Time is considered to be a limited resource due to the speed at which information is disseminated online. There is now an easy access to emails due to smart phones.
There is a general belief that “there is not enough time” and any delays we encounter becomes a source of anxiety, frustration. According to Deepak Chopra, time is the movement of thoughts. So, allowing technology to dictate our use of time and our pace of life can lead to time management being a continuous source of stress.
In the “Western” world, to meet deadlines, to be punctual and good timekeeping skills are highly valued. More attention is paid to the tasks at hand, to stick to the agreed agenda and not much is done to build the right kind of rapport with the counterparty. It is assumed that if we do what is expected of us, then we have demonstrated our commitment and professionalism.
In other cultures such as Japan, punctuality is interpreted as a gesture of respect and courtesy. On the other hand, in India and in many other parts of the world, it is expected that meetings will start behind schedule as being late is considered as “normal”. Building rapport and creating trust amongst the parties are more important than punctuality. They will spend the time needed to ensure that the meeting ends at the “right” place. Relationships are the determining factor in growing your business and time keeping may be considered a trivial matter.
However, there may be different rules applied depending on whether you are local or you are a foreign visitor. In Madagascar, for example, the locals will not be expected to arrive in time if they are meeting their countrymen. On the other hand, if the counterparty is a foreign visitor, punctuality becomes a must as a sign of respect.
Time is also measured differently. In East Africa, you have the KiSwahili time. In our part of the world, time is usually counted as from midnight to midday. In East Africa, time is from dawn to dusk. Seven o’clock in the morning, in the Western World, is actually one o’clock in the morning in KiSwahili. It is assumed that the sun rises at around 6 am and sets around at 6 pm. If you want to know more about KiSwahili time, please click here. In most East African countries, people are used to the Western approach of measuring time when it comes to business meetings. However, when it comes to dealing with the local tradesmen, it is useful to ensure that you all have the same concept of timekeeping.
Time is in continuous flow with no limits and boundaries. The social norms of each culture have given it different interpretations. When meetings run late, trains are delayed or deadlines are not met, it is probably useful to take a deep breath and step back. What matters most to the person you are meeting and what compromise are you willing to make?