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The other half of this question: How do programmers in the west see the programmers in the east?

I think it's just as interesting and important to see how programmers in the east view programmers in the west.


The eastern part of the world (India/China/Philippines ) is often seen as mainly providing outsourcing services to the western world (USA and Europe).

Do you have the experience of working as part of an offshore team? If yes, how was it?

Do you hold any generalized ideas or opinions about the programmers from the West (e.g. Are they cooperative, do they deliver on time or do they do quality work?)

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These are great questions! Understanding each other's viewpoint helps break down barriers and build cohesion. Would it be possible to expand these questions beyond a strictly outsourcing-supplier/outsourcing-buyer boundary to include a broader scope? E.g. How does the historical role the 'West' has played in Computing Science affect the 'Eastern' perception of the technology, and the tools used to support it? Also, how does the historical role the 'East' has played in mathematics affect the 'Western' perception of the subject? –  oosterwal Feb 23 '11 at 13:11
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with binoculars I guess. –  Jimmy C Feb 23 '11 at 14:30
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Webcams ?...... –  Machado Feb 24 '11 at 2:07
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This is a completely irrelevant question. Much more important is the question how programmers in green t-shirts see programmers in red t-shirts. –  ThomasX Oct 21 '11 at 8:09
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19 Answers

up vote 75 down vote accepted

Being an Indian, I can speak about India.

The issue is about the culture here, the mindset of the people. Since childhood, we are trained to follow the process, trade the safe path, get into high paying professions like engineering, medicine, business administration, etc. Innovation, exploration, entreprenuership is still not so common here.

Most people get into IT for money, not because they like coding, or have an inclination towards computing. Due to this lack of interest, most of us end up becoming robots, carrying out instructions without paying attention to the meaning. Most developers never think from the end user perspective, or how would their specific component provide value to the bigger system.

You would hardly find innovators here, but you would see excellent workers. The idea of growth is solely in terms of money and designation, knowledge doesnt really matter to most.

Leading IT companies also follow the same pattern. They hire freshmen from colleges and train them to become such robots. The sad part is, their pay scale is still better than most other professions and there is no escaping from it. There are hardly any IT companies in here, who look out for real talent.

Another important fact is, most of the talented people fly across to the US or other nations where they can apply thier skills and earn much more than their Indian counterparts. So, if you are a developer in India, chances are, you'd end up being a process geek, than a tech rookie.

Although things are changing now and we do see a few startups cropping up, but they are still in short supply.

Update: So, the points above were my perspective to how programmers in the east are. However, to answer the question, programmers in the west, are generally more result oriented, focused, upfront and more professional. I have always worked with customers/clients from the west and have always found them co-operative, patient, flexible and supportive.

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What? This is the opposite of "nice and to the point". In fact, if it wasn't for the update, it wouldn't have answered the question at all. –  Andres F. Sep 19 '12 at 2:37
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Isn't this an answer to a question "How do Programmers in the East see programmers in the East?"? –  Czarek Tomczak Sep 19 '12 at 6:33
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"...excellent workers..." vs "...carrying out instructions without paying attention to the meaning..." ? –  Den Sep 19 '12 at 10:15
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I have worked for large US Retail Companies in the U.S from India . The US team that I interacted with knew exactly what they want. As discussed in the other post , Indians "show almost religious adherence to policies and procedures, but nearly complete lack of insight into the problem that was supposed to be solved" .

There are instances where the guys in the U.S. were flexible to deadlines . They would say "Its okay if you deliver the code by feb 26 " and the offshore manager will reply "no its fine , we will deliver it by feb 23rd itself" thus adding more pressure . This is more in the direction of pleasing people rather than actually evaluating what time it actually takes to code .

So, this may be the problem with social structure in India .

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eager to please unfortunately I agree..at least I have experienced it. –  Misnomer Feb 23 '11 at 17:43
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I live in Bolivia and have worked with US companies before. I noticed that they are much more flexible and understanding when you let managers know what can and cannot be done in the given time frame.

They were also very open to suggestions and approaches. It could have just been my luck though.

One thing I did notice was the love they have for meetings. I had a daily scrum meeting every single morning for 20 minutes and personally, I think it was a waste of time, but then again I haven't been a part of the whole scrum methodology for more than a year.

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A true scrum meeting should only take 5 minutes. The only reason for them is to bring up problems preventing work from getting done as early as possible. Solving them should be taken off line. But, yes we also have a daily 15-20 minute meeting. –  Berin Loritsch Feb 23 '11 at 14:02
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I work for a MNC product company in India. Even though it is a product company (telecom equipment), the Indian division is legally a different company, wholly owned by parent company in the US, providing engineering services to the parent company. Thats the legal status of the Indian subsidiary.

