lives with his wife in Powai, an upcoming hub for Chinese expats in Mumbai. Even though Yang has come to love India, teething problems remain. The difference in work cultures is one such.
“It is not easy to manage teams here. Indians also understand time differently. It is stretchable for them,” he laughs. His wife Jessie and he, like most other expats from China, spend weekends with others from their home country or by engaging in sports. Most Chinese expats don’t find it easy to mix with locals.Yang’s wife Jessie is trying to learn Hindi to feel more at home. But she is still not comfortable with the idea of venturing too far outside Mumbai without her husband.
“When I came to India, I didn’t leave home without my husband for one-and-a-half months. In China, we had a negative view about safety in India. Only now I know Mumbai is safe, but we have not travelled much outside.”
Chinese are slow to absorb the culture shock of India’s many chaotic festivals, elections, cuisines and languages. Pan Xuan, who has been in Gurgaon for six years, said his ‘talkative’ Indian colleagues helped him adjust to the diverse country to a great extent by taking him out for biryani or inviting him for Holi and Diwali celebrations.