Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by elizabeth_b, Jul 17, 2007.

  1. elizabeth_b Senior Member

    Planet Earth
    mexico spanish
    Hi everybody,

    I read at the newspaper this weekend that puctuality is more appreciated in some countries than in others. This is supposed to be because in some countries people, their culture, values more the time. I would like to know how punctuality is appreciated in your countries and what do you think about this matter, what has been your experience when you travel, etc...

    Please try to keep the conversation based on cultural and general facts instead of personal and individual ones. You can bring them into conversation if you're giving examples.

    Thanks for contributing with your point of view.
  2. Bilma Senior Member

    Spanish Mexico
  3. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    Punctuality is the politeness of kings.
    L'exactitude est la politesse des rois.

    Being late is rude. It’s showing a lack of respect for other people.

    People are seldom late for an appointment with their analyst, because they know the session will end after an hour, no matter when they arrived, and they want their money’s worth. But those same people will think nothing of being late for a dental appointment, because there is no penalty. Double standard?

    Some personal background: I am from Switzerland (we used to supply all the world’s watches, remember :)), and my father instilled rigid discipline in his children. That may explain part of my rather inflexible attitude on this subject.:(
  4. jonmaz Senior Member


    I agree so completely with your point of view that I tend to break road speed limits only when I am running a little late for an appointment. I have observed a tendency for some of those of a perceived higher social order to be the late comers at social functions. If this is designed to impress, it fails in my view.
  5. argentina84

    argentina84 Senior Member

    Göteborg, Sweden
    Argentina Spanish
    If you live in the city's rat race, don't be late or it will be considered rude.
    But people in the countryside still take it easy, and it's not impolite to get a bit late to social meetings.

    But never be earlier than the appointed time. Thas IS impolite.
  6. jonmaz Senior Member

    The difficulty with elizabeth's request, "I would like to know how punctuality is appreciated in your countries", is the diversity of meetings for which one may, or may not, be punctual. Turning up late to a wedding or funeral (perhaps even a surprise party) would surely be universally condemned. My wife and I are part of a group of six couples who meet for dinner parties at about eight week intervals. Each of the couples provides an element of the meal and a great time is had by all. These evenings would obviously be ruined by any tardiness; on the other hand, had we all arranged to have an afternoon at the beach, a multiplicity of arrival times would be not unusual.

    Perhaps then elizabeth, if I can speak on behalf of my country, the appreciation of punctuality varies in proportion to the affect a lack of it would have on the occasion.
  7. MatchxGirl New Member

    Tepic, Nayarit
    México - spanish
    In Mexico: the later, the better.

    If something is scheduled for 17:00, the first person to arrive will get there, for sure, at 17:20. It happens everywhere: in church, with friends, at parties... when I want everybody to get on time I say the meeting is at 16:30, and there are people who doesn't get on time hehehe.
  8. Macunaíma

    Macunaíma Senior Member

    Um ninho de mafagalfinhos
    português, Brasil
    In Brazil, I don't believe unpunctuality is looked upon as "lack of respect" and being a little late for social events is de rigueur :). It can be annoying sometimes, yeah, but punctuality all the time can be boring too!
    Generally speaking, we leave our concerns about punctuality to professional situations mostly and chill out when it comes to social situations.
  9. DrLindenbrock Senior Member

    Italy; Italian & Am. English
    This pretty much holds true for Italy.
    While getting somewhere early is considered impolite, a 10 or 15 minute delay is - in some occasions - considered respectful.
    E.g. if you get a dinner invitation from somebody you don't know very well, you tend to show up a little bit later just not to be the first one there.:)
    Another funny/aggravating custom is that classes at university scheduled for the hour usually start 15 minutes late. This interval in which students must be around but professors are allowed time to chat among themselves and enjoy their coffee is known as "quarto d'ora accademico". :D

    NB quarto d'ora = quarter of the hour
    accademico = referring to university matters
  10. MatchxGirl New Member

    Tepic, Nayarit
    México - spanish
    Pretty much like Mexico :D
  11. franzisca Member

