IST – Indian Stretchable Time

IST means Indian Standard Time. I’ve also heard it referred to as “Indian Stretchable Time”. Indians really have a different concept of time. Punctuality seems to simply not be a value for them. This is both relaxing and infuriating. It is good if you plan to meet someone. In Germany, there is always a little extra stress when going to meet someone to make sure that you are on time. Germans are either amazingly punctual, or even early. It is infuriating when someone tells you that he’ll be by at 10AM and you have to block out the whole day and cancel your other plans because you just know that he won’t be reliable.

A couple of weeks ago, we had decided to go out for the day. We had arranged to meet our driver at 9:00, so that we could be at the school at 9:30. I picked up the phone to the young man who works for the apartment owner, cleaning the house. I told him that we would be leaving at 9:00, a half hour before his normal arrival time and that he did not need to come. It was 7:30 then, the earliest that I felt comfortable calling (though Indians keep early hours) to tell him that he did not need to come that day.

You are leaving at 9:00? I’ll be right over then.

Hmmm… I thought. If he wants to come earlier, that is fine by me. He showed up at five minutes before 9, when we were already ready to go. As he comes in, we tell hime that we are leaving in five minutes. He does that head wobble thingee. He then proceeds to put the bedding into the washing machine and starts it. Ten minutes later when we told him “we are going now”, he took on the look of a deer caught in the headlights:

You are leaving already?


7 responses to “IST – Indian Stretchable Time

  1. It’s scadian time!!! LOL I always wondered if there were actual real people who ran off scadian time. Now I know. 🙂

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  4. I am pretty much sure you must have visited some ancient village or some remotest corner of India to make sure you have something with you to say that Indians are not punctual.

    I always worked with American clients and at my surprise Indians always turn up at time but Americans do not. See! We all have different experiences. So it is not fair to generalize that Indians do not have sense of time.

  5. That post was written very early in my time in India. I was a wide eyed foreigner, fresh off the plane and sensitive to everything. Now, in 2011, I’d probably phrase that post differently, but perhaps less nicely. My colleagues in software development are punctual. Their working class countrymen, by and large, are not.

    Punctuality among Indians – or lack of it – seems to depend on class. As a westerner, schooled in the virtue of egalitarianism, that seems like a crass or even immoral thing to say; but I can’t help but make that observation.

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  7. So westerners are schooled according to egalitarian principles are they? Really? thats news to me…. That no class system exists in their education or any other institutions is a tad bit hard to believe when their religion is Capitalism. Generalisations abound. I would venture to say that it’s not so much class perhaps as it is educational level or whether they hail from a rural or city background because that is where people do have a different concept and measure of time.

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