This excerpt appears in Ha-Joon Chang's book "Bad Samaritans" and it was written by an Australian consultant with regards to Japan in August 1915. Chang also mentions Sidney Gulick's 1903 book "Evolution of the Japanese" which also stereotypes the Japanese as "'easy-going' and 'emotional' people who possessed qualities like 'lightness of heart, freedom from all anxiety for the future, living chiefly for the present.'"
I don't have details on Brazil, but I am almost certain that this "Brazilian time" is just a symptom of some completely reversible, systemic problem that is making it difficult to do business with high-technologies in Brazil.
Or inversely, it's a western problem that makes it difficult to live humanely and stress-free and incurs great human toll -- and at the point when we're so technologically advanced to not need it as much (but are great at creating busywork for ourselves).
To write off the economic successes of the west under the guise of “problem” with western culture is deeply problematic. If you were to use this tableau to jump into an argument against societies that are captilistic and encourage the chasing of material wealth over the informal, beautiful moments that make humanity interesting you would have a much stronger case. I think we would all benefit if you were to sharpen your position, as there is something deeply intriguing about your point.
With that said, I also find issue with content of your argument. Economic success requires efficiency in all aspects of a business. A lack of punctuality that permeates a society to the point that it effects business strategy is problematic.
Well, there is a problem with western culture in this area -- it can never be content, and its eating away the planet. It's own visionaries and thought leaders imagined a society of leisure and 3 hour workdays and such, but we have many times the efficiency per hour of previous ages, and people are overworked more than ever (not to mention increasingly in debt as well).
>Economic success requires efficiency in all aspects of a business.
Well, I'm against "economic success" beyond a certain point, and especially when it comes to the detriment of the society, and the environment. I'm for economic sustainability, and with utilizing the vast technological resources to improve life (as opposed to induce consumption).
The problem of many Western societies is that the cost of leisure is too damn high for many.
This is partly because the efficiency of work (its value for advancing a business project) is non-linear with time spent. Someone spending 100 hours a week maybe pretty inefficient due to overwork and thus lower (even negative) quality of things done. Someone spending 10 hours a week could be also inefficient because the project moves faster (when everyone else around works 40 hours), or the competition moves faster. So there is a range of maximum efficiency, which is hopefully far from 100 h/week, but also likely far from 10 h/week.
"Gig economy" can help: you work hard 2-4 months for a high rate, then coast 4-6 months at a nice place with low cost of living. The problem, of course, is that you must have saved a pretty thick cushion of assets for the case when a new gig is not coming when you planned.
I'd go further. Most products and projects are BS busywork, if not actively harmful and they shouldn't be part of the economy in the first place.
We've created a huge society middlemen, procurers, and snake-oil salesmen, and turned increasingly more aspects of life into commercial endeavours, where ever more people are constantly hustling and peddling something (manufactured crap, of which there are untold tons , planned obsolesce replacement products, their image, and so on).
Finding such toxic-but-still-used product is a good opportunity to both make a living and improve life in general. I suppose the hardest part is to detect and understand the real need being filled.
Certainly enough, education, and other ways to change culture, is a more profound way to change the way people fill their needs, and especially what they even perceive as needs. E.g. the need to serve a bloody revenge is by now mostly absent from a typical Western society, while the need to one-up a neighbor is still pretty widespread.
Well, I'm a believer in an objective world in which not all needs are equal.
I can accept that which need is important or not can be difficult to ascertain. But I also hold that in many, if not most, cases, it's very easy.
Despite the cult of the individual and the reverence with which subjective taste is held, I'd go on record to say that some (most) people have buy products that fulfill irrelevant non-needs.
For an easy to agree with (but real) example, heroin addicts ands Milli Vanilli listeners both buy products that "fill a need". The question is more whether they should.
If for some reason you prefer today's Western culture to that of 15th century, be certain that it changed mainly because of some people pursuing their irrelevant non-needs, as seen by then-contemporary "normal people".
You hasten to generalizations. It's entirely possible that the economic success of the Western societies had historic roots in the industrial revolution and the mechanization of human life it entailed. But it's very hard to prove the same reasons hold today - it might be the case where the historical effect is confused with the alleged cause.
The strong economic growth of countries like Brazil or South Africa seems to indicate that, at least to a point, economics can blend with a relaxed attitude. Modern technology, offline communications like email, telecommuting and just in time fabrication could well usher in an era of high prosperity and low stress. Maybe these countries are laboratories of the future.
Unfortunately, the people benefitting from the 'economic success' aren't the same people as those who are required to be efficient in everything.
It would be much better to look at quality of life than at profits. The only thing amounts of money have going for it is that you can easily put them in spreadsheets.
punctuality doesn't necessarily means efficiency. Punctuality itself comes at a cost. Somewhat similar to low latency. Your argument reminds about those Scrum proponents who tout that decreasing the latency and increasing synchronicity - what the Scrum is really about - would miraculously lead to throughput increase. Which it never does, and usually it has quite the opposite effect (exactly as expected from the systems theory and experience)
For example if you have 10 people attending a meeting and all must wait till they are present before starting (a very common occurrance) having all 10 people turn up promptly is more efficient than having 1-9 people waiting for the remainder of the attendees to arrive.
Have they ever looked up a store's hours before going there? Or gone to see a movie? Or met with someone else to do... anything? Or utilized public transit?
Of course it can be argued that, in a cosmic sense, maybe society is more "efficient" toward people relaxing and enjoying life if that train doesn't leave for another 45 minutes because the conductor felt like sleeping in this morning. But at that point, it's not a meaningful discussion.
Honestly it's difficult to imagine having the opposing view with any experience at all managing anything. Or even considering what it might be like to do so.
That automatically implies that it doesn't take much experience or a very open mind. It would be the opposite position, the hard to accept one, that would require broader life experience and a more open mind.
I think it would be better if meetings were seen as the expensive beasts they are and only the bare minimum of people that can attend it, should attend it, and it should be considered (especially with routine meetings) whether or not the meetings even need to be held in the first place.
Efficient towards what, and what for? Those are good questions seldom asked.
I'm not suggesting that everything in business benefits from being regimented but that meeting expectations allows for others to plan their time effectively.
Time where people are waiting for others to do work which should have been completed can often be wasted.
Then you must first consider the need to have the business or meeting in the first place.
In fact, people's time is only "wasted" because it has been made precious -- i.e. because it was stolen and/or sold. That's way more wasted time (they'll never get again) there, than in "wasting time" by not being punctual.
Societies studied by ethnologists had little care for punctuality. In fact the same was true for rural societies in Europe and the US as well (the US South was considered "lazy" and without a "sense of time" as well), and even urban life before the tyranny of the modern "always on" demands. For the upper classes, being fashionably late was a virtue.
Punctuality is a virtue of slaves -- to other people and to the clock in general.
On a longer time scale, it is hard when you look at Italy or Greece today to think of how the same population was once Sparta, the army of Alexander the Great or the Roman Empire. Populations evolve.
That's just nit-picking about the complexities of history, but I do agree that the point that people and cultures can change is very true!
The Chinese had the reputation to be super reliable and
men of their word, while the Japanese had the reputation
to be unreliable and ready to cross you at the first
The Party is a large part of the difference in culture. Taiwanese and Singaporeans are Chinese but they didn’t have the Cultural Revolution or the Great Leap Forward to deal with. Communism does bad things to cultures. I’m sure things will get better in time but I doubt it will be the work of just one generation.
Lee Kuan Yew famously fashioned Singaporean culture almost out of whole cloth as he believed that without a radical transformation in the social and economic culture that Singapore would quickly disintegrate. I can't find good quotes at the moment, but he had some really harsh opinions about the local ethnic Chinese culture from which he emerged; that it was corrupt, chaotic, criminal and an existential threat to the new nation.
I read Paul Midler's "What's Wrong With China" recently, the followup to his "Poorly Made In China", and his research seems to indicate that communism and the Great Leap Forward are not the source of those aspects of Chinese culture, that those aspects go back much further.
Definitely a fascinating read.
The Meiji Restoration was already incredible but I thought the work ethic was there throughout and helped make it possible. I had no idea there was also a revolution of work ethic.
They beat the Brits by about a decade.
Are you sure about that? Compulsory education was introduced in Austria in 1774. Apparently Japan introduced it shortly after the Meiji Restoration in 1868. If anything the UK was particularly late to the game.
Austria had major attendance and implementation issues (e.g., only a 50-60% attendance rate) which apparently weren't fixed until the Reich Public School Law of 1869.
That said, I remember that there was a lot of discussion at one point about how individual behavior in countries that overlapped ex-Austrian/Habsburg territory could be mapped against historical (19th century) boundaries.
Getting back to the original point, Japan was successful because it had high levels of urbanization, which made state directed education more accessible and easier to attain. Other countries/territories implemented compulsory education well before Japan (e.g., Massachusetts first required compulsory education in the 1640s), but efforts either had comparatively lower penetration or relied on non-state institutions (e.g., the church or private institutions) to enforce.
There is correlation between stereotypes and GDP.
> passionate, melancholy, romantic, and tearful
After all some of the most famous Romantic artists came from Germany: Heine, Beethoven, Hölderlin and Goethe himself. The latter's Werther was the most emotional novel until at least Madam de Bovary, which was written about 80 years later.
Any links on this?
TL;DR (it's a 213 page grad thesis) Old Germany used to be basically Hufflepuff, a simple-minded, loyal, obedient rustic bumbler who's too stupid to really be a threat or even much of a partner. New Germany arose post-German unification and especially post WW1, where the stereotypes shifted to the modern more sinister concept of a nation of amoral mad scientists and clockwork soldiers - largely as an attempt to justify Germany being the great rival of England.
I was hoping someone whose started a business in Brazil would come along and tell me what it's like. I really know nothing about the country.