    Genève - Suisse
    Italy - italian
    I L O V E D quarto d'ora accademico:D

    By the way, I think in Italy things are very different if you live in the South or in the North..
    "Unfortunally" :D, in the north they tend to consider unpolite a delay (I'm always late)
  12. argentina84

    argentina84 Senior Member

    Göteborg, Sweden
    Argentina Spanish
    It's cool to know that in other countries things are much like in Argentina, when it comes to punctuality. I used to think we were the only ones to appreciate "unpunctuality" in informal social gatherings.
  13. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    In Germany punctuality is still very important and very normal. I consider other people wasting my time as very rude. You won't do successful business in Germany if not being punctual and even in private relations punctuality is taken for granted.

  14. Bilma Senior Member

    Spanish Mexico

    Not everywhere in Mexico!!! There are people in Mexico who are puntual and respect other people's time!!! I am never late wherever I go and a lot of people I know behave the same way.
  15. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    As others have said, a lot depends on the occasion.
    Socially a lot can also depend on where you live. If you're in a small town you don't even need to make an appointment to see your friends; you know where to look for them. But if you're in a big city, where it takes you an hour to reach the meeting point, you don't want to spend another hour waiting!
    Unfortunately those who are always late don't know what it means to wait for others.

    In Italy people are more punctual in the north than in the south, but this is a generalization; I know southerners who are always punctual and northerners who are terrible!
  16. elizabeth_b Senior Member

    Planet Earth
    mexico spanish
    First, thank you all for your comments and contributions that enriches this conversation. :)

    Well, it shows that there are different conceptions about the time in the different countries. At school I remember all the teachers put great emphasis in punctuality. We only had 10 min tolerance for getting late, and if we failed 3 times in one month we had 1 point less in our grades. They taught us that time was from great value because you use it for doing things, Time is one of the dimensions you move in, is part of your Living. Basically what we were told was that being unpuctual was a way of wasting your life, and of course wasting "others" life too. (Sorry if it sounds a little hard and inflexible I'm just exposing the point of view about punctuality in which I grew up)

    So if you decide to do something at "x" time and the others agree in getting there at that hour I think it's impolite not to accomplish the agreement. You can't know if they need to do other things and they could be using this time instead of being waiting for you.
    I understand too that there are different situations but there are some people that exagerates. I've been in situations in which people arrives 30 or 45 minutes later. :mad: As Einstein says usually they are late and don't know what it feels to stay waiting all that time.
    Now, I usually carry a book in my bag just in case (what's very frequent) that someone it's late. ;) This helps to calm me down.
  17. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    Greeks are not known for their punctuality though I see there are people out there who are stopping to smell the flowers for much longer than we do. This does not mean of course that not being punctual for appointments other than between friends is not frowned upon at the very least.

    We have the "academic quarter" expression too although many of my professors turned it into an "academic half-hour" (but woe to the student who entered the classroom half a minute after them).

    I've heard of a particular island where all people are at the very least 45 minutes late but that's hearsay and my uncle's stories usually grow in telling so I'm not sure how true it is. The point is however that it is not inconceivable. That should give you an idea about our time keeping :)

    Note: While people are supposed to be punctual, services, and especially public services, get away with murder. Things have vastly improved these past ten years but there's a lot of room for improvement.
  18. HIEROPHANT Member

    Never heard of "quarto d'ora accademico" in my University in Milan...For sure there's a huge difference between South and North.
    In the North I think people are used to being on time...at least they try to: public transportation is awful :p
  19. notnotchris

    notnotchris Senior Member

    U.S.A., English
    In Japan punctuality is expected at all times. In fact, punctuality means being there 5-10 minutes ahead of time.

    This is especially true when dealing with a superior.
  20. HIEROPHANT Member

    Someone said that they even have train crash to make up for the lost time...
    For example
  21. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi Senior Member

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    Nobody's talked about transport yet, but transport and punctuality are inextricably linked.

    I was shocked, on returning to Bolivia, to discover that "Bolivian time" was now a thing of the past on most intercity transport. Bolivian intercity transport now runs on what I'd call German time.

