Am I meant to be late due to my culture?


by Lena


We all know someone who is often late. Someone who is very likely to explain that having a five-minute delay is not technically being late. Do you recognise yourself?

What if we were programmed to be late or, on the contrary, programmed to be early? What if our ability or inability to succeed in multi-tasking was written in our blood.

Different conceptions of time

According to studies about intercultural communication, culture is a determining factor when it comes to how we act in terms of time management. Indeed, time is not perceived the same way by each and every one of us.
It is actually stated that most punctual people worldwide are from Germany, Switzerland, Japan… whereas Indian or Chinese people for instance are said to be more “flexible” in terms of schedule.

Polychronic VS Monochronic cultures

These opposed conceptions of time do have names!
People that are related to the most punctual cultures might find it tricky to have their daily work routine changed. They have a monochronic perception of time. Northern America, northern Europe are worthy representatives of this real state of mind.
On the contrary, people from polychronic cultures are used to do many tasks at the same time. They are also quite flexible in terms of schedule, instinctively organising their day.

Consequently, having monochronic and polychronic cultures working together might lead to rocky situations, calling for the need to adapt to each other. One funny anecdote is that sometimes when French people deal with Indians they ask the latter “11 o’clock? European time or Indian time”, and that question is actually common to hear there. That question is quite fair when considering that, in India, meetings usually start at least 30mns after the time they are initially scheduled.

How can this time warp be explained?

One of the main reasons for this time warp would be the past the countries. On the one hand, industrialized ones like Germany have made it necessary for the workers to have a strict schedule, whereas on the other hand many African countries rely on agricultural work that have left more flexibility to the people. Therefore, the latest can manage their time as they want.

linear time



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