Friday, January 9, 2009

Time after Time



As an American, something that may take getting used to is the fluid French sense of time. Americans are sharp and quite rigid when it comes to time - for instance if a meeting is to start at 9AM - you should be there five minutes before. A dinner party that is announced for 8PM - Americans try to arrive as close to 8PM as possible.

I have spent a lot of time waiting by myself when applying my American standards to French meetings and dinner parties. Once, I arrived first (of course) and was greeted by a "Of course the American arrives at 10AM on the dot! We knew it was you!"

It is hard for me to distinguish between arriving "on time" and "late". I keep extra reading materials with me and prepare to wait, if needed.

As an intern once, I used to wait a good twenty minutes by myself for a weekly office-wide meeting to start. Not wanting to be late - I arrived "on time" but the cultural gap was highly obvious as I sat in the conference room alone, a lot.

Polly Platt sums this up well in her bestseller "French or Foe".

Know your audience, for a dinner party arrive 15 minutes late (otherwise your hosts may not have finished dressing); for business meetings be on time and bring reading materials in case you have to wait.

9 comments:

Sylvain - Big Apple said...

You are SO right.

As a French I do suffer from it as well. Not only meetings tend to begin late but last at least twice the expected schedule because of no agenda and/or no preparation!

What about that as well: in my childhood, my father would always arrive... 2 hours late! 120 mn! even for Xmas or New Eve!

It was making us (the family) all crazy when he would begin to get prepared at the time we were supposed to arrive at our hosts!

BTW those hosts have been receiving my parents the last 33 years for New Eve...

bijou said...

Bonjour Sylvain - je crois qu'on s'est rencontre quelque part!

Bienvenue sur mon blog - tres heurese de t'accueillir.

J'ai re-regarde 'Les Chansons d'Amour' l' autre soir pour entendre la chanson d'Alex Beaupain dont tu parlais - elle est belle mais ma preferee de lui c'est "Avant la Haine..." (Dans Paris) de loin, de loin...

Rocket said...

Polly Platt died on Dec 26.

See her website

Sylvain - Big Apple said...

Julie, j'avais vu "Dans Paris" mais ne me souvenais pas qu'Alex Beaupain y chantait deja. Ravi de l'apprendre. C'est frais, poetique, ca fait un bien fou !

On se tutoie ici, on se vouvoie dans le salon d'Anne, j'adore ! So French ! :-)

bijou said...

Sylvain - c'est encore mieux que ca! C'est une chanson d'Alex Beaupain chantee par Romain Duris et Joanna Preiss dans le film. Meilleur clip du film.

Par ailleurs, tu es alle au hammam du East Village?

Sylvain - Big Apple said...

Le hammam Russe ? Non pas encore, mais je l'ai bien note dans ma To Do List !

Sylvain - Big Apple said...

Salut Julie,

Je viens d'ecouter des extraits de la bande originale de Dans Paris, sur Amazon.

Je me rappelle maintenant que la bande son m'avait bien mieux plu que le film, beaucoup trop statique a mon gout et malgre mon faible pour les acteurs ! :-)

Effectivement la chanson "Avant La Haine" est belle et tout le reste est magnifique, du bon jazz.

Anonymous said...

I came on your blog to see the inauguration’s pictures and I discovered this text about time !!
You’re absolutely right and it bothers me a lot. I like to be on time and it upsets me to be the first one every time, when I arrived to a meeting in France I was always the first being by nature very punctual ! The only good thing is that when you arrive the first you don’t have to shake everybody’s hands…a habit I really hate, the others come to you !!

Anonymous said...

Well the comment went too quickly, i didn't sign it, it was Michèle from the other blog...