Reading Time: 3 minutes

“Wise men are never in a hurry” – Chinese Proverb

“Never put off something what you can do today” – English Proverb


We generally categorise people in our everyday life as –

  1. People who reach before time
  2. Individuals who reach on time
  3. People who are “late”

But, it is not as easy as 1-2-3! Punctuality of a person depends on a lot on the culture he/she has grown up in. If you have been to places with diverse cultures, you must have had your theories about cultural differences and their impact on human behaviour.

If you are working in an environment which encompasses global cultures under one roof, we may save up on a lot of stress by having a knowledge of how people from varied cultures perceive “deadlines” as a concept. It is a very common area of conflict amongst the members of an organisation.


The Western culture perceives “time” as linear or monochromatic, which has a definite beginning and an end.

They tend to work around the concept of “Time is Money”.  For the Americans, time is resource which is scarce commodity and not  to be wasted. They believe in scheduling tasks, doing one thing at a time and frown upon people who do not respect their time. They also focus on the future and tend to forget what happened in the past.

Expressions used :

  1. A stitch in time saves nine  – USA
  2. Time is everything – Swiss Air
  3. Lose an hour in the morning, chase it all day long – Yiddish proverb

Then there are cultures which are polychronic or flexible in nature. They tend to work on several activities at a time.

The counterpart of the linear concept is “Cyclical”. The people who fall under this concept place importance on maintaining harmony and and perceive time as endless. They do not believe in schedules and like to multi task. Human conversations and interactions are more important than time. Thus, for them, meeting family obligations comes before meeting work deadlines. They tend to focus on the present.

Expressions used :

  1. Mañana – Spain ( tomorrow)
  2. Bahala na – Finland ( Accept what comes)
  3. Since the house is on fire, let us warn ourselves – Italy
  4. Insha’allah – Arabic (God willing)

In this culture, time manages the human and not the other way round. Time is neither linear nor event specific but repetitive or cyclical. More importance is placed on doing things right and maintaining harmony, rather than

worrying about getting things done “on time.” The focus is long-term and more about subscribing to the cyclical patterns of life. Decisions are not made in a haste or immediately, but with reflection and contemplation before making any commitment. They do value time, but forging relationships is more important to achieve the required amount of closeness while transacting deals. This culture values past and trusts that there are several links from the past to the present.

Expressions used :

  1. Wa- China (Harmony)
  2. Ting – China(To list with ears, ear and heart)
  3. Nunchi – Korea ( A sense to detect when others are pleased)

The above discussion leaves us with a question – “How do I conduct business with people from a different culture than mine?”

As a result, it is important to have a knowledge of cultures to synchronize goals & collaborate more efficiently with matters related to time. It allows you to be more sensitive towards people who are from a different culture and lets you conduct your business more effectively. Adapting to new technologies which accept such cultural differences can help meet deadlines on time and ensure everyone is on the same page. One such company is VComply, where one can Assign-Track-Analyse all the responsibilities assigned on a single integrated platform. It makes the task of meeting compliance deadlines hassle free and easy!

Small steps to ensure while scheduling with different cultures :

  1. Linear time : Focus on schedules, future and measure time in small units
  2. Flexible time : Emphasis on relationships, present and don’t measure time
  3. Cyclical time : Give importance to connections, deliberations while making decisions, focus on past and forge sustainable relationships

This shall allow you let contradictions exist, and will let you be more considerate towards various people coming from varied cultures.

Previous                                                                                                            Next

FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *