Book about Time
March 6, 2005 2:03 AM   Subscribe

I once read a book that talked about Time and how the concept of time is different in each culture. It mentioned this: In the US we would make a doctors appointment at 3pm and we made sure to show up at this time and would expect to be served at or close to this another country you set the appointment for 3pm, but your would arrive about 4pm and the doctor would get to you until 5pm and thats how life is there...

I read this book several years ago and have been trying to find it's more than likely that its our of print...the only other facts that I can through your way is that they had people throughout the world running experiments to try and "measure" the perception of time in each country...if anyone can figure out which book this is it would be a miracle...or at least how I can begin to serach for it...
posted by matthelm to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands: How to Do Business in Sixty Countries includes information on differences in how people look at time. There's a short article (excerpt? adaptation?) by the authors here:
In the Middle East, supplicants (i.e., U.S. salespeople) can wait for hours for their appointment with a member of the al-Saud family. When they are seen, the visit may not be private, and may be riddled with interruptions from other family members and friends. The prospect may even get up and leave several times. He may be meeting with another roomful of visitors, agreeing to more appointments, or observing his religious obligation to pray five times a day. It is not wise to try for more than one sales call each day in Riyadh.

In many areas (including most of Southern Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East), time is a servant, not a master. The idea that a person should be ruled by the clock is amusing. In these countries, it's fine if a person is on time. But it's also fine if a person is late. After all, life is complex, and many things happen. If you spot a friend on the way to an appointment in Paris, surely it is more important to chat with your friend than to rush to some arbitrary deadline!

In contrast, time is money in the United States and most of Northern Europe. Minutes are a precious resource. There are never enough of them. When someone is late, they have wasted your time, which is a serious insult.

It is impossible to say which way of looking at time is correct. Both are appropriate--in their own environments. We generally prefer the prevailing attitude of our native culture.
There's also an article in Applied Psychology that you might want to find in your library.
Cultural Diversity in People's Understanding and Uses of Time

The global economy and international business ventures have brought many occasions for the development of interpersonal relationships among people who were socialised into different cultures. People's use of time, according to Hall, is a “silent language” that affects their everyday behaviors. The authors identify ten concepts that summarise how culture affects intercultural interactions that are part of international business dealings: 1. Clock and event time: Do people follow set schedules or let the event take its natural course before moving to another event? 2. Punctuality: How sensitive are people to deviations from appointed times? 3. The relation between task and social time during the workday; 4. Whether people do one activity at a time or do many at once; 5. Efficiency vs. effectiveness; 6. Fast and slow paces of life; 7. How people deal with long periods of silence; 8. People's time orientation: past, present and the future; 9. The symbolic meaning of time; 10. Cultural differences in importance of work and leisure time. The authors also provide insights based on these ten concepts for business people who travel extensively to other cultures and who accept long-term assignments in other countries.
posted by pracowity at 2:40 AM on March 6, 2005

Is it A Sideways Look at Time by Jay Griffiths? It looks like Amazon has a few copies.
posted by turaho at 6:59 AM on March 6, 2005

The second article pracowity links to cites Edward Hall, who wrote The Silent Language, which is the book I think you're looking for. It examines non-verbal communication, focusing specifically on cultural differences regarding concepts of space and time.

It's still very much in print; I use it in the interpersonal communication class I teach.
posted by realityblurred at 7:13 AM on March 6, 2005

Or maybe the book you're looking for is A Geography of Time: The Temporal Misadventures of a Social Psychologist, or How Every Culture Keeps Time Just a Little Bit Differently by Robert V. Levine. From the description at Amazon:
In A Geography of Time, psychologist Robert Levine puts time to the test by sending teams of researchers all over the world to measure everything from the average walking speed to the time it takes to buy a stamp at the post office.
posted by turaho at 7:32 AM on March 6, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks all for the mighty quick response...and it is A Geography of Time: The Temporal Misadventures of a Social Psychologist, or How Every Culture Keeps Time Just a Little Bit Differently!!!!!!!!!! I order my copy via Ebay just now! How did you find this book so quickly?
posted by matthelm at 5:49 PM on March 6, 2005

Probably not what you're looking for, but you may also enjoy Einstein's Dreams. I think it is by Alan Lightman.
posted by ontic at 6:02 PM on March 6, 2005

You might also find the thorough (and rather academic, but readable) "The Anthropology of Time" by Albert Gell, of interest, and these links
posted by Rumple at 12:09 AM on March 7, 2005

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