Here's an interview with an industrialist that describes the transformation: http://blog.lucforsyth.com/2012/01/under-pressure-byun-ho-sa...
I think that time is not really a factor here. Institutions like the IMF and WTO passively suppress the economic development of poor countries by withholding incentives unless they behave like rich countries. I don't think this is done out of malice though, because I've met people who genuinely believe that forcing businesses in Mozambique to compete directly with the U.S. economies of scale "creates a level playing field" and doesn't inhibit their growth in certain key industries at all.
It's easy for someone to "genuinely believe" something when their career (as policy advisors, bankers, development "experts", etc) and perks is based upon promoting it and enforcing it upon others.
Without "skin in the game" everyone can be a good person with "great intentions".
One person, One vote is the least flawed way to gather signal from actual people who have skin in the game.
That's a generalization its opponents make, but it isn't true.
In most places where it was practiced (ancient Athens, short-lived anarchist areas in Spain, egalitarian communities, etc.) it was shown to be more benevolent and inclusive to "true numerical minorities" than most representative democracies. Heck, the US had segregation in practice up to the 70s, with blacks being a 20% or so of the population (and more in some areas), and gays were persecuted throwout Europe representative democracy or not.
Even more, the most horrid persecutions of minorities have happened under elected representatives (like Hitler), or authoritarian regimes (e.g. Stalin), as opposed to any "direct democracy".
It's indicative that the arguments in the lemma ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyranny_of_the_majority ) are contrived though experiments and not historical examples.
There's no "tyranny of the majority" that's inherent in direct democracy, any more so than it is in representative "democracy". The tyranny lies in an orthogonal axis (namely: the prevalent passions and ideologies of the era), and can be applied regardless of direct or representative democracy.
Source? Athenian direct democracy was only for males, legally sanctioned slaves and allowed for a simple majority to ostracize people. Sparta's direct democratic elements oversaw a large Helot slave population.
That's irrelevant to the discussion though, as that was simply the norm then across regimes, not a special characteristic of Athenian direct democracy.
Not to mention that the US representative democracy was only for males until the 1920s, had slaves until 1865 and segregation until the 1970s. And that's 2.5 millennia later than that pesky Athenian direct democracy.
You claimed "in most places where [direct democracy] was practiced (ancient Athens... etc.) it was shown to be more benevolent and inclusive to 'true numerical minorities' than most representative democracies." I'm disagreeing with that claim. I'm asking for a source for the the general claim because I'm confused about what separates "true numerical minorities" from other kinds of minorities.
I'm pushing back on the assertion that is has been shown direct democracy works well for minorities. It hasn't. (It has been shown that representative democracy works, or at the very least can be stable.) The tyranny of the majority has not been conclusively proven (nor disproven). This is an open question, and one that evolves as technology (and the population's education) progresses.
You can disagree, but not because ancient Athens had slaves or women didn't vote. That were common places until millennia later across systems of government, and not some inherent product of direct democracy (as opposed to representative democracy).
If you want to disagree, let's stick to differences in how the citizenry included or excluded in both is treated.
By definition, something found in both types of democracy (such as slavery or women not voting) wont tells us anything about how they differ.
>I'm asking for a source for the the general claim because I'm confused about what separates "true numerical minorities" from other kinds of minorities.
Nothing. I didn't chose the term "true numerical minorities" -- I just used the grandparent's (ff317) term.
Ignoring history of how stolen wealth from colonialism and protectionist policies of the west during the colonial era etc when its convenient to do so is nothing but malice.
President Ulysses S. Grant stated:
For centuries England has relied on protection, has carried it to extremes and has obtained satisfactory results from it. There is no doubt that it is to this system that it owes its present strength. After two centuries, England has found it convenient to adopt free trade because it thinks that protection can no longer offer it anything. Very well then, Gentlemen, my knowledge of our country leads me to believe that within 200 years, when America has gotten out of protection all that it can offer, it too will adopt free trade.
It is not done with malice.
The IMF/WB believe that nations that have basic infrastructure, basic forms of democracy, low corruption and relatively open markets ... will be successfull. This is neither malicious nor entirely naive.
It's pragmatically naive when you consider the leader of some nation may take a 10% cut off the loan, hire his buddies to 'build the dam that never gets built' and then of course you have a nation in debt ... but those debts are not advantageous to the West at all, so the conspiracy theories are wrong.
Now - where there is actual malice is when a large, Western industrial conglomerate might win a big contract and so they influence, bribe, fake data - and then get the contract to 'totally overbuild' some kind of capacity leaving a nation with way more than they need. That's malice, but it's definitely not the IMF/WB or lending nations that win there.
Many of EU & IMF bureaucrats genuinely believed that they were helping the Greek economy recover while they were actually engaged in destroying it.
And no the Greeks destroyed their own economy though systematic hard and soft corruption, knowingly hiding irregularities, unwillingness to make any necessary reforms, etc. etc..
The IMF's 'dogma' operates under the assumption that there are conscientious, reasonable and rational actors on the other side of the loan.
