Time flies, or so they say. No matter where you are, humans are constantly measuring and checking time. Some of us are good at it – planning and doing things way ahead of time - while others are always trying to beat the clock and do things at the eleventh hour. And that’s only if you’re on time. What about if you are behind time?
Tardiness can be serious. If you were one minute late for work, would you resign? It may sound extreme to many of us, but that is exactly what occurred in the UK upper chamber of parliament, the House of Lords, in January 2018. International development minister Lord Bates arrived one minute late, and, as a result, was unable to answer a scheduled question. Instead of trying to make up for lost time, as many might do, he resigned on the spot. He apologised for his discourtesy and stated that he was ashamed. His resignation, though, was not accepted by the UK prime minister.
So, how late is too late? Many cultures take punctuality very seriously, whereas others seem to accept lagging behind as just the normal way of things. Members of the BBC from various different cultures were asked about the concept of timekeeping in their native countries and responded with a raft of answers.
BBC employees from Latin America, Rwanda and Sri Lanka said that there are more flexible attitudes to timekeeping in their cultures. In Latin America, things may happen five minutes, 20 minutes, an hour or even two after they were planned. Whereas, in Sri Lanka, lateness is a part of the daily routine. This is because of poor infrastructure and heavy traffic conditions. In Rwanda, those who attend to deadlines with rigid timekeeping are said to be ‘like a typical European’. This is in a place where it is not unusual to arrive at 11am for a meeting which started at nine.
On the other hand, German and Japanese employees mentioned a stricter adherence to time. In Japan, it is common to make an effort to arrive with time to spare for an appointment. Those who arrived at the stroke of nine to a meeting starting at nine a.m. would be considered late. In Germany, however, if a dinner party were to begin at eight, a person who had arrived five minutes prior, may walk around the block to ensure that they arrive at eight on the dot.
It seems that the answer is subjective, and what is considered acceptable is based on culture. That said, if you don’t mind waiting, it might be best to attend your appointments in good time. And if the worst comes to the worst, remember the old English proverb. Better late than never.
time flies 时光飞逝
ahead of time 提前
beat the clock “战胜时间”，提前完成工作，赶时间（做某事）
at the eleventh hour 在最后一刻，在最后时刻
on time 按时，准时
behind time 迟到
make up for lost time 弥补失去的时间
rigid timekeeping 严格的时间规定
with time to spare 有富余时间
at the stroke of 刚好在…的时候
on the dot 准时
in good time 提早，有充裕时间的
better late than never 晚来总比不来强；迟做总比不做好
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