Monday, August 16, 2010

On-the-dot punctuality

Holding both American and Swiss passports has become more of a hindrance than a priviledge. Besides having to file and pay taxes in two countries, I can only think of four possible advantages:
  • You can breeze through airport immigration lines at both ends;

  • you can buy real estate in either country without too much trouble; and

  • you can work in both countries as well as throughout the EU.
Another privilege of dual citizenship--and a more subtle one at that-- is getting to know and cherry pick lifestyle traditions and habits from each country. One personal favorite is punctuality. Although, I had to learn it the hard way.

When my daughter was in the first grade, she was expected to show up at a sports day competition at her school scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. I got her there at 8:30 a.m., only to realize that the other children had already been divided into groups and had already begun their warm-up exercises. For the next 10-15 minutes, my visibly upset daughter and I watched her classmates run and jump, while waiting for the teacher to assign my daughter to a group.

I was so angry. I HAD been on time. I had known about the Swiss and their reputation for being as punctual as their best watches. But that day, I found out that:
To be early means to be on time;

To be on time means to be late; and

To be LATE is inexcusable.

So, here in the German part of Switzerland, it is normal and expected to be early to a meeting, dinner, or concert. Don't forget: If you have a  meeting at 9:00 a.m., the Swiss will arrive at 8:45 a.m. and business will begin at 9:00 a.m. on-the-dot.


  1. You've given a really good example that illustrates the point you're making. Also, your style is good and conversational. Is this an american saying: "Timeliness is next to Godliness?"

  2. Thinking more about the spontaneity and hot lunches, I think they're two separate subjects. Both are very interesting.

  3. I split the subjects are you suggested... please see later post on hot lunches!

  4. Wow! This is actually a good tip for people doing business across cultures so one knows what being "on time" actually requires. I will come early when I meet Germans or German Suisse colleagues! Thanks Diana for this interesting blog piece. I am excited to read more!