In Your Culture, How Important Is Being On-Time

As mentioned in another thread, I live in a land where being “on-time” is a matter of opinion. Case in point: when Mrs. Homie’s aunt invites the family for “lunch at noon,” that means that people will generally start showing up around 12:30, the oven will be turned on around 1:30, and there might be food on your plate by 3:00. Another case in point: last week my goat-farming friend and I made plans for me to be at the farm at 11:00 in order to help him slaughter a useless doe. After two and a half hours of drinking coffee, watching YouTube videos of his favorite heavy metal bands, and drinking more coffee, we finally killed the beast at 1:30. Fucked up my schedule for the rest of the day.

In your culture, is being “on-time” more of a suggestion than it is an actual social requirement? I grew up in the Midwest: if someone says “Be here at noon,” then being there at 12:05 is barely forgivable; being there any later than about 12:10 is borderline rude. Here in the upper Upper South, apparently the clock is more of a guideline than a rule.

Yep, people in the south work and move at a different speed. If it’s not the Doctors office or school, or hourly paid work, you can just show up when you get there. It is hard to plan activities this way. I quit trying long ago.

My culture? Well, here in Silicon Valley people are late all the time and it doesn’t seem to be a big deal.

But personally, if someone ever says “Better late than never!”, my response is always “Better never late.”

Raised in PacNW, live in Denver. My PacNW rules say you’re late if you’re not 10 minutes early. Denver is more laid back in general, maybe you get to be 5-10 minutes’ grace but you’d better have an entertaining explanation.

It’s simple courtesy. Actions speak louder than words, and making others wait demonstrates you believe your time is more valuable than theirs. Damned rude.

I moved from Japan where everyone is completely anal about time to Taiwan which is much more laid back.

I was in sales in Japan, and if you had an appointment for 2:30, you were there at 2:30. Not 2:29, not 2:31. If you were more than five minutes late, you called.

Here, if the contractor shows up on the day he promised, you consider yourself lucky.

If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time you’re late. If you’re late you’re dead.

That came from my old football coach but stuck with me I plan on being 10-15 min early to any appointment and working in my car just so there is no chance of being late.

I’m from New York, so try to be on time and if it’s a business appointment early.

Where I live in Panama it is generally assumed that everyone will be late. If you want someone to come on time you have to say “Gringo time” or la hora inglesa (English time). “Panama time” runs anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour behind clock time. (More if it’s a very informal meeting like going over to someone’s house.)

In order to avoid waiting around too much I try to gauge my arrival so that I am the next to last person to arrive. I’ve gotten fairly good at this but there are always still several people who arrive after I do.

Once I was at a small airport in Guatemala waiting for a flight back to the capital city. There were two German girls in front of me in line who were asking the guy at the counter what time the plane would leave, because if it was going to be a while they wanted to do some sightseeing. All he would tell them was “The flight leaves in the afternoon.” He refused to be more specific than that. I thought one of the girls was going to have apoplexy. :smiley:

In Spain, “define “on time”” is a common question for people who still don’t know each other well.

“Spanish “on time””, in a non-business context: people won’t start getting there until 15 min after the appointed hour. Be grateful if nobody is more than one hour late.

“Spanish “on time””, in a business context: so long as you’re less than 15 min late it doesn’t count (we actually have a national-level law which says it’s ok to be up to 15 min late to work so long as it’s not too often; it also defines “too often”).

“Parent with kids “on time””: don’t wait for them before you start eating.

“On time-on time”, aka “we’re leaving on time”: at the appointed time or earlier. We’re leaving when the clock starts chiming. If we see you running down the street we may toddle off so you can catch up or we may actually start walking faster. We also reserve the right to describe at length the extent to which your being thirty seconds late disturbed everybody else’s schedule and the steps you could and should have taken in order to ensure promptness. Trips involving multiple women above mid-thirties are particularly fond of this definition.

“English on-time”: neither early nor late. You should get there as the clock chimes.

UK: I’d say time keeping is important.

In a business context, it’s unprofessional to be late, but also not great to be too early (ten minutes so acceptable). In a social context, say a dinner party, there’s usually a range figure, eg 7pm for 7.30, which means arrive sometime from 7pm, but you better be there by 7.30 as that’s when we’re sitting down to eat.

I’m with others who say being late is rude - keeping people waiting means you think your time is more valuable than others. I’m am hardly ever late.

I once had a professor from Germany who when people were late to class, he’d ask if anyone knew where they were, and then quietly and humorously wax philosophical about time for a bit. How it’s a useful construct for making society work efficiently, getting us out of the trees, making music happen, and so on. Then he’d go into the lecture of the day. If the person strolled in after that he’d stop and address us, “Looks like Molly is on Jazz Time.” Good times.

At work, no one is ready for a meeting before 2 minutes before it, and after 5 minutes you stop waiting for the rest of the participants if you have a quorum but 10 minutes is when you’re considered egregiously late.

For gaming, anywhere from half an hour early to an hour late is acceptable, if you’re earlier than that they might be in the middle of something else, if you’re just a little early, they still might be in the middle of something, but they’ll still usually be willing to hang out until the rest of the players arrive.

For parties, there isn’t really a set time, lately for both parties and for visiting friends and relatives it’s been “party/visit on day X, just call 1/2 hour before you arrive.”

I work in a military civilian office, and the culture of the military requires punctuality. When I was active duty, junior officers would be severely chewed out by the XO if they start or arrive for a meeting even 1 or 2 minutes late.

Yeah, my former job was with a contractor supporting military civilians and the meeting culture there was you wouldn’t necessarily be chewed out if you were 1 or 2 minutes late the first time, but you might find your co-workers have already left the meeting assuming you weren’t coming.

Norway, and it varies. We’re not as punctual as the Midwesterners in the OP, but neither are we as relaxed as the “upper Upper South”.

Oddly enough the part of my life where people show the least respect for the clock is when teachers have to go to a meeting. Students are expected to be punctual, but when admin says all teachers should assemble there are always 25% who had something more important to finish first.

Well, that and parties, but I think I’m in a very small minority world wide for thinking that “Party starts at 8pm” actually means “show up at 8” and not “Don’t even think about showing up before 8.30”.

If I’m not early, I feel late. I’m from the midwest, too.

I’m punctual and I don’t bother with people that aren’t if I can help it. Some of my family members love invoking “Colored People Time” (an expression I loathe) but I don’t do any scheduled activities with them. What used to annoy me was in my department at work everyone else was always late and the department heads never addressed it - until we had to meet with bigwigs and/or another department, who’d sit waiting to start while my colleagues drifted in 5-10 minutes late. They’d go ballistic about it at the next dept. meeting, forget about it by the second, and a few weeks later we’d be back where we started.

In the government agency I work at now, people stroll in 5 or 10 minutes late for meetings with the damn CIO. It’s really infuriating after 22 years of military punctuality.

Old New England here, both born and bred. New Englanders are the most time conscious people on the planet. As I tell people: The idea that dead people are late no doubt started in New England. If you’re late, we assume you’re dead cause that’s the only acceptable excuse."

The German side of my midwestern family is painfully punctual. The Slovak side is on their own time schedule.

Yep. Starting times in New England are very firm, always. Having to wait five minutes to begin a meeting is considered a terrible imposition on the other attendees and must be apologized profusely for. Being late for a social engagement is met with disapproval too.

However, people don’t seem to be anxious about not being early, though, and you really shouldn’t make a habit of being more than five minutes early, either. We are just expected to magically arrive precisely on time.