A culture’s sense of time is based on how that culture views the past, present and future.
The United States has a very different sense of time compared to other countries that instead practice more of a “Sobremesa mentality.” While some see time as a holder of endless possibilities, others tend to fear it since time cannot be slowed down, stopped or turned back.
Then there are others who adopt the “sobremesa” way of thinking. The word sobremesa literally means “over the table,” but culturally it means the leisure time after we have finished eating but before we get up from the table – it’s the time spent in conversation, relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. The traditional American view of time tends to focus on the future; they attempt to “save time” by moving faster, being more efficient and sometimes taking shortcuts.
People in the U.S. are characteristically punctual, and they expect others to be on time as well. For Hispanics, however, personal interaction is far more important than timeliness. In many Hispanic cultures, not being on time is considered culturally acceptable and it is the norm to be late if one gets caught up talking to a friend. This isn’t a sign that Hispanics don’t care about being punctual; it’s just that Hispanics have a more relaxed attitude about time.
Growing up as a second generation Hispanic, I understood the importance of preparing and planning for the future, but like so many other Hispanics I also tried to live in the here and now. Time is not actually passing; it is simply waiting for you – Dr. Orville B. Jenkins. So instead of rushing out to get all the things checked off your to-do list, why don’t you just stop and enjoy your time? As Miles Davis said: “Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing.” How we construct and use our time defines the texture and quality of our existence.