    This was a rude awakening to somebody accustomed to a bus or truck leaving when it was full, when the driver had eaten, when the driver had slept off his hangover, etc. While this is still the case out in the country or for short hauls, I was astounded each and every time that I took an intercity bus: at exactly the advertised hour of departure, the driver turned the key in the ignition and we left!

    In Canada, rural and urban punctuality are very different, again according to transport issues. In Toronto you show up early for all appointments, except perhaps dinner. In our neck of the woods you show up within an hour of the arranged time. If you're going to be later it's considered polite to telephone and explain that you hit a deer or that you had to detour because of a fire in the bush.
  22. elizabeth_b Senior Member

    Planet Earth
    mexico spanish
    I remember Paul McCartney told once that when the Beatles went to Japan tour everything was ready when they arrived, scheduled and that people who attend them worked with clock in hand. He told that it was almost an obsession, so the Beatles started to play games with them, getting up later, making them loose a few minutes at dinner, etc... just to see their reactions. Of course they stressed the japanese crew.
  23. Stiannu

    Stiannu Senior Member

    Torino (Turin), Italy
    Italy, Italian
    Yes, that would be me. :D
    Anyway, I'll risk telling some clichés, but having lived in Dakar, Senegal, for a while, I really needed a re-arrangement of time (although I myself tend to be late). If you set an appointment with someone, you could find individuals who are punctual... But if a certain event is officially scheduled at a certain time, you can add a couple of hours. Concerts scheduled for around 10 or 11 p.m. never started before 1 a.m. Once I waited for the singer (Youssou Ndour) until 2.30 a.m, not joking, he started to sing at that time!
    The link between transportation as punctuality is absolutely true! In Dakar the incredible car traffic could delay you of at least an hour, and public transportation in Africa follow the rule: the vehicle leaves when it's full. When you want to reach another city, you go to the bus station, search for a car with the right direction, and wait until it gets full and leaves. You never know when you're arriving... of course the concept of punctuality is affected by that.
  24. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    In Russia, people are really very tolerant and don't bother about punctuality as much as the Japanese.;)

    If you're about 5 minutes late for an informal meeting, it's not a big deal. Normally, people reach for their mobile phones and start to call only when their friends are late for more than some 15 minutes. But, however nice your friend is and however little they're annoyed by your being late, you'd really better to apologise and explain why you're late (traffic jams usually take all the credit, of course).

    As for business meetings and the like, unfortunately, I can't say much about them. But your being late for work once a month isn't a legit reason for sacking you.;)

    What a familiar situation, Irene!:D
    Actually, I can't remember a single occasion on which we would leave the classroom after this "academic quarter": although it is said that the students may leave if the teacher is late for more than 15 minutes, we normally go to the department first to know if the teacher really isn't here today.
  25. clipper Senior Member

    England´s english
    I find the references to wasting peoples time interesting in many of the above posts.

    In my time adjusting to life in Spain I stubbornly continued with many of my English customs, believing them to be "more correct". One of these was punctuality.

    However with experience I came to realise that I was in fact only wasting my own time. I would arrive at meeting scheduled for 9.00 am at 8.55 only to be sat on my own for at least 35 minutes, likewise at the dentist/doctor, a 5.00pm appointment will not be attenmded to until at least 5.30 so getting there on time is actually throwing your time away.

    I'm pleased to say that I am now contributing to Spanish "punctuality" as there is no point trying to fight against it!
  26. _forumuser_

    _forumuser_ Senior Member

    New York City
    Another factor to consider is the fear of consequences. In some places you may lose a client or even a job if you are late. In other countries you would lose nothing since probably the other person will be late too. What individuals do is tied to what everyone else does.
  27. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    I could not agree more. When in Rome do as the Romans do.

  28. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I think that punctuality is appreciated everywhere. It's just that some cultures are more, erm, chronically chronologically challenged. :eek:
  29. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    One word to the "academic quarter" situation in Germany:

    All lectures start at a quarter past and end at full hour. So everybody has 15 minutes break or time to go to the next lecture hall or meeting.

