Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Out of Time

By Melanie

In class on Thursday we covered the concept of “time”, how it affects us day to day and how it is different between cultures. I think we could have spent 3 weeks talking about all the things we covered in two classes (unfortunately we don’t have enough time). People in class had a lot of great insight and ideas that they were willing to share with the class. I have been extremely ignorant in thinking that every person and culture looks at time in somewhat the same way. This is not the case at all; I knew that in the “American” culture everything is controlled by time. Humans are on a constant schedule and whether it works for them or not they have to conform to succeed in American culture. I was looking into my own life and became aware of how much I dislike being on a schedule and that in my personal life my time looks very different from my professional life. When it comes to work, school, any type of appointment I am always on time because it’s the professional thing to do, and being late in American culture has bad connotations. If you want to keep your job, or get a job, if you don’t want to miss your appointment it’s important to be on time. When I made the statement in class that professionally time is important but personally it’s not to me; someone else made the comment that being on time isn’t important in a professional setting in other cultures. This was the basis of our entire class and it really stuck out to me. I have to remember that being “on time” may mean something different depending on one’s cultural context.

I have never realized how negative this idea of time can really be; it causes stress on one’s health and family. Many of us become so rushed and focused on just getting through the day that we lose touch on reality and our relationships. Dominant American culture is considered individualistic, in the power point from Thursday it stated; “Individualistic cultures tend to favor monochronic time” and that “monochronic time is focused more on a schedule than people.” In the dominant American culture many of us are raised to be like this so we never even think twice about it. Ideally I would love to live in a culture that is polychronic because then my personal and professional life would align; unfortunately in the American culture it tends to be very monochonic.

When we were talking about pace and whether our pace is enjoyable, it really started to bother me because my pace from day to day isn’t enjoyable and I always feel rushed. From setting my alarm in the morning until I go to bed at night I am forced to be on a schedule. This isn’t because I want to be but it’s the only way I will succeed. I think many people struggle with the “American” idea of time; we are a society of action and if you don’t get things done you are considered lazy or unmotivated.

So now I know there is nothing wrong with me, that I’m not lazy or unmotivated. I just have a different idea of how I would like to spend MY time. My question is how can I enjoy life at my own pace and find my passion on my own time and still be successful in the “American” culture?

Marsiglia, F. F., & Kulis, S. S. (2009). Diversity, oppression, and change: culturally grounded social work. Chicago
Rodenborg, 2011. A Question of Time, SWK 280 Course Handout.


  1. Melanie

    I thought you made some great points about how American concepts of time can cause stress on people and their families, I had never thought of that before. I thought it was very interesting to read your blog because today in class we discussed the idea of time again. Our guest speaker, Noya Woodrich, brought up the idea of Indian time today. I thought it was interesting that she said the concept of Indian time often becomes a negative stereotype that people use against Native Americans. It is important that we have learned about other cultures’ concepts of time; hopefully, it will help us all from forming stereotypes about people from other cultures.


  2. Melanie,
    I never really thought about time and what time really means until we talked about it in class. In my culture time wasn’t a really big thing because we would have something called “Hmong time”. That means if you have an appointment with someone it’s okay to up late or if you’re going to a celebration always plan to be late because the family won’t be ready with everything that they have to get done. I only thought that Hmong people have it but it seems like different culture also has it. You do grow up to know how people adapt to this change and everything because growing up knowing that if I want something and if I want to look professional I would have to arrive to a meeting or appoint early. But it all depends on who I’m having the meeting or appoint with. I’ve learned how to live in two different cultures because for the Hmong people I would arrive a little bit late but for “American Culture” I would arrive early. I would say that it’s easier now but when we I was younger I didn’t understand and I kept on asking why. Why it’s so different and why we would always be late to everything. Now to this day my parents are still late picking me up or going to a meeting because they are use to being late. I never really thought about enjoying my time. I’m a first year in college and its hard understanding that you don’t have that much free time to do anything you want or enjoy anymore. I have a set a set schedule on when I do something and now I only know how to live by it. It’s becoming something that I repeat and I just do without thinking anymore but when I was in high school I enjoyed everything I was doing. I had time to plan what I want to do and at the end I still have time to myself. Since college more and more time is taken away. But time and being able to enjoy your time does matter.


  3. Melanie,
    I also agree with Amanda. I find that the concept of time to be very interesting. Concept of time can be very difficult when were dealing with our clients. We must always be aware of who we are working with and their culture, so we dont find ourselves forming stereotypes about our cliens. Great Blog!