Another time, another place
November 11th, 2009 | Uncategorized
In many countries around the world time plays an important part in peoples lives – the Swiss with their clock industry, the Japanese with their bullet trains, and the UK with their clock watchers (only joking!) – Spain is not one of these countries.
Now, some would say that the Spanish attitude to time is to be admired, creating a relaxed, informal, stress-free environment, whilst the hard-nosed business type might just say that it is just plain annoying. I think I am somewhere between the two – I don’t want the stress, but I do want people to turn up on time for their appointments!
On face value some might say that the random attitude to time is taught from a very early age. For example, in some local schools which are supposed to start at 09.30am, I regularly see their school buses still out on the road with children on board at 09.35am or 09.40am. Not only does this apply to the official school buses, but also to the parents who are still delivering their children 10 or 15 minutes late, every day – so what sort of ‘educational’ message does that send out? Timekeeping should be regarded as merely an approximation – más o menos, more or less? Indeed, there are actually official signs hanging in hospital waiting rooms which rather confirm this by saying – your appointment time is only indicative, and will almost certainly not be respected…… (OK, so I added the second part myself). However, it is more than a little disconcerting to see your doctor or specialist arriving for work 10 or 15 minutes after the time of his or her first appointment. I’m afraid to say that I have experienced this myself on a couple of occasions with both doctors and dentists, and must say that I find it more than a little disrespectful, not to mention quite annoying.
I sometimes think that Spain appears to live in a quite different time zone to the rest of Europe, and one of the most common complaints of first time visitors are the meal times – Lunch from about 2pm to 4pm, and dinner starting from around 10pm until more or less whatever time you care to turn up. Joking apart, on many occassions I have witnessed people walking into restaurants at around 3.45pm and still being offered a table for lunch. I must say that I doubt if this would happen in Germany!
This seemingly casual attitude to time manifests itself in many different ways, not just in people failing to show up on time for appointments, but also in sending out invitations for meetings and business seminars etc. We often receive invitations for functions giving us only two or three days notice, that makes any forward planning extremely difficult. It sometimes gives the impression that the organiser has suddenly had a last minute idea, and then quickly sent out a few invites. Whilst I am sure that this is not really the case, it certainly keeps us on our toes, and our diaries fluid.
Oh, and one last thing – hands up how many countries you know that show childrens’ Disney films starting at 10pm at night….. I know one.