In general I found the guys in the US to be more prompt and forthright, while Indians are more diplomatic. I also have the impression that Indians spend more time in office (say 10 hrs) doing about the same as the guys in the US achieve in less time (say 8 hrs). This is mainly because of their promptness. I feel it is more of a cultural thing. On technical capabilities, I feel both are more or less equal. Another interesting fact is that most (~60-70%) of the programmers in the US are Indian natives, who have settled there for 5-15 years.

I also felt that a lot of platform work (especially hardware design) is done in the US while India is more focused on the application software. Though now more and more platform software is also being taken up in India.

Another trend is for a lot of Indian natives to return back to India after 5-20 years in the US. I personally know more than a dozen such individuals. Also many Indian natives go to the US "onsite" and learn the culture there. The corporate culture difference is decreasing steadily as a result of all this.

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isnt 60 -70% a very large number? –  Vinoth Kumar Feb 23 '11 at 14:23
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Where are you getting this statistic? I tried a quick Google search, but didn't find anything interesting. –  Pemdas Feb 23 '11 at 14:46
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Indians work hard and spend more time in office, but can't say much productive. –  pramodc84 Mar 12 '11 at 5:37
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Korean here. IMHO,

There are lots of computer programmers here but Koreans mainly don't provide outsourcing for western countries. Job categories relating programming varies but the majority of programmers work for:

  1. Game companies (online game industry is quite big)
  2. Internet search company (you know what? Google is not the leading company here)
  3. Product company (like Samsung, LG..)

Unlike in western countries, programmer is not the "money making" job here although it is still decent job. And Overtime working is really common for programmers. I mean REALLY common.

So, many programmers in here think that working as a programmer in a western country would be nice, some of people even consider to go abroad. But unfortunately not a lot of Koreans speak English. It is not like India.

Bottom line. what do Koreans think western programmers?

  1. Rich (maybe..are u?)
  2. More freedom
  3. Love programming
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In many western countries (Europe), education is free and when speaking about technical colleges, it has excelent quality. Learning the language can be a bit harder than learning English but still not a big problem. It is much cheaper than studying in US. –  Sulthan Nov 7 '12 at 14:30
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Pakistani here...

I have around 7 years of experience and most of this time, I have been working with guys in US. I have worked Both in:

  • off-shore outsourcing model and
  • in Pakistan Branch of US Company's model.

I have one feeling that I would like to share. The guys from US are honest and like honesty ( I have experience with people from US only, so can't say about others). By this I mean that if my main developer who was responsible to finish a certain job in next week goes for vacation for whatever purpose, I should definitely tell this to the guy in US and in most of the cases, the guys sitting there will be considerate enough to realize that people do go on vacations.

However, the general mentality of people here is to try and please even if they can't do so. They try to hide the things from On-shore teams thinking that it might affect their business dealings which I believe is wrong. One current example of such a behavior was when I recently left a job where I was on a very important coordination position between on-shore and off-shore team. When I resigned, our off-shore manager told this thing to the on-shore team and also told them the name of the guy who would be replacing me. But only after 15 days of my resignation, the guy who was replacing me also resigned. Now, they didn't tell this to the onshore team and hid the fact that the new guy is also gone and now there would be somebody else.

All of this is normally done to avoid having bad effects on business relationships and these sort of things are quite common here.

So, the general thinking about West and western teams is that they want quality work though they might not be very advanced technically than us. Secondly and more importantly, they want honesty. If something goes wrong, tell them the truth. Afterall, they are not going to send CIA agents after us :)

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Not the CIA... but nobody expects CSIS... muahahahaha. That'll be all. –  Steve Evers Jun 14 '11 at 6:09
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Indian here. I have worked with and for US/UK/Australians. Exclude Japan from east for now. Indians were slaved by British empire for more than 300 years. Result generations till now see Western culture more advanced in terms of technology and Indians, including other South Asian cultures, feel inferior to west. Though they take pride in their family values and cultures. You see more innovative products coming out of west rather than east. Bottom line, I have respect for western programmers and eastern, read Indian, mathematicians (and don't respect an Indian Manager :P)

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I have around 4 yrs experience in professional software development. I have worked with mainly European developers Germans/ Spanish/ Italians etc. What I found was like anywhere else there are good guys and there are not so good guys. The thing that I found most strikingly different from developers in India is that these guys try to excel in what they do, and most of the guys are enjoying & take pride with what they are associated with.

