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Punctuality Around the World

Is it considered important to turn up to a meeting on time in your country? Like many things, punctuality varies from culture to culture. Some places accept lateness, in fact, turning up an hour late for a social gathering is common practice. In others, being tardy is considered a mortal sin. So, what’s ‘English Time’, ‘Moroccan Time’ and ‘African Time’? In this interesting infographic on Punctuality, you can get to know all about how different time zones affect people’s perception of punctuality.

First, let’s take a look at those countries who are not very accepting when it comes to tardiness. Off of the top of your head, I’m sure you’d expect to find South Korea well at the top of this category. South Koreans are reserved and well-mannered people, living in a land of strict Confucian hierarchy, therefore etiquette is important. They put a lot of value in punctuality and view being late as a sign of disrespect. The Japanese also fall into this group as they are a population who are particularly concerned about not being late. If a train arrives more than one minute after it’s scheduled to, it’s considered late. Can you guess which other country belongs to this bracket? Hint: It’s a European country. Look at the picture below to see if you’re right.

It’s safe to say that many of us wouldn’t fare well in South Korea and Japan. We might be better off in the following countries which have a more blasé attitude towards punctuality.

Contrary to their Asian counterparts, Malaysians are notorious for their lateness. In Malaysia, being late is an accepted norm that does not require an apology. In fact, saying you’ll be five minutes late usually means an hour. This applies to both professional and social aspects of their lives. What about in India? Do you think punctuality is an Indian quality?

A trip across the continent takes us to like-minded people in South America. In Mexico, it’s not uncommon for people to turn up half an hour late for a scheduled meeting. The same applies in Brazil. When making a social appointment, you’re not required to be there on time unless the phrase ‘English time’ is used, which you’ve probably guessed, means that you have to be punctual.

In African countries, such as Nigeria and Ghana, being on time is also a foreign concept. In Nigeria, if a meeting is scheduled at 1 pm, that means the meeting will start anytime between 1 pm and 2 pm. Most meeting times are considered flexible in Ghana, even if an exact time is given. Very often, it can mean at any point during that day. ‘African Time’ is not solely restricted to people’s social lives, but it has also filtered into people’s economic lives as well. In North Africa, there’s such a thing called ‘Moroccan Time’, which (worse than Ghana) can mean being anything from an hour up to a day late for a personal meeting.

Moving to Europe, in Russia and Greece, lateness is considered as natural as breathing – if you’re a native! Ironically, in Russia, patience is regarded as a very important quality, but punctuality is not. Foreigners are expected to show up on time but they cannot expect the same from their Russian counterparts – not even an apology. Foreigners in Greece are also expected to be on time for meetings. Socially, it’s perfectly acceptable to be at least thirty minutes late.

In a nutshell, punctuality is not the trademark across a lot of these nations. For example, punctuality in Kazakhstan has been the butt of many a joke. Take a look at the infographic to find out why and for more varied perceptions on being on time.