Connect with us

Thai Life

On time – cultural differences in being punctual



How late is late? Is being 5 minutes late, late? 10 minutes? An hour? Depending on where you live and a number of other cultural factors, the definition of being late can be quite different around the world.

In Japan your lateness can be measured in unites whilst in Thailand and parts of southern Europe you will get a solid 30 minutes lee-way before you’re considered ‘late’.

Free online gaming website Mr Gamez researched 15 different countries and found being late depended on where you live and the cultural nuances in each of those places.

They report that in places like Morocco and Mexico being on time would almost be considered rude and being very relaxed about arrival times is considered normal. Just don’t try that in Japan or Germany where business contracts might be threatened where punctuality is an indicator of your reliability.

In Japan the trains arrive on time, always. Anything more than a minute is considered late. Railway managers have lost their jobs or been demanded to make national apologies for late arrival of trains.

It seems the easy access to accurate times, alarms on our smartphones, personal calendar warnings and increasingly busy lifestyles have done little to dampen some cultural attitudes to being late.

In South Korea being late is sign of disrespect. Next door in China they will usually give you up to 10 minutes grace without comment whilst in Malaysia Mr Gamez reports that if you say you’ll be five minutes late, it usually means an hour, and being late is just an accepted part of Malaysian life that doesn’t require an apology.


“In Nigeria if a meeting is scheduled at 1pm, that means the meeting will start any time between 1pm and 2pm. Similarly in Saudi Arabia time is not such an important commodity, with people frequently turning up half an hour late to meetings. Looking at your watch during an event is also considered to be discourteous”, reports Mr Gamez.

“In Greece punctuality is not considered that important but foreigners are still expected to turn up on time for meetings. Socially you should be at least 30 minutes late”.

Thais are generally infamous for their ‘Thai time’ – arrival at least an hour late is not considered uncommon and the ‘farang’ obsession with time is considered a bit OCD by most Thais. Then again you can usually set your clock accurately by timing the parade of Thai staff leaving the office spot on Noon to go to lunch each day, usually all together (Thais would never dine alone).

On time - cultural differences in being punctual | News by Thaiger

The report says that in Brazil there is a widespread tolerance for delays.

“It’s considered impolite to arrive on time for a social occasion. But if you are a visitor to the country and have an important business meeting, it’s probably best not to do as they do because, not being Brazilian, you haven’t earned the right to be on anything other than what the locals call ‘English time’.

You can read the original report HERE.


Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Local Thai journalist speaking fluent Thai and English. Tanutam studied in Khon Kaen before attending Bangkok’s Chulalongkhorn University.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Thailand5 hours ago

Thailand News Today | FIFA threatens to pull plug on World Cup broadcast rights in Thailand

Press Room5 hours ago

Iconic chef “Alain DUCASSE” returns to Bangkok for 3rd anniversary celebrations of Blue by Alain Ducasse

Koh Samui5 hours ago

VIDEO: Naked Russian man walks around with erection in Koh Samui

Sponsored13 hours ago

Where you can get cannabis in Bangkok

Thailand5 hours ago

Druggie arrested after inviting netizens to take crystal meth

Events6 hours ago

E-San Music Festival draws thousands to northeast Thailand this weekend

Travel6 hours ago

Where to go in Thailand in December

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Entertainment6 hours ago

Two lucky Thaiger readers get to spend An Evening with Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne

World Cup6 hours ago

Somewhere over the rainbow lie Qatar’s homosexuality laws

Thailand6 hours ago

Man savaged to death by his pet wild boar

Thailand6 hours ago

14 computer hackers arrested for spamming over 115 govt sites with gambling ads

Transport7 hours ago

F35 fighter jets head RTAF wish list

Bangkok7 hours ago

Murdered transwoman thrown into canal ‘still alive’ in central Thailand

Hua Hin7 hours ago

Hua Hin International Jazz Festival coming up

Tourism7 hours ago

Tour operators reluctant to fund staff training

Thailand8 hours ago

Pattaya International Fireworks Festival 2022 starts today

Thailand1 year ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism2 years ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11