Now this doesn't mean developers in India are somewhat lesser beings. For most of the guys in India (Asia) there is a huge vacuum & lack of introspection regarding what they enjoy & what they actually want to do. This is a result of what many of you have pointed out as lack of freedom from parents & social setup. A typical guy here is born with a lot of social expectations, he is not allowed to take chances and a failure is simply not acceptable else he becomes an outcast. So students usually take 'safer' routes and become more of a 'factory product'.

I don't mean to say this is particularly bad because it more or less guarantees social respect and economic well being but In long run these guys don't connect to the 'soul' of what they do because they are simply not interested in the work they are doing. Once they start earning it becomes difficult to get out of the vicious cycle due to economic obligations.

Things are pretty relaxed in west in general and people are allowed to make their quota of mistakes. A guy can screwup and still find out his way into his interest areas with no baggages attached. So a developer in west is doing his job relatively more due to interest than economic & social obligations, this helps them to excel.

I also found western guys to be slightly more professional & understanding ( they understand people can make mistakes & they recognize the value of it as they have been through it).

I found Asian project managers to be cruel, cunning and opportunistic in general. they don't value their people. most of the time they consider people as resource R1, R2 and they want to suppress developers identities at any cost. They rarely loose a chance to hog somebody else's credit. This is primarily because the have been into the 'factory' for a longer duration. Now this also creates lack of ownership among developers from east.

Guys from west enjoy a relatively flatter hierarchy this provides a more free environment to work.

But looking into future things are changing and I think there will be an environment of ever increasing trust & innovation between east & west.

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+1 for "...cruel, cunning and opportunistic" .spot on! –  aldrin Aug 11 '11 at 18:00
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About half of my 15 years of programming career was working with west guys. I had ever reported to Belgium leader directly, ever lead team members from India and US. General speaking, there is no difference between programmers from those countries. Most of programmers I met works hard and create innovation works. West guys are good at all kinds of programmer's trick and office politic as well, as good/bad as east guys. Most of experienced Chinese programmers in mainland are not so good at English, it caused a lot of communication troubles and brought some advantage to US and Indian guys. My personal feeling, US guys are easier to co-operate than European guys, perhaps I have fight too many times with Eu teams for projects and resources. PS, I'm a Chinese and based on China mainland.

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Japanese here.

I don't think Japanese programmers really comprehend the work that westerners are doing half the time. We're in our own little Galapagos bubble, disturbingly oblivious to the rest of the world. Aside from software made for the sciences (simulation systems, engineering tools etc.), I don't think we're too interested in academics. We seem to see software as a slave of hardware, not the other way around, so all the innovative work in Japan happens in hardware.

So when the likes of Bill Gates say things like "software is where the innovation is at", I think most of us in Japan would just go "ahhh, he's rich, he knows what he's talking about", and then go back to work designing forward-facing applications without really putting much thought into that notion.

Also, whether we always realize it or not, xenophobia and persecution complex run deep in Japanese society. The Tron project people are an example, though I have hope that they're exceptionally extreme:

the people who have spread this rumor--and unfortunately there are Japanese, who should know better, as well as foreigners engaged in disseminating disinformation about the TRON Project--overlook the fact that the TRON Project is not a short-term commercial project that has to conquer some particular market in two or three years to be judged a success.

Unfortunately, it doesn't help that there are apparently people in Japan who seriously believe Microsoft is rewarding WinMo 7 phones to the Anonymous hackers attacking Sony. (Money, maybe, but why would they offer inexpensive phones to anonymous hackers??)

That said, we do seem to have an interest in usability and UIs -- so it's common to see UIs from Japan that are quite convenient and intuitive, albeit unconventional. This is even evident in the stylistic design choices of Ruby:

Matsumoto has said that Ruby is designed for programmer productivity and fun, following the principles of good user interface design.[14] He stresses that systems design needs to emphasize human, rather than computer, needs...

If my cynicism surprises you, I have more in another question here on P.SE.

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all. I'm a chinese so-called programmer. I wanna tell you something true.

  1. Lots of programmer be a programmer in china, just for relatively high salary. Whatever we can say we need power to live.

  2. For my part, I have had idea about PC or computer when I was primary middle school student, and have touched it or them when I was a collage student.

  3. When I was undergraduation, I just knew a little about java, which help me passing my paper, how amazing?

  4. When I enter into shanghai, I found a job as a UE(User Experience). Without training, for instinct, I try my best to fit my opening, but failed after tri-month.

  5. Luckily, I found that I like my field, so I gotta starting reading the books about my field, such as CSS, Javascript.

  6. Ok, all the books are English, I found them in some ebooke-free-spot. Book by book, I just know what is a programmer. Nah, perhaps, we need call myself coder, yes,it's better.

