one mother’s polychronic tendency

Posted on February 17, 2010. Filed under: cross cultural, time, women | Tags: , , , , , |

Men Shopping              Women Shopping

I recently read about “women’s general polychronic tendency when shopping for groceries and clothing” and was relieved to learn that there is actually a cultural term for what some call wandering aimlessly.

Polychronic People are multitrack and circular.

I’m not wandering aimlessly. I’m multi-track and circular. “Yes, I came to the store to buy bread, but this chicken would be great for next week’s barbecue (I could freeze it) and Carla needs a bottled drink for her field trip tomorrow and more hair conditioner, and ooh! look! Whole Milk Stony Field French Vanilla is on sale– I could stuff Calvin with some calories off of that….”

Being a mother requires polychronic tendencies. If moms did things in a sequential, linear manner, like monochronic people do, very little would get accomplished.

Moms and Polychronic People:

  • Do many things at once. Time for different tasks can overlap,  as long as all tasks get done.
  • Are relationship oriented: Interruptions (think kids) are normal, expected and often welcome.
  • Meet time commitments depending on circumstances and relationship.
    What mom hasn’t had her plans change instantly because the baby suddenly fell asleep?
  • Change plans often and easily when circumstances change.
    Either that, or go crazy.


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When my time isn’t your time

Posted on April 13, 2009. Filed under: business, cross cultural conflict, cross cultural miscommunication, hispanic culture, time | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Time changes everything. Or how you view time changes everything.  Differences in cultural concepts of time are ALWAYS brought up by a frustrated manager or employee during cross cultural training sessions. I am amazed at how little attention is paid to understanding the concept of time in the workplace, given its profound impact on productivity, employee and customer relations, and worker satisfaction.

Ideas about time range widely:

  • Time is a scare resource.  Manage it carefully!
  • Time is abundant.  Relax!
  • Time is best spent concentrating on one activity, conversation, project, etc., at a time
  • Time is best spent concentrate simultaneously on multiple activities, conversations, projects, etc., at a time.
  • Use time to learn from the past.  The present is essentially a continuation or a repetition of past occurrences.
  • Use time to focus on “here and now” and short-term benefits.
  • Use time to plan for long-term benefits.  Promote a far-reaching vision.

These differences can wreak havoc on the workplace.

I worked with one American company that was having problems with time management of their plant in Mexico, which supplied the raw materials for their factory in the US. “They always miss deadlines, and never at least give us the heads up that they may be late!” “They work so slowly!” “It’s impossible to coordinate with them, because they just don’t stick to our schedule!”

When I asked how they were presently dealing with the situation, the manager said they had sent a team down to Mexico to train the employees on what was expected and managing their time better.

The company did not leave anyone American onsite to oversee production schedules. The problem returned as soon as we left, was their response. Well of course everything went back to Mexican style! Why wouldn’t it? Could you imagine a person from a different culture coming into your workplace and telling you to behave in a manner completely different from your culture? How long would you keep that up, especially if no one from the target culture was on site? Wouldn’t you and your coworkers slip back into your natural way of acting and communicating?

Helping employees understand cultural differences requires constant communication. There is no instant solution. Working successfully across cultures takes time.

Read here about ways to get employees on the same page about time expectations.

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Family, friends and the open invitation

Posted on March 1, 2009. Filed under: American culture, celebrations, cross cultural, cross cultural miscommunication, family, hispanic culture, time | Tags: , , , , , |

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that my husband is Dominican. I’m very familiar with Hispanic culture, although understanding it doesn’t always make it easier to put up with things that really go against my American ways.

The whole time thing makes me nuts. For Americans, time controls the event. Events have a starting time and and ending time, and often these are scheduled in advance.  For Hispanics, the event controls time.  Yes, I know the dinner invitation said 7:30, but my wife always takes forever getting ready, and then a good friend called whom I haven’t spoken to in a while, then I felt like taking a nap, and that’s why I’m here at 10:15. Oh, and by the way, I brought my cousin, his son and a friend they had visiting from back home.

At first, I used to get angry. What’s so hard about being here on time? Why can’t you at least give me the heads up that you want to bring extra people? To be fair though, I’m sure my Dominican friends and family thought I was insane when I said my daughter’s birthday party was from 1:30-3:00 (she was 5).

So now I just enjoy the role of Gringa Fria when it suits me. I’m THE AMERICAN WIFE. If you don’t confirm with at least 24 hours notice, I’m counting you out. If I’m expecting 6, I cook for 6. Even if 11 show up. You can share.

Maybe that’s why our house isn’t the most popular place for Dominican get togethers….

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