Analysis of M- and P-Time

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Edward Hall proposed a classification of time as a form of communication, in which cultures organize their time in one of two ways: monochronic (M-time) or polychromic (P-time). Both of these classifications represent very distinct approaches to time utilization and perception of time, one being monochronic, which views time as segmented and something that should be rationed. Whereas the other, polychronic, sees time as something that should be flexible, so the more important things in life can be given more attention. Considering M-time cultures are extremely punctual and use time judiciously, and P-time cultures live leisurely and are typically multi-taskers, when these two types of cultures intermingle there is much room for miscommunication.

An M-time view of time organization sees it as a very scarce resource that should not be wasted. People of M-time cultures ration their time through things like schedules and appointments and tend to be predominant in Low-context cultures. These types of cultures try to focus on one task at a time and finish it before moving on to the next. People of M-time cultures view time as something that can be lost, stolen, wasted, saved or even as something fixed in nature, like air. People of these cultures are well organized and value punctuality. A great example of this viewpoint can be observed by the English naturalist, Charles Darwin, when he said, “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” Darwin was insinuating that not even one hour of your day should be wasted, but instead planned and utilized. Some of today’s M-time cultures would include Austria, Switzerland, Germany and the dominant U.S. culture.

P-time cultures tend to define time by events rather than a clock or calendar. They also have no feelings of ever wasting time. P-time cultures are deeply steeped in tradition rather than in tasks, and tend to be predominant in High-context cultures. People of these...
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