Clocking Cultures; A Matter of Time; Special Editions; by Carol Ezzell; 4 Page(s)
Show up an hour late in Brazil, and no one bats an eyelash. But keep someone in Switzerland waiting for five or 10 minutes, and you have some explaining to do. Time is elastic in many cultures but snaps taut in others. Indeed, the way members of a culture perceive and use time reflects their society's priorities and even their own worldview.
Social scientists have recorded wide differences in the pace of life in various countries and in how societies view time--whether as an arrow piercing the future or as a revolving wheel in which past, present and future cycle endlessly. Some cultures conflate time and space: the Australian Aborigines' concept of the "Dream time" encompasses not only a creation myth but a method of finding their way around the countryside. Interestingly, however, some views of time--such as the idea that it is acceptable for a more powerful person to keep someone of lower status waiting--cut across cultural differences and seem to be found universally.