Are you a polychron or a monochron? With six years of living outside of the United States you would think that I would have heard these terms before. But I haven't. Maybe you haven't either and have no idea what I am talking about. Let's take a look at a definition I found on these terms:
Do you see yourself in these terms? Do you like to be on time or does all time flow together and is not a big deal for you? Some of us get uptight when our schedules are disrupted and, after all, those of us from the US have often heard the phrase "time is money". However, our US culture also sends out the message "just go with the flow" to those of us who are stressed and need to learn to slow down.
Anthropologist Harley Han said "Culture reinforces biology".
Tom and I lived for five years in a polychronic culture while we were in Russia. While there were some people who kept schedules and liked to plan out their time...many did not. It was not uncommon for people to be 15-30 minutes late and still see themselves as on time. The same is true here in Belize.
When you travel or live in a different culture it is helpful to understand this concept. Pay attention to the guidebooks about the country you are visiting. In Germany I have heard that public transport runs with precision but in other countries there may be long gaps between buses or trains.
If you don't come to terms with cultural differences regarding time you may find yourself feeling disrespected when people are late, or perhaps you may become judgmental and condemn a whole people group as lazy. When what is actually true is that polychrons are relational beings who value people over appointments. If they are on their way to meet with you and come across a friend or relative who needs to chat they will stop and visit with that person and then come to see you. All the while believing that you will understand the importance of what they HAD to do. It is simply a difference in cultural values not a lack of pride in self or disrespect for you. Each of us tend to believe that the way we do things where we come from is the way that makes the most sense.
So for you monochrons when you have to face a situation like this outside of your monochronic culture give yourself and others the gift of letting go. Schedule your meetings and then plan for the lateness of the polychrons you have invited. There is much we polychrons and monochrons can learn from one another but to start we need to bless each other with the grace needed to find a common ground.