One might argue that it is this assumption that needs to be revisited ... though what some lament as 'austerity' (required by lenders) to others simply is 'being responsible with the massive loan we are about to take'.
If you are assigning moral faults, then please do so for the banks too who made their loans knowing the facts & assuming that they would be bailed out by EU if things went bad.
A more rational thing to do would have been to force the banks to grant Greece a debt haircut, waiving off 50% of the loans, while helping Greece restructure its economy in a realistic manner.
Instead, many people especially at the EU saw the Greek economic problems as a moral failure of all the Greek people for which all of them, including pensioners, must be punished while safely bailing out the banks that originally lent. Somehow, it is unacceptable to blame the banks.
I doubt this. The ECB and EU have not ever done this, and thinking through it just for a minute means that this is highly unlikely. I can't fathom why anyone would actually think this is going to happen with any degree of certainty. But I get the impetus that 'way back in the 2000's' that people might have 'felt this way'.
Also - there's a lot of fault still on the side of the Greeks in this case.
It’s happened before in history and even has a name: debt bondage.
“Repetition is the mother of all learning”
"Why Brazilians are always late"
Always being late, and always being late to parties are too very different accusations. If you just read the new headline ("In Brazil, it is considered rude to be on time to a party") and checked comments before reading TFA, you might be confused.
1. “That evening I went for a walk in town, and came upon a small crowd of people standing around a great big rectangular hole in the road—it had been “dug for sewer pipes, or something—and there, sitting exactly in the hole, was a car. It was marvelous: it fitted absolutely perfectly, with its roof level with the road. The workmen hadn’t bothered to put up any signs at the end of the day, and the guy had simply driven into it. I noticed a difference: When we’d dig a hole, there’d be all kinds of detour signs and flashing lights to protect us. There, they dig the hole, and when they’re finished for the day, they just leave.”
2. “When I got to the center, we had to decide when I would give my lectures—in the morning, or afternoon.
Lattes said, “The students prefer the afternoon.”
“So let’s have them in the afternoon.”
“But the beach is nice in the afternoon, so why don’t you give the lectures in the morning, so you can enjoy the beach in the afternoon.”
“But you said the students prefer to have them “in the afternoon.”
“Don’t worry about that. Do what’s most convenient for you! Enjoy the beach in the afternoon.”
So I learned how to look at life in a way that’s different from the way it is where I come from. First, they weren’t in the same hurry that I was. And second, if it’s better for you, never mind!”
Excerpt From: Richard Phillips Feynman. “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman”: Adventures of a Curious Character.”
Portuguese classes were agonisingly boring and devoid of practical use.
No choice of basic or advanced topics were allowed, everyone studies “advanced everything” and to fail one single subject meant you had to fail and re-do the entire year.
To point #2. Any guest in Brazil will be treated differently during their visit.
https://jornalistaheitormenezes.blogspot.com/2015/11/o-carna... has some interesting historical context about Feynman's trips to Brazil.
It's a matter of conscientiousness and responsibility. Even if there were no signs immediately available, nobody with an ounce of decency would leave a large hole unmarked. Signs are not expensive, if they're not available it's because of a lack of intelligent and responsible acting somewhere else in in the value chain.
As for #2, it's still a lack of conscientiousness. The students should (at least try) to go to their lecture, that the prof should try to give. Surely, a visit to Brazil warrants a quick hop to the beach at minimum but there's no reason people can't do what they are supposed to do all around.
99% of the world's problems would be solved if we all just acted with very basic levels of conscientiousness and responsibility: show up, do the basic work, think a little bit, be nice, don't be corrupt, try to do good work ... commensurate with increasing levels of responsibility obviously, but 'hole diggers' still need to do their jobs with responsibility and a little bit of pride.
I find explanation in the previous comment, that as a visitor Feynman may have been held to a different standard in order to make his stay more pleasant, quite reasonable.
When you start to reduce life down to simplistic concepts, everything is not relative and cultural. Sure, maybe on the fringes (.01%) there are situations that are heavily influenced by those. But for most things in life (near or on mazlowe's hierarchy) it is almost like math, or a logic puzzle.
Brazilians don't leave uncovered holes in the street because of something entirely logical within their own culture. They leave because they are lazy and do not care for the level of danger it represents to others. To imply otherwise is simply dressing a pig.
Probably sounds better in the original German.
These proofs by anecdotes are really fast food for the biased mind.
Just as a thought experiment, if Brazilians are inherently 'lazy' as you say and it has nothing to do with the environment that they are in and its incentives, then are they also lazy abroad? Do they also forget to put signs when they dig holes? Do they do a worse service in restaurants? Do they work less than their coworkers? Are they also consistently late?
Is this not the case because they are from a biased sample of non-lazy Brazilians that leave the country? Or maybe Brazilians are not inherently lazy?
Just a few questions for the debate.
The whole crux of my argument is to remove the concept of culture from the discussion unless it is absolutely necessary.
Sorry to bow out but I think you are barking up the wrong tree trying to get me to say something unique about Brazil. Human laziness and general awfulness is universal.
We agree then.
> _Brazilians_ don't leave uncovered holes in the street because of something entirely logical within their own culture. _They_ leave because they are lazy...
I guess it is fair to say that your point was quite hard to grasp based on your last sentence, seeing the other comments as well. If you say "Brazilians don't leave uncovered holes because of...", then it seems you are making a point about the whole population in a generalized sense. Therefore "they are lazy" also refer to this generalization.
Sorry that it came across that way, and for any offense!
I don't have a clear answer about where that difference comes from, but I thought it was a factor in people's differing behavior.
To be fair, there is some cultural relativism here: leaving a hole is probably 'logical' on some level because a) maybe it's not an operational requirement of the workers, b) maybe there are no signs available and they can't do anything about it ... but more likely c) these behaviours are common and it's hard to get anyone to 'act above and beyond' the local climate.
Those same workers might be totally different people with 3 months 'on the job' in Germany, with German standards, laws and behavioural norms.
I think cultural relativism (to which you are referring) is a real thing, but we can't use it as an excuse either.
As for signs are not expensive. You gotta go to Brazil and see with your own eyes then.
Brazilians are hard worker, just go and check with your own eyes. The problem is a bit deeper in my opinion and experience.
Road work signage is an issue of liability in the US, not courtesy.
It's also true that societal education and resources over time correlates strongly with putting up road signs, as the Japan anecdote suggests.
A subset of Scots from an area near the border on England used to be known for having a culture where fist fighting over disputes was common and education was looked down upon. Many of these groups migrated to the American south and eventually moved on from violence and education rates have since drastically improved.
You can be critical or concerned about a culture phenomenon without dismissing the culture outright like some racist book in the 1920s about Japanese...
"are who they are through no real fault of their own"
This is the ultimate cultural relativism rubbish, no offence, but people make their own decisions in life. It's this kind of reasoning that some try to use to absolve murderers and thugs for their actions.
Surely on some level we're all the result of our upbringing, but we also have to take responsibility for what we are at some point.
Your expectations and the expectations in most parts of the west are that everyone take care to protect others from being harmed by their actions. Brazil, Indonesia, India, etc, expect people to be vigilant and steer clear of things that may do them harm. The only reason you see that as wrong is because it is foreign to you. If you grew up and lived in a different culture you'd almost certainly see that as right and anything opposite to that as wrong.
In the west we get everything in writing when we do business and rely on the ability of courts to enforce a contract to protect us when things go wrong (and this adds a lot of overhead, yes this has increased a lot in the past few generations). In China they rely less on contracts and legal solutions and rely more on the effects of a good/bad reputation to protect them from business dealings that go wrong. In the west we don't take people to court if we don't have to but it's the power of the court and ability to take things to court if needed that keeps things running smoothly, in other places the value of one's reputation performs that function.
Expectations of timeliness is another aspect by which cultures vary (as discussed at length in TFA). A meeting that starts on on time in Brazil would probably not be much appreciated. If meeting started late in Japan an apology would be in order at the very least.
These are just three examples of aspects of society that vary from culture to culture. Which is wrong and right depends on what you're used to. Personal physical safety is more likely to bring out people's inner puritanical crusader than the latter two which is why it tends to evoke such strong emotions.
Edit: changed the timing and contract law examples per comments.
Cultural relativism is largely nonsense. Leaving a giant pit in the road for people to drive into is objectively a dangerous and selfish thing to do. Whether the expectation in the country is that people will do dangerous and selfish things doesn't change that fact, it just means the society has some huge problems.
There are multiple optima on the cultural space. Americans' individualistic and Scandinavians' committee-loving systems both work well, and optimize for a complimentary set of problems. Saying "ignore the students–go to the beach," on the other hand, is an objectively worse cultural tenet than "balance everyone's needs."
Balancing everyone's needs tends to result in something that doesn't make anyone really happy.
This leads to a least common denominator result (you can have any color you want, as long as it's black) which is objectively worse in aggregate than "optimize for some, and let someone else optimize for the others".
The point I'm trying to illustrate is that where people draw the line on personal responsibility to do things to protect other people vs people's responsibility to look out for themselves varies greatly based on their culture and right and wrong is a matter of perspective and consensus.
Am I being dangerous or selfish if I don't pay a licensed plumber to connect my new gas stove or water heater? What about if I do my own electricity (the Aus vs US split on this one should be interesting)? What if I keep firearms in my home? Is it my fault if someone coming to knock on my door and annoy me trips over some kid's toys on my porch? What if my stairs are icy and they slip?
Reconciling differing opinions on public safety vs individual freedom to act (or not act) as we please is something society must do. As much as I'd love to push everyone I don't agree with off a cliff that's not an option.
I think most of us would agree that the line is "when your negligence could likely and predictably lead to severe harm to others". As you've pointed out, there are a lot of details to decide there, and different cultures will figure those differently.