  7. Unfortunely, some good English books in china were bible cookbook for some programmer.

  8. It's no question that Chinese is clever enough to make all the copy of all kind of software, we called it "Shanzhai".

  9. "no" is bad words for all bosses in china, not only in IT field.

    1. About pattern and design, it's long to run, lots of Speculators here, money is everything for them, actually, every need money.

    2. "Customer is god", so requirement change again and again. Unbelieveablily, It happens everyday.

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From Bangladesh.

From my point of view, the differences are-

  • Technology: West is always ahead of us in technology. Anything comes to this part of the world almost 2 years later than west in terms of adaptation. For example, still we have not started using .net 4(not the framework, but the features) for production environment. This may will be done sometime when .net 5 will become available.

  • Knowledge: The best carrier of knowledge are the books, IMHO. Almost all new technology books are written in English. That's not a big problem. The problem is the price and time. If low-cost editions are not published, these books cost a lot for us. And even if we are ready to pay the amount, it takes long time to have the books available in local shops. And if ordered, it takes almost a month to ship. So, west is clearly ahead of us here. May be two years here also. Hope more adaptations of ebooks will somewhat improve the scenario.

  • Best Practices: The IT industry is still new here. So, there are many non-tech persons in the management part. And this makes a gap in the communication sometimes. And there are other hurdles to adapt to newer best practices leaving existing ones. So, sometimes we are still following those old ideas. I think, west is more flexible about changes and adaptation of new things.

  • Licencing: Usually we do not pay much attention to licencing softwares/tools we use and develop comparing to west.

  • Open source: I think programmers from west are participating more in open source momentum than us.

  • Language Trends: Languages we mainly use here are- starting with C, then C++, C#/Java or PHP. This is the trend- Imperative, Object-oriented and mostly statically typed. But languages like Python or Ruby and for functional paradigms- LISP or Haskell are not so common here. Even functional style programming in supported languages like C# is not that common. People use C# like Java.

Some of these may be specific to our region and may not apply to the whole east or Asia. Keeping aside money, I feel these trends should change.

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If you think that everyone in the West has upgraded to .Net 4.0, you might be sorely disappointed. (And if you can't buy the books, follow the blogs, there are lots of them...) –  Benjol Oct 21 '11 at 6:04
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Filipino here. These numbers are drawn based from my opinion.

I can say that 70% of the programmers here want to establish a company of their own and focus on innovation. With the lack of funding and the temptation of high salary grades on foreign companies (IT and non-IT), programmers fall into the ever famous "golden handcuff" trap. As a result, innovation is slow as it takes place on each programmer's free time.

There are lots of excellent workers here. It is inherent in the culture to do the best. One thing I need to mention here is, programmers are output-oriented. A disadvantage is, most programmers are not that assertive, and not upfront especially when dealing with foreigners, as it is inherent in the culture to be friendly, smiling, hospitable and optimistic individuals but this is changing rapidly on the workplace now, western work culture is taking over.

Programmers here are usually trained in Universities, and private companies specializing in programming trainings. As a result, software development from the ground up is done according to the industry-standards best practices.

Talented programmers who don't take risks building their own companies usually go out of the country e.g. Singapore, US, Australia, Hongkong and Malaysia for a greener pasture.

Programmers in the west are regarded as skilled, advanced, straightforward, output-oriented and dedicated professionals.

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The East follows the West :

  • standards
  • attitude
  • everything

Almost every book I read about IT is written by someone from the West.

I was happy when I first encountered Apache Jakarta / Struts. I thought it was asian made.

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in india most of us are programmers not by choice but by our circumstances. 

the example of this is that one of much reputated company tata consultancy services employee give the wrong answer in KBC(indian version of who wants to be millionaire ) and question is ?

what you not find genrally on google home page ?

and options are

gmail youtube facebook Orkut

and he answered youtube

so you can have now have idea in INDIA most of the companies hire just fresher engineer and give training them what they have to do daily ??? and there is no change in daily work same timings same work no challenge no learning no research

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There are more elder and experienced programmers in west while there are more younger and elder managers in India. Ok there are few programmers also in India. Becoming a manager from a developer is seen as career advancement and I hate this perception.

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Chinese here.

I've worked with programmers from India, USA, England and most of the time, I work with chinese programmers. Here is how I feel:

1. India people work very hard. It seems that they're born to be diligence. But it seems that they just take it as a "job", because the result is not in proportion to the working hours, in terms of productivity.

