There’s this little thing in America called punctuality. Generally speaking, it is rather important. People consider it rude to exceed the five minute grace window, and it is harped from a very early age that to be on time is to be late; to be early is to be on time. Americans tend to favor schedules booked on the hour and stick to them rather rigidly. If late, we call (or text). The friend who is perpetually late, and we all have one, gets a bad rap. In America, we associate punctuality with responsibility, value, and time management. As I said, it’s important.
Such is not the case in Spain. Of course, this is no riveting revelation. On the contrary it’s a rather well known fact; however, I have just been reminded how different my native culture is from my present culture.
Last night (yes, on a Friday at 23.00) my landlord emailed me to ask what time I would be available to meet tomorrow. She emailed because she needed to come to the apartment to collect the rent that my contract explicitly states is due within the first five days of the month, which is the same rent I have emailed her about three times asking when she wanted to come collect it.
We agreed this afternoon at 16.30 worked well for both parties. So, at 16.29 I was ready and waiting in the apartment. 16.40…nothing. Well, it’s Spain. I’m sure she’s functioning on Spain time. 16.55… a still quiet apartment. I check my phone to confirm I haven’t missed a phone call. I haven’t. 17.05… I check my email to verify I didn’t get my days confused. No, I’m correct. 17.15… Okay, I guess she’ll email or something when she has a chance to explain? 17.23… the buzzer to the front door goes off.
She explained that she had a terrible time finding parking – a claim that I am sure is valid because it’s very tough in my barrio– and had spent the last twenty minutes circling around the building. Yes, twenty minutes, which would have meant she would have arrived at 17.00. She also explained she didn’t have my phone number so she couldn’t call to inform me. Let’s ignore the fact that Spain still operates using landlines and the apartment (that is, the apartment she owns) is outfitted with one. So yes, our 16.30 meeting began at 17.25.