I do think that it is fair to say that leaving an unmarked pit in a road is, objectively, over the line though (as are my extreme examples). It could easily, predictably, lead to someone's death through no fault of their own, and is easily prevented. That balance between burden imposed to prevent harm and ability for individuals to protect themselves from that harm is important, I think.
I wish I had more time to mull this over and discuss with you, as I think there are a lot of interesting questions there.
The courts are a last resort both in business and for personal functions.
My grandfather ran a hardware store and lumberyard back in 'the olden days' and would make windows for a farmer who promised to pay with '1/2 a cow' during slaughter season. The farmer would bring the cow to the butcher 6 months later. Conscientiousness, trust, community.
Note that Brazil has quite a high rate of petty crime, whilst in Japan it's really quite low. Obviously so many factors ... but a fundamental one is culture.
The "Gentleman's handshake" is a famous "old way" of doing things in America/the West. So this is not unique to foreign cultures.
But as we've industrialized, urbanized, globalized, etc, etc the use of contracts became a necessity and culture patterns began to reflect this. Partially as a reaction to need: it was harder to trust random people in a city with a few million people than a guy you know from town and see at Church. But also because it just made everything simpler and more efficient to just write it down. It makes any future disputes far less destructive, because what it says in the agreement is what matters, not what you think was the arrangement, which is a lot more personal and potentially destructive to relationships.
So therefore the cultures evolved largely out of need and rationality. And I expect many of the examples listed in China, Indonesia, etc to evolve in a similar way as the culture moves away from farming and rural areas to a globalized urban economy.
Oh, it would be, as a train (or plane) is expected to depart at the right time. People get up and queue for their plane 15 minutes before boarding time, even though they have marked seats and boarding groups.
A meeting starting at the right time? Inconceivable.
I found a solution to this problem which is as effective as it is potentially insulting, and so is best left for later in one's career. Schedule a few more days than you think you'll need. Show up for meetings 15 minutes early and then, after waiting 15 minutes, leave. When asked about it, play dumb and imply you thought you got the time or location wrong. Reschedule, rinse, repeat. (It helps to have an aloof or distractible personality.)
By the end of the trip, you'll have isolated the most ambitious people (who will show up to things on time and thereby be able to interface with ambitious people outside their country), forged a solid and mutually-respectful working relationship with them, and found time to enjoy the place. Works well in Brazil, the Middle East and India.
You'll have found people who are willing to play petty games instead of having frank conversations about expectations. Those sorts of things are anything but mutually-respectful and encourage future childish behavior. There is nothing wrong with explaining "The meeting starts at noon. I expect everyone attending to be there at noon, and the meeting will be canceled if you're not there on time", there is a problem with expecting people to read your mind when their default mode of operation is to act differently than you expect.
I do--and did--this. And then for about half the meetings nobody showed up for thirty minutes. My point is that setting the expectation by example--in addition to explicitly communicating it in advance--works.
Having spent the first half of my life in Canada, and the second in Asia, I've quickly realized that Canadians (and, I assume most of the west) are overprotected (insurance, medicine, health schemes, regulations, big brother, and, most obviously, food safety).
(While it isn't unique to Hong Kong, Hong Kong is the most affluent place I've seen this widespread).
Why is there no such focus towards responsibility in Brazil? That's the question imo.
Societal exceptions of where that line is vary greatly even from state to state even in the US, say nothing of the differences between expectations in say, wealthy city in the US and Brazil.
Why the US is so blame happy, rather than personal responsibility, that is the question.
Just different cultures
Furthermore, this is about driving and not walking, and during the night. It shouldn't come as a surprise that people are not able to see a black hole on black cement at 'high' speeds (50kph/30mph). Add a little bit of rain or fog, and it's just a recipe for disaster. Maybe if people are aware that workers do stuff like that, they are a little bit more careful but it's probably too late when you finally see it.
The problem here is that there is a culture that does not care very much about their action towards others and think it's not their responsibility and nothing is going to happen to them. While I liked my stay in Brazil a lot (although it was only for a few days), the difference is quite obvious.
If you accidentally stepped in one of the holes, you could be seriously injured, or potentially have a life threatening injury if you're elderly.
At night time the street lights are very dim, and I only walked on the road, because I didn't have a flashlight and the sidewalk was too unsafe.
Once you get beyond the bare minimum of warnings that alert people to some hazard returns diminish quickly, better to spend your resources on minimizing the damage of people being dumb than preventing them from being dumb in the first place.
This is a pretty dangerous way of looking at the world - it’s victim blaming and means nobody has to take responsibility.
Negligence is definitely a problem. Some time ago the Brazilian Samarco iron ore mine collapsed due to negligence. That had dire consequences. Did they blame the victims for not being careful enough? Of course not.
Education? Sure, but resources are in no way low in Brazil unless you mean very specific resource(s).
But even 8,600 is high relative to the US in 1920’s when the economy was seen as booming. In many ways it’s the perception of wealth and a poor social safty net that’s at issue not resources.
However, this is mainly an issue in rural areas. And even though there may be no signs, there's typically a line of small rocks, maybe 0.5 meter from the edge.
