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People All Over The World Are Late For A Very Important Date. Is That So Bad?

James Yang for NPR

When I read Esther Ngumbi's story about "Kenyan time," I burst into laughter.

In my culture, we have that, too — except we call it "Filipino time." Just like Kenyans, social events and appointments don't really start at the scheduled hour. Heck, in our family, we'd stroll into Sunday mass 30 minutes late!

It turns out that many cultures around the world share the same elastic idea of time. Since we published Ngumbi's post last week, our readers have informed us that in India, the phenomenon is dubbed " IST," or "Indian Standard Time." In Indonesia, it's called jam karet, or "rubber time." And in Jamaica, there's a vague time frame called " soon come," which could mean anything from "any second now" to "sometime later today."

Here's a selection of tweets and Facebook comments in response to the article. Some have been edited for length and clarity.







"The Vietnamese have a term for that: "giờ cao su," or elastic/rubber time. Thirty minutes late is still a bit early. I remembered I was told not to go to a party early (generally with eating) unless I was the host. The reason was that other people would think that my family must be really poor, I must be very hungry and thus I would show up at the party early in order to eat lots of food. And so it is like a standard, you should not be early for an (eating) party. Sometimes people would show up late with a toothpick stuck between the teeth, like they have just eaten somewhere else." - Ida Le, via Facebook

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Malaka Gharib is the deputy editor and digital strategist on NPR's global health and development team. She covers topics such as the refugee crisis, gender equality and women's health. Her work as part of NPR's reporting teams has been recognized with two Gracie Awards: in 2019 for How To Raise A Human, a series on global parenting, and in 2015 for #15Girls, a series that profiled teen girls around the world.