It is no coincidence that the Swiss are known for punctuality. For several hundred years they have led the way in the craft of watchmaking. It is a hallmark of Swiss culture and society. Our experiences in Switzerland confirmed these values. Trains always arrived and departed at posted times. Meetings began with firm handshakes, progressed in an orderly and efficient manner, and ended as scheduled. Tardiness was frowned upon. Materials were planned and prepared far in advance. To my American sensibilities, it seemed that formality and business came first. Once work was finished, then there would be time to laugh, play, and recreate.
After living in Swiss culture for several months, I went to Barcelona, Spain to teach a class. Talk about a one-eighty! My students strolled in thirty minutes after the class’s appointed start time. People greeted each other with kisses to the cheek and warm embraces. They spent several minutes talking about what they had done that day, where they were going the following day, details about family, etc. When the class “ended,” it didn’t really end but spilled out into the conversation that followed. Even the daily rhythms of time were drastically different. People went to work later in the morning, took siestas in the afternoon, and ate dinner late at night.
I found myself as an outsider living “between the times”, trying to fit in but not fully understanding the values of either culture. This is one of the greatest gifts and challenges of traveling or living abroad. We become so used to our own culture’s routines that we often go through our days without thinking about them. When we enter into another culture that does it differently, it is both challenging and rewarding. Even as you learn to adapt, you are also learning to critique your own assumptions and ways of doing things. This is why travel is life’s greatest teacher!
My time traveling and living abroad has taught me many things. Among them is the principle that being “on time” means different things to different people! Nevertheless, I’ve learned that there is one universal principle woven into what it means to live well as a human being. There are conversations to have, naps to enjoy, journeys to take, creative work to be done, and people to love. The time we’ve been given is a precious gift. Whenever and however you order the time you’ve been given, make sure that you don’t waste it!
Jason was raised in a small town in northeast Missouri. After moving to the Kansas City area to attend college, he taught computers and worked in an after school education program for latchkey children in the elementary school setting. Following his graduate work, Jason served as an associate pastor in the Kansas City area until his family moved to Switzerland where he served as a college chaplain and lecturer in Bible, theology, and ministry. Currently, Jason lives with his wife Regan and their son Carter in Portland, Oregon where he in the process of planting a new congregation. Jason has a passion for travel, art, and culture.
You can read his blog, here.
You can follow him on twitter: @jasonpveach