The case of the car in the hole has a socioeconomic explanation.
There is huge wealth and education disparity within Brazil and specially Rio.
The divide between a blue collar worker fixing the road in Rio and a white collar worker is extreme enough that they are actually from separate cities and I’d suggest different cultures.
The road worker would possibly live in a favela with close to no involvement from the government.
His only interactions with the “rich”, anyone who doesn’t live in a favela, also called “asphalt people” would be in the form of his superiors who pay him little, treat him like a replaceable resource, don’t provide him with adequate training or tools.
There is very little incentive for him to excel at his job or go out of his way to find clever solutions to work problems. There is no career plan here.
Once the clock ticks to 5pm he goes back to his universe. The rich can sort it out themselves.
The most memorable part for me was the vast amounts of cupholders in American cars that aren't found in vehicles anywhere else in the world.
Another memorable event was learning about the true American religion: Tide. I still cannot believe people seem to be addicted to a detergent that costs a small fortune per bottle. I kind of assume that the typical top loader washing machines aren't much more expensive than the detergent (here I have never seen one of these fake washing machines).
Another thing I remember is design. My father is a hobbyist wood carver and painter with an admiration for the romantic epoch up to the art of the 20ies I would say. I was raised in the firm belief, that a certain aestheticism was lost when artistic and design styles moved ahead. When I was in the US I had at one point an almost enlightenment. I - like many other exchange students - recognised how many things in the us are designed with ornaments, I am not speaking about old stuff things that are produced today. This starts with pens, book covers and furniture, over Greek style columns at family homes and hospitals, and I can only describe this weird feeling with what I assume to an American is the feeling when looking at stuff of Donald trunp. No clear lines but ornaments everywhere. Then I realised that the US has never completely said goodbye to art deco and related styles. Since I know now what the logical continuation of art deco in the 21st century is, j am much less inclined to join my father in mourning the arrival of modern design.
Quite a few of my other Japanese friends made nervous comments when we were waiting for Brazilian friends, or after they'd arrive. "sasugani [so-and-so, the Brazilian] hahahahaha" they'd say, and it was clear that they were annoyed.
After traveling a bit more and studying psychology a bit more, it's clear that the preference really does vary by the individual, even though patterns like those in the article exist within a populace. Some Japanese really don't care when you arrive, and some Brazilians are really timely people. Their personal strengths come from some position along the robotically-scheduled/free-floating continuum. Culturally, maybe they make arrangements to fit in a little better, or maybe they don't and they're just the weirdo. No matter what the preference is, if we can be flexible or tactical about how we use it, we gain some advantages.
São Paulo is a much more globalized city than Rio, which is really navel-gazing. (Most families in Rio can trace their ancestry centuries back, while São Paulo is usually the largest $(nationality-descent) population outside $(homecountry). This makes for cultural differences.)
But: it's not like carioca customs bleed over to the workplace any more than, say, West Texan customs do. I mean, at my workplace we wear suits but not ties; whenever in São Paulo we tie up. That's most of it.
Is 'almost everyone you met' a representative sample of the population of SP? Of Brazil?
To say that Brazilians are late is a generalisation. To say they are on time is also a generalisation.
Also, the article summary you cited says nothing about punctuallity. It talks about pace of life. Where can I see the full study?
But if you agree to meet people at a certain time, then being more than 10-15 minutes late without letting the person know is just rude, selfish and inconsiderate. Sure problems come up - these days there is zero excuse to not let the people know you are going to be late and give them an estimated ETA.
By being deliberately/incompetently late in those scenarios where you've agreed on a time, you're telling the person whose time you are wasting that you value your time more than you value theirs - i.e. that you consider yourself and your time as more important than them, and so fuck you - I'll get there when I want and you can wait for me since I am the most important one in this meeting and you and your time is worthless...
Are you late because you are just a bit disorganised? Please get a grip make an effort because you're a grown up and the people you are meeting had to make an effort to get there too.
Are you late because you are just an arsehole? Take a long look at yourself in the mirror.
tl;dr - depends on context.
It does, and if you're trying to co-ordinate anything with a material number of people, one must recognize it's not a useful cultural aspect to carry forward. Timeliness allows for complex coordination. (It also allows for economic interfacing with the world's advanced economies.)
Also, what would be crazy for many people that live in small countries compared to Brazil, is that many workers live far away from their job or school. Up to 3 hours for a single way. It is also expected to have something not working in their way to their destination.
It's not a black and white thing. Writing a generic bold statement tends always to be harmful. Damn human brain that loves to find patterns to simplify information processing :)
My example: I'm Portuguese but have lived in Denmark for quite a few years now, in Denmark I'm about as punctual as everyone else around here (which is mostly punctual, not as much as Germans though, who tend to show up before the agreed time) but when I'm visiting down south, I go back to the standard of showing up a little after the agreed time.
In other words: when in Rome do as the Romans do.
I remember some years ago that my (french) boss was often frustrated with our indian colleagues being late or having delays in their work.
