Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The next big trip

Well, I’m going to India—this is a work trip, and I’ll be gone nearly two weeks this time. I’m picking up some new direct reports and the plan is for twice yearly visits.

I’ve been reading up on everything I can find about doing business in India: manners, business customs and clothing. Everything I’ve read stresses how important it is to dress modestly and the guidelines are spelled out: for example, no shorts. Yoga pants are a huge no-no as are any tight pants (of course what’s popular right now for pants in the US? Skinny pants . . . ). Bare arms are out, as are short skirts or dresses. In fact, below the knee is the skirt or dress length most commonly mentioned in everything I’m reading. Tights won’t solve the length issue either, because they are form fitting. These guidelines pose a bit of a problem for me because India is quite hot and the idea of being covered nearly head to toe makes me sweat just thinking about it. Jeans are OK, but not for me at work (that’s a personal preference to be honest but also I can’t imagine wearing jeans in a Bangalore summer).

While I’m respectful of local customs anywhere I travel, I think it’s especially important when I’m traveling for work. I want my new associates to focus on the information I’m sharing with them, not my hemline or arms or what have you. So I’ve been scouting for clothing that will be acceptable, not overly hot and also not uni-clothing.

Uni-clothing is like a uni-task tool—a garlic press is a uni-tasker, as is a toaster that only lets you put slices of bread it the slots. For clothing, some clothes by design must be and should be uni-taskers too.  Think of bathing suits or wedding dresses—those are uni-clothing and of course you’d expect them to serve just the one purpose. But when I consider how I need to dress in India, what with the coverage and length requirements, I may end up with clothes that fit a specific location and won’t work anywhere else. So it’s a challenge.

Right now I’ve found a pair of linen pants, a flowy, longer top, and I’m examining the rest of my closet. My normal, go-to travel skirts are just above the knee and I suspect I’m going to need to find one tea length skirt that goes with everything—so probably black or charcoal. I have some light sweaters that come to my elbow which will help with the bare arms, and can also be buttoned over my chest.

Work outs will have to be in my room. I didn’t plan on running in Bangalore anyway—I have some reactive airway issues and air pollution is a problem there so running doesn’t seem like a good idea. And since workout clothing is specifically called out as being problematic (too tight, too short, too much skin), it will just be easier to skip the gym and do room work outs.

Have you ever made adjustments like this? I’d love to hear your story.


Jen Shear said...

on the positive side, it sounds like you'll be there more than once, so the clothing you do have to purchase will be used at least a couple of times. I like the idea of getting a skirt that could just be worn a lot and you could potentially wear it in the states in the fall.

Kerry DeBauge said...

Jen, I was thinking the same thing. If you'll have to go a couple times a year, then what you get will last beyond this first trip even if never worn in the states. I think a flowy light-weight button-down shirt (I have a great one from Ann Taylor) with baggy linen pants as you mentioned you have would look nice. I noticed many of the women in the south dress similarly, probably because it keeps you cooler.

Paula said...

I do agree that lighter-weight clothing works best. I actually used a lightweight sweater (short sleeve) a lot because the a/c in businesses/meeting rooms is ridiculous! In Malaysia, I was amazed to not find linen clothing - they actually wear polyester because it does not wrinkle or show sweat.

For me, the coolest outfits were flowy skirts or maxi dresses. These allow for dress up/down options. When I needed to wear a suit, I wore a cami instead of a blouse (jacket closed). These also travel well.