    However, this has nothing at all to do with punctuality, because in Germany all lectures will start at exactly a quarter past, precisely on the minute. Everyone is expected to be there and it is not a rare case that professors deny access after beginning. Either be punctual or stay away. I very much like this attitude because all, both lecturer and students, are severly irritated by people entering and stumbling through rows of chairs. This is highly unpolite to all people involved.

    The academic quarter is just an easy way to say a lecture starts at 10, without having to say "at 10:15". It creates the rhythm of lectures but does not break punctuality.

  30. kinia22 New Member

    Canada, French
    I think a punctuality is important in every cultures. In my country-Canada when somebody is late for the appointment he/she shows that he/she doesn't respect the other person.
  31. estrellafugaz Member

    German, Austria
    Same goes for Austria, at least for the "main" (general) universities I know. But at general lectures students might enter or leave whenever they wish to do so and will not be bothered about it. Classes which require attendance as part of grading are different, especially because only a certain number of people can sign up for them. I took a Russian course last semester and the teacher got pretty upset with people who would be late or leave early simply because she knew from experience a lot of people would fail the class because it is a difficult subject, and also because a lot of other people wanted to sign up for it but couldn't because of the quantity restrictions.

    The "akademische Viertelstunde" is wide-spread; but you will find in the course directories next to the time and date of the lectures the expression "c.t." which stands for the Latin "cum tempore" and implies that the lecture actually starts 15 min after the time stated in the directory. You might also encounter "s.t." which means "sine tempore" - no 15 min, the lecture starts exactly at the time stated in the directory.

    I have studied at the University of Vienna where a lot of lectures start "cum tempore". However, I now study at the University of Business Administration and have only experienced lectures sine tempore. Not sure why but it's just the way things are done at "my" unversity.

    Other than that... my uncle once said "Puenktlich sein heisst 5 Minuten frueher kommen", "Being punctual means arriving 5 min early" so I was surprised at people from Latinamerica stating that being early is considered rude! In Austria generally speaking you have to be on time, especially for business meeting and work. With informal meetings it depends on the people, but in general people will try to be on time and if you don't turn up within 5 min you are expected to call and give a heads-up.

    I have a friend in Austria who is always very late (which by our standards means 20-30 minutes) and we, our friends, have been joking about arriving late on purpose so we wouldn't have to wait for her - but any time we would actually do that she'd be on time :D

    Speaking for myself, I don't mind waiting even 15 minutes as long as I'm sitting in a café where I can spend the time reading a newspaper or a book, or doing something else marginally useful. It is way worse having to wait when you're at the corner of street x and y or somewhere else where everybody can see you waiting "like an idiot" (in German we say you're waiting "wie bestellt und nicht abgeholt" - as though somebody had ordered you and didn't come to pick you up) and you don't have much else to do.
  32. Lugubert Senior Member

    When I was a pharma rep, I had to deal with clinics that shut the doors even if you brought beer and sandwiches but was 5 minutes late.

    Not a problem in principle; I was brought up with being perfectly on time for everything. Late for class? Couldn't even imagine it.

    When invited somewhere , I try not to be too early but to give the hosts some perhaps ten minutes to finalize. Anything more would be rude. Welcoming drinks or starters might be heating/cooling in a way not expected.
  33. Macunaíma

    Macunaíma Senior Member

    Um ninho de mafagalfinhos
    português, Brasil
    There is an essay by the sociologist Gilberto Freyre named On The Iberian Concept Of Time, originally written in English for a conference. Very illustrative of that peculiar trait of our culture. :)

    But seriously, I think punctuality is important too, of course. I'm always punctual at work, at school (hmm...) or for appointments with the doctor, the dentist, etc. But I'm not really into racing against time even in my social life. I don't expect anybody to be punctual when I invite them over to my house and they'd better not expect me to be punctual either (they never do anyway). Not that I'm always late, but I won't feel ashamed if I am. I think it's cultural, I like it to be that way. Overall, people in Brazil don't make a fuss if you're late because thay are usually late at some other time too. I am more easily annoyed by people who are always demanding punctuality and grumbling about others being late than by people who are always late.
  34. Messquito

