What does punctuality mean in different societies? How pertinent is it in our daily lives? What effect/s does it have in our interactions with other people? Is it part of our ethics?
These are some questions that popped up in my mind when my International Management professor talked about the meaning of punctuality in different cultures.
Punctuality means being on time for appointments or meetings or the completion of a required task. The opposite characteristic trait is tardiness. Different cultures view punctuality differently. What is an acceptable degree of punctuality in one culture may be viewed repulsively in another culture. So, what does it really entail?
To me, punctuality denotes respect, and tardiness is a sign of lack of concern and disrespectfulness. To be punctual means to honour the contract which is mutually agreed by two or more parties to the agreement. If one party has taken great care to adhere to the agreement, it is only fair that the other party should exert the same effort. Violating the agreement without any acceptable reason is a violation of the other person’s rights. Not abiding by the contractual time means wastage of precious time. And time is a valuable commodity to everybody. Putting it into perspective, the late-comer is not only doing a disservice to the other party, but worse still is that he has marred his own honour and reputation.
At Wittenborg, with more than 80 nationalities across all levels, it is interesting to watch and learn how each nationality views punctuality. They don’t have to verbalise their opinions or views - it is evident in their own actions. Their actions may not be conclusive of their own culture, but in retrospect, you get an idea after some time.
It is true that culture shapes a person, but culture is not binding, and every person has the choice to choose what is right and what is wrong. Punctuality is not a cultural thing. It is part of ethics. It is such an important value that failure to manifest it in your daily lives could cost you not only your job, career and business prospects but also your morality and integrity. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by being punctual.
The fact that other cultures may view punctuality lightly does not mean that you should follow suit. Keeping up with your side of the agreement depicts the true worth of your personality. It is better to uphold your own personal value rather than following or imitating another culture even if it is the norm. The norm does not dictate what is ethically right and what is ethically wrong.
To be punctual is a valuable asset that you should keep and maintain in your daily lives. It not only transcends beyond incorrect cultural practices, but it helps to accentuate your own moral standing.
MBA student Hanna Abdelwahab, writes a weekly "Student Column" for WUAS News, contemplating the ups and downs of student life and the questions international students in particular grapple with. Hanna is from Egypt, but also lived in Singapore. She is doing an MBA in Education Management and also has a postgraduate diploma in education.
by Hanna Abdelwahab