Mañana, Mañana

Cultural Insights — By on February 23, 2007 at 12:34 pm

There is a famous quote about punctuality in Italy, which goes: “When you are an hour late, you are already half an hour early.”  That is less true of northern Italy than of the southern part of the country, and it is perhaps less true in general than it once was.  Nevertheless, it speaks to an essential truth about Latin cultures, both in southern Europe and Latin America, which is that time simply has a different meaning there.

Because of this, the Peruvian government, for one, is now taking steps to promote punctuality.  According to this Associated Press story:

The government wants to take some of the mañana out of Peruvian life.

Mañana, meaning “tomorrow,” is an age-old euphemism for the lateness and procrastination that are common in Latin America. Weddings, funerals, meals, and business meetings rarely begin on time, and it’s even considered rude to be punctual for a party.

But Peru’s government says it’s time for an attitude adjustment.  On a recent Friday — known affectionately as “sabado chico,” or “little Saturday,” because workers tend to have their minds on weekend parties — the government announced a campaign to combat lateness, saying it reflects a negative attitude toward work and hurts productivity.

Several people have written about different attitudes toward time around the world.  One of the more interesting books on this topic is Robert Levine’s A Geography of Time.

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