Lessons learned from Peruvian punctuality

“So, what time can we agree upon to begin class?” asked my Peruvian professor to our class.

Yes, you read that correctly.

This direct quote from my nonchalant professor was directed toward my class half-filled with groggy eyed college students at 7:30 a.m. on a Friday.

According to the university, the class begins at 7:30 and ends at 9:20. However, after popular demand, we agreed to begin at 7:35 and end (theoretically) at 9:25. (We have yet to finish later than 9:20 after two weeks of classes.)

A similar situation occurred in my business class.

Our professor was reviewing classroom and workplace etiquette rules during our first session. And again, showing up five minutes late to meetings, classes, company events, etc. is acceptable in most circumstances.

Nevertheless, I’ve come to notice that a good half of my classes begin to trickle into the rooms a good 10 minutes after it’s (officially) begun.

The #NiUnaMenos march on Saturday, Aug. 13 began well over an hour after the 3 p.m. start time.

Without a doubt, Latin American culture is much more laid back than that of its northern counterpart, the United States. But in comparison to the rest of Peru, Limeñian time is considered “more prompt” (in the eyes of foreigners, that is). When it comes to social outings, parties, and more laid-back gatherings, it’s common for natives to show up at least half an hour to an hour later than expected and find it perfectly acceptable.

The concept of “if you’re on time, you’re late” is not a concept here.

It just isn’t.

So, for those of us who are accustomed to promptness, there are some lessons to be learned from Latin Americans in regards to punctuality. (No, I’m not saying you should start showing up late to every obligation and hope it catches on with the rest of the attendees.)

When an event’s start time is uncertain, one has to keep a somewhat open schedule for afterward. As an estadounidense (American from the United States), I understand the negative perception associated with tardiness in the States. However, learning to be flexible in all aspects of life can translate over to decreased stress levels when plans don’t go accordingly.

Aside from later starting times, lines for banks, buses and anything else with a queue can take up to an hour or more to pass through. Therefore, it’s essential to pad your schedule with more time than what one would need in the United States when running errands, traveling, etc.

Furthermore, in my opinion, if you’re not a more patient person by the time you leave Latin America, you didn’t fully experience the culture. Our program director often tells us, “No es bueno ni malo, sólo diferente.” It’s not good nor bad, only different. Being able to adjust to different cultural, lifestyle habits is a sign of learning how to be mature enough to appreciate perspectives other than one’s own.

So, take a step back from the hectic times of life and absorb some Latin American tendencies to become a better person tomorrow.


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