Immigration consultants will teach pre-departure mannerisms to those headed Down Under. It is being claimed that the exercise will help decrease incidence of hate crimes against Indians
It will sound like a piece of skewed logic to the family of Baljinder Singh, one of the Indian students who were robbed and stabbed in Melbourne, but immigration experts feel had he "behaved" in a certain manner he might not have been targeted.
So, is it justified to tag Australians as racists? At least, the immigration consults are not supporting this hypothesis completely. Had that not be the case they would not have been busy drafting modules for pre-departure cultural acquaintance.
"Though I don't approve of the attacks on Indian students but I won't tag Australia as a racist country. Is it in any way graver than the attacks on North Indians in Maharashtra or the treatment meted out to the people from Bihar in Delhi? The cause of all these problems is cultural difference. An Indian won't know the importance of Easter in Australia. But if this is communicated, it will be easy for him to mingle with the people there," said Tajinder Pal Singh, immigration consultant and attorney-at-law.
"People from same region are able to connect well because they know each other's cultural sensibilities.
Whoever is flying out of India should be given a basic understanding of the particular country so that the cultural difference comes as a surprise and not as a shock," he added.
Immigration consultants feel that every country cannot be made home just because of the opportunity it offers.
The Aussie way
Elaborating on cultural differences, immigration specialist Abhay Vakil said: "In India, we are used to partying till early morning but in Australia, shops close by five in the evening. You can't party outside. And if you do so at home, your neighbours might complain. Australians don't open up to foreigners easily, which could be the reason behind the recent attacks. If students try to learn the cultural differences, it will definitely help them settle better. That's why we want the cultural acquaintance courses to be revamped."
Cultural counselling is nothing new. It has existed in the outsourcing sector since long. In fact, several universities in Australia used to offer lectures on cultural acquaintance prior to the commencement of the main syllabus. But did it bear the desired fruits? To this, Tasneen Kagalwala, study overseas manager, Y Axis Overseas Career, said, "Once you land in a country, you become busy house-hunting and settling down. You don't have time to understand the local culture. Therefore, pre-departure counselling plays an important part in making an immigrant adapt better to local sentiments. Getting deep into a foreign culture takes time but a feel of it can be given through a two-day acquaintance programme."
However, it's not only student but also employees who need to go through the cross-cultural training because close to 30,000 people migrate to the island country every year.
Approximately 50 per cent of that figure represents working Indians. Education in the Kangaroo country is a
Rs 7,000-crore business with 1.5-2 lakh Indian students. However, the presence of Indian labour in the country is equally prominent.
"Whether at work or in college, knowledge about an alien culture is absolutely necessary. We already have a module under which we conduct pre-departure cultural counselling for a particular country. We inform people about the constitution, rights, offences, manners and other etiquettes. We conduct it at Manali," said Sunil Gulati, regional manager, Worldwide Immigration Consultancy Services.
Though Indians reached Australia in the 18th century but it was only two decades back that they started contributing to the economy. Indians are present majorly in railways and public transport, in finance, information technology, hospitality and the health sector. Almost 15,000 Indians join the workforce in Australia annually.
Pack your bags well
J J Scaerou, director, Alliance, says: "We have intra-cultural sessions, which are not just a list of dos and don'ts. We prepare students against 'cultural shocks'. All sessions are based on activities and exercises. After they get their visas, we have 'departure sessions' which I conduct myself they are practical exercises, where they get 'involved'. Recently, we had six students from Vishwakarma Institute of Technology, who were going on an exchange programme. We had two days to prepare them. They had to undergo seven hours of French training every day and at the end of it, they could speak French! And they went off well-prepared to take on their course in French."
AN IDEAL CULTURAL AQUAINTANCE PROGRAMME
>>A study of the behaviour of local people
>>Understanding the cultural differences and similarities
>>Insight into values, ethics and etiquettes
>>Communication pattern and slangs
>>Sports, festivals, media, music and arts