From my experience as an island girl from Barbados living in Germany, I had a bit of a culture shock, when it came to punctuality.
When Germans invite you out, they expect you to be there at least fifteen minutes early, or exactly at the time you are supposed to meet. A meeting time of eight o’clock is not eight-thirty. They will be upset if you’re late, and it’s seen as a rude gesture towards them, so don’t be fashionably late.
You are also expected to arrive for official appointments at least fifteen minutes early and wait your turn. If you are not there for your time slot, you have missed your chance, and someone who was there early will be allowed to go next.
I’ve even noticed my friends starting a timer for steeping tea, or cooking rice/ pasta and shockingly the teabags are taken out of the teapot exactly when the 5 or 7 minutes are up.
I have never done this.
When it rains heavily in the Caribbean, things move even more slowly, the traffic piles up and somehow there are missing buses. However, rain and weather in general is not an excuse for tardiness or not showing up for an appointment in Germany, or in the U.S.
In fact I once went to class in a Boston snowstorm in the dead of winter with a temperature of minus twenty degrees.
Coming from Barbados, where the locals all run on what we call ‘Island time’ which can be described as the relaxed and unhurried pace that life moves at, when on an island, I had to acclimate quickly to this new ‘prompt’ culture in Germany.
After barely making it to my engagements on time, arriving five to ten minutes late and seeing everyone else there early, I made sure to plan my route beforehand using transportation apps and get ready earlier so that if there is a transportation mishap like missing a bus or train, I still have enough time to get to my destination on time (early!)
Public transportation in the Caribbean can be sporadic, very different from the strict and punctual services I have pleasantly observed across North America and Europe. I was in awe when I saw how timely buses and trains ran and how easy it was to get around, no matter the time of day (or night).
When the LED display counts down the five minutes until your bus/train will arrive….and it actually arrives, that made me so happy. I have spent hours waiting for buses in the Caribbean, with just a general idea of when it was supposed to come, not knowing when the bus would really appear and because of this lack of punctuality, being late for work or school as a result of a no-show or late bus adds validity to the “my bus was late” excuse.
Island time can be frustrating to people who are culturally influenced to be on time and some people can become upset when it is evident that the locals are not ruled by the same sense of time pressure because they are so used to prompt service and being attended to quickly.
Islanders really mean no harm by their seemingly happy go lucky attitude, it is simply socialization. Even Rihanna is notoriously late to perform at her concerts. It’s just something that islanders are used to. After all, when in paradise, you are in the chill zone.