Barbora Stankovicova was bitten by the travel bug while she was a student in Slovakia, her home country. Today, the executive director of management consulting Palladium Group has travelled to 50 countries, for work and leisure. Home, right now, is India, where she moved last year from Qatar. Reality check “What I love about India is that it has absolutely everything. From the richest people to the poorest, it is very real," says Stankovicova, 38. She feels even more strongly about this when she juxtaposes her time spent here with that spent in the Gulf countries. Living in western Asia was wonderful in several ways, she says, but “India made me realize how most of us back in Europe live in a bubble."

She believes living in India has made her a better person. Whether it is pursuing opportunities in the western Asia, Europe or India, one thing Stankovicova has learnt is “never say never". Her choice of moving countries depends solely on the kind of opportunities that will advance her career. “India has become my second home and is close to our hearts as a family," she says. Currently, she resides in Pune with her husband and two children.

Stankovicova took up the India stint as a professional challenge. Changing business models, her company’s merger in India, assimilating work cultures in a fast-paced setting–she dived in straight into the deep end from the beginning. “The scale and the size of the Indian market is something I could never have imagined elsewhere. It changes everything—your business model, the design and the way you create things. The need to keep up and stay ahead is massive," she says.

Being in a competitive market like India also means compromising on downtime. Unlike her stints in Europe, Stankovicova finds the work pressure here spills over on to the weekends, making it impossible to switch off. In her spare time, though, she loves spending time with family, taking off on road trips with them to explore temples, parks and monuments. To stay fit, she focuses on yoga and running. Interesting firsts Stankovicova claims her colleagues were probably surprised by the warmth she exudes. “I’m open and friendly, quite uncommon for a Slovak; we don’t smile much," she says.

Her first few months in India were full of some interesting incidents. She recalls the time her company representatives were meeting actor Aamir Khan for a project. “He ended up inviting us to his film’s shoot. I had a technical discussion about agriculture and water harvesting with him, and saw him shoot his film five minutes later," she says.

Stankovicova also took some time recalibrating her family’s routine to fit the Indian way of life. “In Europe, work hours would begin by 7 or 8am and get done by 3pm. People would get their time with family, cook, go running. They would try to get to the office quickly after waking up, finish off work and relax. I find the opposite in India–you wake up, maybe pray, cook breakfast and lunch, go to the gym, and overall accomplish a lot before the workday begins," she observes. Working in India “Autocratic" is the word that comes to Stankovicova’s mind when asked about India’s work culture. She explains, “In European organizations, people across levels are empowered to make decisions. In India, and maybe I feel this way because I work mostly with the government, everyone has a say but ultimately there is a very centralized decision-making process." She believes the processes in India tend to become bit slower and more inefficient than necessary.

Stankovicova is also amused at how “time is relative in India". She feels like the expected timelines of tasks are different from when they actually get done. However, she attributes that to the Indians’ inherent adjusting nature. “No one here is rigid about time and space," adding that she finds this to be a calibrating culture. Parting words of wisdom She would offer the same advice to anyone moving to any country: “Be open-minded, live well and enjoy life. Try understanding why things are how they are here; they make sense for one country and may not to another."

Stankovicova adds, “India is the best country to do something good for society very easily. For instance, there is a huge opportunity for creators and startups here. These are the people who need the most help because they have great ideas. The market is so competitive though that it becomes a challenge."

For some months now, Stankovicova has been working with Pune University as a mentor. She has also invested in local businesses, in a personal capacity.

“Expats can help others thanks to their different points of view. Working with young, ambitious people with brilliant ideas makes me feel personally enriched," she says.

Expat Speak asks foreign nationals living in India what clicks and what irks them about the work culture of the country. Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com

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