Differences in Work Culture Between Silicon Valley and India


Having spent two decades in Silicon Valley, California in the San Francisco Bay Area in the US, and the rest of my years in India, I constantly recall the interesting differences in the two work cultures as I experienced them closely in my day-to-day life.

In Silicon Valley, you follow 9 to 5 working hours. You clock in at 9 am and clock out at 5 pm after a fully productive workday. In India, working hours may extend to a 12-hour work shift, and taking work home is common to work culture. Day-to-day task assignment is through email and rather informal in Silicon Valley but you know you’re expected to deliver. They tell you, you have to meet a deadline with a smile. In India, the average inexperienced Manager will burn you so much with the yelling that you’re already half-dead before the deadline. Bosses in Silicon Valley are known to be soft but at the end of the day, the onus is on you to deliver.

Bosses in India are harsh because they are more nervous than you about accountability and it may be hard to deliver at the end of the day. However, firing is more common in Silicon Valley due to non-performance. In India, the bosses lean more towards retaining their employees for the long term, as they consider it more expensive and tiresome to keep rehiring employees. In some companies, loyalty to your employer supersedes efficiency. Silicon Valley monitors employees on the camera but in India, very few companies keep a monitoring camera in their offices.

The cool and informal use of the first name in Silicon Valley is so much more refreshingly personal than the stiff and formal Madam used in India which widens the gap more than gains respect. It is quite natural to have an official meeting in a swimming pool, over lunch, in a sauna or spa in Silicon Valley. Your boss may walk around in shorts and you may too. It’s hard to say which is the greater culture shock. This or the stiff round table meetings in India, where official meetings are held within the privacy of the four walls, informal, tight clothes that make it hard to breathe leave alone be ourselves.

Lunch in Silicon valley means an avocado sandwich or a chicken sandwich with a V8 juice can and seasonal fruits like peaches, pears, or plums. In India, we have to make do with the monotonous chapatti and green vegetables cooked in little oil. Power lunches in restaurants are common in Silicon Valley whereas employees bring their own lunches from home and some eat together in a group in India. Lunches in Silicon Valley are much shorter than in India.

You don’t wear makeup and perfume to work in Silicon Valley. As this is reserved only for parties and social gatherings. In India, it is common to wear makeup and perfume to work especially in Glamour Industries. Like Advertising, Sales and Marketing, and Call Centres. In Silicon Valley, we get our own coffee. Whereas in India, we have a peon or busboy to get our teas and coffees. In Silicon Valley, bosses call you in through an intercom system. A peon will inform you that the boss wants to talk to you In India. In Silicon Valley, birthdays may not be celebrated but important festivals like Halloween parties and New Year Eve parties are common.

birthdays are celebrated with cakes in offices In India. Going away parties and Work Culture are common in Silicon Valley but in India, we don’t even know when an employee goes away. People drive their own cars to work in Silicon Valley. In India, people drive or take public transportation to work like buses and autos. Many companies in Silicon Valley have their own daycare for children which is so convenient. In India, we have to leave children to grandparents or maids. 

Punctuality is a very important factor in Silicon Valley. You can lose your job with three landmarks. In India, timings are more relaxed. If you have a full-time job, it is mandatory for your employer to give you health insurance In Silicon Valley. In between jobs, you have interim health insurance called COBRA. In India, you have to buy health insurance privately.

Silicon Valley is very strong in teamwork. Whereas India is rather weak in teamwork as employees tend to outdo each other. There is healthy competition in Silicon Valley but in India, there is cutthroat competition. Study leave and training on the job are common in Silicon Valley. In India, going back to studies once you start working is not a common practice. Packing up your things at the office in the legendary cardboard box is common when your company lets you go. In India, they leave things quite vague and termination is not so direct.

Such is the difference between the two work cultures. Each with its own drawbacks and its own beauty at the same time. The important thing to do is to experience all work cultures. To adapt to every work culture, and take away from the best things in both the work cultures. (Work Culture)

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