2. Americans work with highly enthusiasm, most of them believe what they're working on is great and that's what they pursue. Mostly, the result is equal to their devotion and concentration. More importantly, they can take programming as a life-time occupation and it's very common there.

3. Although Tim Berners-Lee is from Britain, it seems that most British are not so interested in this field. They take it as a "job" too, much like Indians.

Here comes what Chinese programmers are like:(not off the topic, I guess)
1. Most of people in this field take it as "job", much like Indians and British.
2. Programmers appear more and more in those "Top 10 profession" lists regarding income as well as risk (in life).
3. Programmers here get "retired" or switch to other jobs after the age of 40. Mostly, they've been thinking of that since they are 32 or 35.
4. What really lack of here is open environment and innovative culture. We have many passionate people and creative ideas here but the passion and ideas are hidden in the dark. We need to guide them to shout it out and take action.

Silicon valley is the dream working place and hopefully there could be silicon valley everywhere across the world. All the programmers can be passionate and innovative, pursuing their dream, and most of all, can work on it a life-time.

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I am a programmer from India. I have worked with native software houses having nothing to do with the West as well as large Indian outsourcing companies and US based software development firms.

Most of my understanding of computer science can be contributed to the sources from the West. Also, as I grew up (in a major metropolitan area), the influence of western media was increasing. So, I am mostly familiar with US culture as well as professional practices. And most of the people I studied with have had a similar exposure. With the exception being, about 95% of them have already migrated to the US. I have not.

On / off work, I have learnt a lot from American programmers, authors and computer scientists. Due to the Internet, the boundaries are disappearing fast for the learning oriented.

I appreciate the fact that the folks from the West put a lot of time and effort into sharing information on blogs, wikipedia, stackexchange, etc. This culture of knowledge sharing is something East has to relearn. I say "relearn" because, in spite of a rich heritage of excellent mathematical, scientific and spiritual knowledge, India has fallen way behind.

I personally treat programming as part of my personality and try to practice it as an art form. These are the traits I have picked up from the western people. Unfortunately, I find it hard to find such people here in India. Although, in recent years, I have noticed a geek culture rising, mostly in the field of web development.

Some negative aspects about the West need a mention. While working with them in a business setting with onsite-offshore model, people often come off as insecure. I think it is mostly due to the fear of being redundant. Many times, they are unwilling to share critical information or don't allow someone from India to work on important parts of code. This really bites. With a well established tech culture, financial stability and ample opportunities in the West, it seems to be an unnecessary fear.

Also, most of the technologies developed in the West, although extremely efficient and latest, strikes sometimes as dry. They have an inherent sameness, that makes almost every framework / stack / technology very predictable. What I rarely see is a wholesome software developed with a certain taste over longer periods of time, like Linux kernel or the C++ standard.

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I'm basing the following on my personal experience, and extrapolating it. Meant to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Generally speaking, Indian programmers seem to think of their western counterparts to be any one or more of the following:

  • Arrogant overlords

This may have something to do with India's history - imperial rule by the British, and the resultant distrust. Though outsourcing contributes to a lot of jobs in India, the fact that they are hired by people from the West doesn't escape them. A casual statement could be construed as proof (again!) that Westerners are arrogant.

  • Not committed.

In India, the concept of going away on vacations to spend time with one's family is not as established as it is in the West. Thus, going away on vacations is tantamount to not showing sufficient commitment to the job.

Due to the prevalent social structure, it's not considered helpful for career progression if you ask for breaks even if your job contract clearly allows you a certain number of days every year.

It's expected that you kowtow to your managers and please them. Challenging authority is a strict No-no, and may sometimes have disastrous consequences.

  • Unnecessarily stern

Plain-talking is not very welcome in India. If someone has made a serious mistake, it's expected that you'd go out of your way to sugar-coat what would otherwise be a reprimand or, at the very least, a blunt conversation. Since Westerners seem to like to call a spade a spade, they're looked upon as very harsh judges.

Culturally, westerners treat their colleagues cordially, but keep their distance. Indian programmers get very chummy with their colleagues, and therefore a dressing down is generally very hard to do.

  • Obsessed with deadlines

This is very baffling for Indian programmers. Deadlines, they think, are made only to be missed and subsequently reset. If they say they'll deliver something in x days, and they take x + 5 days, they expect you to be "more understanding" of the reasons for the delay.

  • Creative, deserving of respect

More often than not, programmers in India are told what to do. In the light of that fact, it shouldn't very hard to understand why original software seldom comes from India. So, the fact that almost all software that is used in everyday life comes from the West is reason for respect and admiration.

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