Chronically Late… no, I mean the foreigners

So Arabs have a reputation for chronic lateness.  Mind you, the reputation is very well deserved.  If you are having a party and list the start time as 4pm, expect people at 5.  If they come at 4:30 (which some will), you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Some will also come at 5:30 or 6.  This can be rather helpful when you’re running late in getting everything ready for a party.  However, it can also be frustrating when you’re sitting in a meeting or other venue waiting to start.  We Americans, on the other hand, have an unhealthy fixation with time.  We tend to see lateness as a personal affront and rudeness that is nearly unforgivable.  But I’ve noticed something very interesting regarding school and kids.

While many adults would never be late for a meeting, many (most?) of the foreigners that have kids in school with mine bring their kids to school late.  School starts early, I certainly get that.  But it seems that their feeling is that school starts when the teacher begins to teach.  In fact, here in Jordan, school starts each morning with a line-up by class, singing of the national anthem and some other songs and such.  It’s sort of a greeting the day approach.  I like it.  It means the kids are there, all together, playing until time and then they have a few minutes to get into the mindset for school.  Honestly I kind of equate it to our nighttime routine with the kids.  After dinner, bath, and books, we sing two prayers, both alphabet songs, and then do prayers.  It gets them ready and focused on sleep.  This is particularly beneficial if your child has difficulty with transitions.

But somehow the foreigners have decided that the morning ritual, in which all of the other students participate, is unimportant.  They bring the kids to school exactly at the beginning of the school day (or even a couple of minutes late).  Somehow that 20 minutes of prep time is not valuable to them.  But here’s something else I’ve noticed… it’s not just about 20 minutes of time waster.  I get that it would be nice to get up later (trust me, I really do get it).  We leave quite early in the mornings to get there on time (which for me means no less than 5 minutes before the first bell rings and the lines are formed).  But, if my kids are not there to line up and sing the songs and greet the day, that’s just one more way they’re different.  It kind rankles to me that parents complain that their kids don’t really fit in and then do things that make them stand out.  After all, the other kids have parents (or buses) that bring them on time for school.  They garner school spirit by learning the song, along with others in the morning.  Repetition of the songs builds knowledge.  And they better understand the culture.

For all of those reasons, I’m befuddled that people who would consider it the height of rudeness for someone to show up 20 minutes late for an appointment find it acceptable to bring their kids 20 minutes after the first bell rings.  The longer I’m here the more I forgive the few minutes late that most Arabs show up.  After all, I can take my ipad or a book and simply entertain myself (and it’s not a cultural value to be on time).  But, why is it that so many folks think that their kids not being on time is somehow different?  It’s an interesting dichotomy, if you ask me.

Happy Late Arrivals!


7 thoughts on “Chronically Late… no, I mean the foreigners

  1. Not sure if this applies to all families but in my family when we all have to go out together it’s usually the women who make everyone late. The men get dressed in 2 minutes while the women have to spend 30 just to decide what to wear, and another hour for make up, then at the last minute they decide to wear something else 🙂

    About school I think it’s the teachers that decide whether it’s acceptable or not. I had a teacher who would either lock the door when class starts, or humiliate the late students into wishing they were never born!

    If you were a friends fan, this episode (The One Where No One’s Ready) describes a very typical scenario at my house:

    • Hani, too cute. In our family, it’s the kids that often make us late, but never for school. But if it’s the big family, the men have a tendency to be dressed and “ready” but not actually get up until they’ve spent ten minutes piddling with this and that. I don’t get out of my chair until they are standing at the door ;).

      Kinzi, not about you and I’m with you on the bad school day start.

      Lisa, thanks!

  2. Lovely post MommaBean. I am also like you.. I do not think it is a culture, only, much as it is in families…. At times I feel men delay us from going out on time… They must have inherited this from one side of the family or the other… I think you know what I mean….

    My dad taught us to be punctual, on time and would never allow anyone to be late. He would just leave… Well, my mom would take her time at times.

    Your post was lovely as always…

    • TetaBean, you and I both suffer from this one don’t we… we won’t talk about where it comes from though as we wouldn’t want to point fingers ;). Happily we have cars and can head out by ourselves, right?

  3. Pingback: Best of the JO Blogs, 4th Week of January | my treasure

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