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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Culture Matters: The Filipino Time

We often hear the term "Filipino time" and often, it is viewed as a negative one.  "Filipino time" is not on time was the common concept in the past.  It's always beyond 30 minutes than what was scheduled.  Whenever I discuss time-telling in class, Filipino time always comes up and my students would ask me if Filipinos are really not disciplined when it comes to observing time.  I always counter it by saying it depends on the person and what values the person holds.  Filipinos value many aspects in their lives such as family, education, work and relationships. I often say that Filipinos do have a lot of  work to do when it comes to observing time.  Sometimes they themselves don't know that the way they observe time has a lot to do with the values they have. 

For example, if someone values his or her job, then definitely, this person will do his best to come to work on time, however, when there is a problem in the family, like illness, or other emergencies, because of the close family ties among Filipino families, an employee might opt to stay at home and take care of the sick family member rather than go to work.  Mothers would rather stay at home and take care of their sick child than go to work.  Oftentimes, keeping smooth interpersonal relationships comes into the picture also.  Business meetings always begin with pleasantries and small talk before getting into the official part of the meeting. By that time, everyone has loosen up, people have laughed and joked about the latest news and controversies and updated everyone about the statuses of their families.

Many people wonder why Filipinos don't seem to have a sense of urgency.  I always say that Filipinos are just so flexible and prepared to be flexible with anything that can happen any minute.  In a country where typhoons, earthquakes and other natural disasters and calamities happen almost regularly, people become flexible and have learned to accept that same flexibility from others.    This is why I explain that Filipino time is Flexi-time.  Usually Filipinos don't fret when someone gets late for an appointment.  They almost expect this and are ready to do other things while anticipating someone's arrival.  Some people would do their minor tasks like reading, texting, calling, even smoking a cigarette, others while anticipating someone's arrival so that no time was lost or wasted.  So if you are dealing with a Filipino, you must be prepared to be flexible when it comes to schedules and appointments.  It may take a while for some Filipinos before they become as time-conscious as you.  

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