“Time Depends on Culture”
Marina Butovskaya, anthropologist, doctor of historical sciences, professor of the Center for Social Anthropology, Russian State University for the Humanities
“Representatives of different cultures experience and structure time differently. From the Datoga, Tanzanian traditional pastoralists with whom I have worked for many years, you can find out exactly under what circumstances a person was born, but it is useless to ask the date of birth. They do not know their age either, only considering themselves to be a group: child, teenager, boy, parent, grandfather.
They agree on the time of the meeting approximately: “at dawn”, “at noon”, “when it gets dark.” Important events (for example, weddings) are timed to coincide with the time of the year – when the rains begin, at the beginning of the dry season … Then there is a clarification: the ceremony will take place on a full moon or “when the moon has completely waned.”
The day and hour are not indicated, but the datalogs unmistakably understand when the event should take place. Time in the European sense is not important for them, and no one is annoyed that the event may start a few hours later. Everyone is waiting peacefully and does not understand why we Europeans are so impatient.
Accuracy, however, also differs in industrial cultures, so having a watch does not yet ensure that conventions are respected. In Latin America, North Africa or the Middle East, an hour and a half late is acceptable. The waiting person is resting, drinking coffee, leafing through a book or listening to music.
But in Germany, Sweden or Holland being late for a few minutes is already bad form. “