Then I spent an internship with them and I understand. It was much harder for them to go from their home to the office and the conditions were far worse for them.
But it's hard for a lot of people to realize these differences and empathize without having to live under the same circumstances.
The exception to this is dinner parties, where people are much more punctual because they know you're planning the meal timeline.
I was then amused to see all the other (Danish) guests arrive within 2 minutes of each other.
You invite 20 people over for a BBQ at 2pm. Here's possible conversations I can envision in America:
"Thanks for the invite! I actually have a haircut appointment at 2, but I'll come right after"
"Thanks for the invite, but I have a a haircut appointment at 2..." "what? No worries! Come join whenever you can; we want to see you!" "Great. I will thanks!"
So how would it go in Germany?
"Sorry, I am busy and can't make it"
Because of this, I would say it's even more important to schedule things sufficiently ahead of time. Making up plans only 2 or 3 days in advance, when weekend plans are mostly settled and they can't properly schedule around your event, will just stress people out.
1. the first one can occur, if they can't be on time they will ask if they can arrive later and as the host you get to decide whether they should still come or not, either way the guest will arrive on the pre-determined time
2. if the start time is flexible, this is stated clearly as part of the invitation e.g. you invite people for a bbq "starting around" 2PM (rather than at 2PM) and make it clear that they can arrive and leave at any point in the afternoon, just that they should not arrive before 2PM
The haircut example would just mean you tell your friend in advance that you will arrive later.
I wouldn't say it's an American thing. Any party that's starting at 10PM isn't gonna get a good crowd till 12-1AM in Europe as well. Cause you don't want to show up when there are barely any people and have to awkwardly dance to the music in an empty place.
Party timing is still something many of us struggle with as not every host does it the same. Some like the guests to arrive on time, others have adopted the more international habit of not expecting anybody during the first hour.
Having lived in both countries, I would say our Swiss neighbors are even more stringent regarding punctuality.
Trains are also late in Germany. A lot. I blame DB.
They come up with the silliest excuses too, like that one time were they claimed that the track bed had caught fire. I would have believed it if it wasn't -10°C in the dead winter while it snowed like crazy.
On the other hand I do have a punctuality tick, I have counted out the exact amount of time it takes to get to the train station and I wake up at 0600 with or without alarm clock, regardless of when I fell asleep. I also make sure that my clocks are set as exact as possible (I used to run a GPS powered NTP server just for my devices).
Here in Chicago, the tracks are intentionally lit on fire in the winter (so they don't develop an ice sheet, I think). Maybe the same thing, but whoever explained it was unfamiliar with the practice?
There is also a lot of different snow clearing vehicles that go around in the worst areas.
We do have trainbed fires during dry summers at times (like currently) but not winter, it was just some excuse for lack of trains or otherwise produced delays.
There is a relatively old Swiss movie that plays with them. Available only in French and German versions.
The majority of America just doesn't care about appearance in this way.
We have relatives who usually leave their home at the declared start-time (so they're at best half an hour late, usually an hour or two), they're by far the most disliked members of my extended family for this an other reasons. Arriving late is disrespectful of both host and other guests, and is emblematic of and perfectly in line with their character.
When I was in California a few years ago I showed up to a party a few minutes before the invite time. Not only was I the only guest there for the first ~30 minutes, but the host clearly wasn't expecting anyone to show up at the given time.
I've heard of "fashionably late", never anything about "early".
IME early bird gets all the good nachos. And you can leave earlier.
Also if you're first, be ready to help set up!
I prefer too ease into these events by starting early and with a small group instead of making an entrance to a full room.
In some cultures appearing a busy person can be important. Showing early to a party could send the message you had nothing to do before. Not that i like or do that, but some people could pay attention to such details.
When I'd ask why they were late, it was the same reason each time. "Oh, we were watching a movie." A typical movie is 90 minutes long, so they would've been putting it on just around the time the party started.
In general though, everyone was a good 20-30 minutes late, but a few people and myself would show up early to help the host prepare last minute food/drinks.
In the US and most of the West, it's expected to be okay to be around one hour late for big house parties. However, Americans wouldn't normally be late for job interviews or other important events in a set time, which is completely normal in Latin America.
Nope. Sorry, but you are completely wrong. If you are late in job interviews for instance, you will probably not grant the job, if its in bussiness meetings, it will hurt your credentials in the company and it can even lead one to be fired.
Bussiness mentality is different than party mentality. Other things you must have to take into account is local culture. Rio is more laidback, while Sao Paulo is much, much less because it has more of a bussiness culture. (And i bet its the same in the US between different cities).
Thats one of the reasons why i try to teach some people, that for some contexts, thinking in terms of 'Latin America' its just wrong and too broad of a generalization.
You cant hardly generalize the whole of Brazil, and doing so in terms of Latin America is even worse.
But if you expect people to show up 30 mins. late structurally, why not just give a time 30 minutes later and have them be on time ?
All this does is cause unnecessary ambiguity.
A month later, we were dating. A couple years later, we married.
Sometimes being too early is good. :-)