Have you ever arrive to meet a group of people right on time, and as you entered the room everyone stared at you? Gave you the eye as if you were late instead of on-time. Or maybe you have been the one waiting forever for a meeting to start. You are so annoyed that you arrived to the meeting early, while piles of people keep pouring in a few minutes late? The meeting doesn’t even start until 15 minutes after it was called!
Cultural concepts of social politeness around time varies from country to country, city to city and even workplace to workplace.
I lived in San Francisco for 15 years. Having a Mediterranean climate it also adapts a Mediterranean concepts of time where lateness is socially acceptable. It is thought that in places where the weather is the nicest, people who live there are more likely to relax and enjoy the day and each others company that rush of to less pleasant thing like work.
When ever you are traveling to a new country or even a new city in your own country, you will also want to consider their social concept of time to make you travel more enjoyable. Read on to discover more.
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Are you traveling amongst a country of early birds or siesta takers?
The first step is doing you research and find out how the culture you are traveling to considers time. Again, beware that it can change even in one country as you move from a bustling city to slow countryside or sleepy beachside town.
In many countries in the world, if you are not early than you are late. Being ready and attentive 5-15 minutes early is customary and polite. Arriving in the nick of time or (*gasp*) a few minutes late is considered extremely rude. If you are meeting up with a tour group or have an appointment at a restaurant or spa, do not embarrass yourself by being the late person. This is especially true in business.
To avoid being late, always give yourself more time than you think you will need to travel. Give yourself a 15 minute cushion when traveling anywhere new. This allows you the extra time to accidentally get lost, and find your way again. If you are early, then you will have extra time to get familiar with the terrain and take pictures. Consider this extra selfie-time.
Make sure you have time to make public transit connections. If you are catching more than one plane, train or automoilble make sure you have a large time inbetween connections. That way if one connection is running late, or you get lost finding your next connection… relax, you still have time. You will yourself more at easy, if you plan ahead for extra transportation time than you think you will need.
On the other hand, some countries (particular near the Mediterranean or in my home state of California) are perpetually late. Do not expect any public transportation to arrive on schedule. What schedule? Do not expect your food to come in timely manner at sit-down restaurant. And do not expect professionals of any trade or service to arrive or finish on time.
In these countries it is still a good idea to give yourself extra time for transportation. If you are in a country where public transportation is not reliably on-time, then you might even want to give yourself a 15-30 minute buffer of time to get to an appointment. Just because a culture is lax on time, doesn’t mean you have an excuse to be late. You should still aim to arrive a little bit early. But it does mean you can get angry or upset when services are behind or late.
Lastly, a note about siestas. Certain countries will take a long lunch break during the middle of the day. It is important in these countries to buy lots of water and snacks while traveling. You might not find shops open when you are thirsty and hungry. You may even want to bring a small insulated cooler and water bottle. This is especially helpful in warmer climates. Hopefully, you will find yourself on the beach with all the locals enjoying the day.
Do: go with the flow.
Sometimes you find that you are getting nowhere fast. Relax. Smile. Enjoy the ride. Aren’t you traveling to relax? If you have realistic expectations and plan according, then it is easier to enjoy the process no matter what form it takes.