One of my early childhood presents was a watch.
I loved that watch. I felt so grown-up strapping it to my wrist, checking it just like my parents did, and that all-important feeling when I would ask aloud, “What time is it? Oh, it’s …” and then flick my wrist and squint at my arm, burrowing my brow in fervent concentration.
Time always mattered greatly to my parents. Once my mom called “Dinnertime!” we had better be at the dining room in less than a minute, or else. We usually had to leave the house for appointments as early as possible because my dad never liked to be late to anything.
Enter my husband-to-be. He didn’t carry a watch at all when I met him. He would just pull out his phone, check the time and then put his phone away. And he usually showed up late to parties – he called it being “fashionably late.” Talk about a culture clash!
And as different as that was, it’s nothing compared to his parents. My husband is quite conscientious about time because he knows how much it matters to show up to job interviews, school exams, etc., punctually in the U.S.
My husband’s father, on the other hand, is well known in the family for always being late. He even showed up late to his own wedding!
Perhaps one of the most obvious differences about “time” in our family was when I was in my husband’s home country after our marriage, and my parents-in-law were telling us about tomorrow morning (Sunday) when we would be attending church.
“We need to leave as early as possible!” they told us firmly. “Please make sure you are ready to leave by 8 a.m.!”
So I set my alarm for 6:30 a.m., washed and dressed, and whisked down the stairs around 7:50 a.m.
Not another soul in the house was there.
Half an hour went past. I sat on the couch and waited. Still nobody.
Eight o’clock, then 9 o’clock, then 9:30 …
Still no one.
I think it was about 10 a.m. when somebody else sauntered down, still yawning, and even then we didn’t leave until probably around 10:30 a.m. We got to church late, of course, but people were still arriving even after we had sat down!
So having experienced a household where “time” was extremely concrete, and a household where “time” was extremely elastic, here are my pros and cons of each:
- Concrete time: You almost always get everywhere on time, but you’re usually rushing and might have a heart attack doing so.
- Elastic time: You almost never get anywhere on time, but you’re usually panic-free and have a much lower stress level. People around you may get stressed, but hey, it’s their problem!