Punctuality: Am I Obsessed?

When thinking about what to blog about this time round, I came back to one of my seeming favorite topics, punctuality. I had forgotten that I blogged about it in October, but something is calling me back again. I had been speaking to a colleague who had worked for the Irish arm of my former German company, and she mentioned that her boyfriend was always teasing her for being German (she is Irish) after being at a German company for a couple of years. She also expects people to be on time for meetings, follow through, and generally be on time. Her patience is as tested as mine is in many of these areas, although I do admit that my blog posts are almost never on time!

A recent poll done by Reader’s Digest and quoted in a video on the Deutsche Welle website indicates that, despite the trend in lateness when it comes to German trains (they said that only 1 in 5 was in time in recent months), Germans still place high value on punctuality. As the saying goes, five minutes early is considered “on time” by Germans. Thirty-two percent of those polled were willing to wait five minutes for someone, 36% were willing to wait 15 minutes, 6% were willing to wait 30 minutes, and a mere 2% would wait 60 minutes for a person they were meeting. As a recent expat in Ireland, where punctuality is not geschätzt or even expected, I have found that I even have to mention to people that they can expect me to be on time so as not to throw them off in their preparations for a party or evening out.

We all have friends who are never on time. You know, the ones you have to tell that the event begins 30 minutes before the actual start time if you want them to even be close to being on time. For me, punctuality is a matter of respect. Ironically, my German husband, who is never late for work, simply does not understand my rushing around to get to a dinner out or party on time, and tells me not to hetz (badger or agitate) him. He has definitely learned to move a bit faster in the past few years, because it is nearly impossible to get four kids ready and out of the house dressed and groomed, wearing shoes and with teeth brushed, if you do not move your own self quickly and learn to cut your own grooming rituals down to the bare minimum.

I, on the other hand, may someday learn to slow down and chill. Being late is not the end of the world, especially in Ireland. I don’t know if Ireland will make me less German and more Irish, but I imagine it will have some effect on me. My punctuality may have been inborn. My parents are also quite punctual, as is my sister. It would be interesting to see what a poll about Americans and punctuality would show. One anonymous writer for Esquire magazine had something to say about that: The Angry German. I promise that this is the last blog post on this topic. Maybe I need to start meditating and doing yoga. How do you learn to be less punctual? Good thing I don’t live in Spain.