    Messquito Senior Member

    台灣台北 Taipei, Taiwan
    Chinese - Taiwan 中文 Taiwanese Hokkien 臺語
    In Taiwan, punctual or not, it all depends on whether it has to do with "business". If it's about meeting a customer, or a business meeting, people are not likely to be late. The same generally goes for meeting a doctor or dentist.
    People tend to be very punctual with strangers because unpunctuality is not a national thing in Taiwan, so you might not know if a person you just met cares about punctuality or not.
    On the contrary, once people are friends, usually being late is not unusual. In fact, there's quite a difference depending on the person. Usually for a meeting with 5, the earliest to come might be 5-10 minutes ahead of the appointed time, and the last around 15-30 minutes late.
  35. christelleny

    christelleny Senior Member

    Connecticut, USA
    I live in a Latin American community and each time I receive an invitation, I have to ask if the time is the real time or "la hora hispana", otherwise I'm the only one at the event for the first 2–3 hours (because everyone else knows not to arrive on time). We once received a wedding invitation with a printed time 4 hours before the actual start of the ceremony. When we got there, the people were only starting to decorate the place! After 20+ years and I have yet to receive an invitation for something (anything) that starts at the given time! The worst part? I keep showing up on time!!!
  36. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    You live in a Latin American community in Connecticut? That's interesting! I didn't know Connecticut had Latin American communities.
  37. christelleny

    christelleny Senior Member

    Connecticut, USA
    You'd be surprised! Even in the most affluent parts of Connecticut, Spanish has become as prevalent as English (like it is in our home).
    CT has loads of very wealthy residents always on the market for nannies, gardeners, housekeepers, cooks, chauffeurs, etc., and there're tons of opportunities for anyone wanting to start a business, regardless of origins. Also (little known fact): In some counties, we have an extremely generous public assistance system... Just don't tell anyone ;)
  38. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    ... which still does not mean that Germans are any more punctual than other people. The fact that punctuality is important does not seem to bother a whole lot of people - including a few bosses I have had: They demanded punctuality of others but had no problem having some 20-40 people waiting for them being 15 Min. late. - Not late because of traffic. Being 15 Min. late in the same building.
  39. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    This is deliberate unpunctuality born of arrogance. The same bosses arrive late in the morning and go home late in the evening.
  40. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    This is just being asshole and knowing it. Nothing to do with unpunctuality, but with letting other peeople feel less valued, being bosed around or conveying a notion of how-important-and-busy some bosses would like to feel.

    Unpunctuality is considered rude in Germany and bosses behaving in the way you describe are considered rude, too.

    Anyway, I understood this discussion about the average, typical behaviour, not about exceptions.
  41. L.P. Translator

    L.P. Translator Senior Member

    I don't think theres a country in which punctuality is not appreciated. There are though countries in which, unfortunately, punctuality is hard to apply. i.e., it is perfectly normal to schedule a meeting with someone in Italy, and to wait for at least 5-10 minutes to half an hour. I can be late too, sometimes, but I always apologize for failing at being there at the appointed time. After all, we are all busy, and if you can't show up when you-yourself set the time, it's just lack of respect.

    This, as regards business meetings and otherwise meetings of important nature.

    As for friends, just never expect your Italian friend to be on time to begin with.
  42. Aviador

    Aviador Senior Member

    Santiago de Chile (a veces)
    Castellano de Chile
    It seems that people think of punctuality only in terms of not being late, but I personally find the inpuctuality of being too early just as annoying, specially if I have invited friends to visit me at home. I hate to be surprised by an early bird when I'm still in the shower.
    Whenever I find myself too early to ring at a friend's door, I simply take another turn around the block, but never show when I suppose they don't spect me yet.
    The same principle applies in case of a business meeting.
  43. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    That's right. 5 minutes too early is fine, but else you should wait before ringing the door for private invitations.

    For business meetings it is usually 15 minutes early considered fine. Worst thing is you have to wait till the appointed time, best case you can have a chat with other participants before. Only 1:1 meetings with the boss you try to time on the minute exactly.

    Just a short remark to you funny example: If that ever really happens, you simply shower too late....
  44. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    Same boss looked dumbfounded when I quit (without having a new job yet) - and was kicked out about a year later. Then he got a job in his brothers company.

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