16 October 2007
Time Cultures in the American Campus
Introduction: For most of international students, the American campus life is full of challenge because of the cross-cultural adaption process. Once you step into a different culture, you will face the differences from external aspects such as food, dress and customs to the internal ones, such as values and beliefs. And anyone who first comes to the America will notice the Americans¡¯ attitude towards time. Why the Americans never seem to have enough time and always emphasize the time? This article will present some segments of my campus life in American University as an exchange student from China in order to explore the different time values in cross-cultural communication. A comparison based on these interesting experiences will help the reader to contextualize the issues for apprehending the particularities and differences between western and eastern time values. Some guidelines of time management will also be raised to benefit the international students who will step into American campus. First I would like to share my experience of making appointment and participating in meeting with an American professor of my economics course. The professor with whom I made an appointment is an old gentleman from New York with native tongue and fast speaking speed. After bearing two classes, I decided to talk with the professor and tried to borrow the lecture Jenny 2
notes. The professor agreed the appointment as soon as he checked his schedule and then fixed an exact time of meeting. I was shocked by the professor¡¯s schedule, he even measured his time in minutes and included almost everything in his schedule! In contrast with the people in china, we seldom have a schedule and won¡¯t plan our work so detailed. If I want to meet a teacher in China, I can go ahead and never need to make an appointment because we don¡¯t have such a behavior. Furthermore, if I think the appointment is necessary and try to fix a time with my teacher, however, the teacher can¡¯t give me an exact time to meet. The only thing the teachers can be sure is a wider window of time, ¡°you may come during 4pm to 6pm¡± they will give such a reply. I think this wider window of time may exist in many countries with flexible and cyclical time value, because they do not want to plan the future in the way of making a schedule, and their attitudes toward time are to adapt themselves to it, not to manage it. The segment of making an appointment is only one aspect showing the time cultures in America. Days later, I went to the meeting on time, and what impressed me most is that the professor focused on the meet and even hung up a telephone from his wife. The professor also tried to control the talk to maintain his appointment schedule. It seems that all the efforts the professor made is to do the thing well and on time, nothing can interrupt his plan. It will be unbelievable in China that a professor will stop his personal event just Jenny 3
because a student¡¯s meeting. Usually the meeting time in China will take a long time, because people would like to build relationships through the meeting. Even there is nothing important to talk about£¬I will still try to find some topics just for chatting. However this kind of emotional communication will never be allowed to happen in the American meeting, because they think it¡¯s a waste of time. The linear time value becomes deeper in my heart when the economics course goes along. I am always told that all the assignments should be finished before deadline and do not try to get extra time. I am always reminded that participate in the group discussion on time. I am always recommended that work first, play later. Yes, this is the apothegm the American be taught when childhood, this is the attitude towards time the American be curved in their heart. From all these experiences, I find that cultures holds different concepts of...