We have repeatedly encountered a cultural difference here in China that can only accurately be called ‘now’ time. Basically, everything that needs to happen is most suitably done right now, no matter what else might be occupying one’s attention. Can you come for a job interview? Sure, when? Right now. Can we find time to come look at that apartment? Sure, how about right now? Can you decide right now if you will be buying/renting this? If ever one asks for time to think things over, the responses range from puzzlement to plain dismissal.

One example of this is the midterm in our speaking class. We had been completing small dialog assignments at home all semester, when out of the blue our teacher announced, “We need to have a midterm now, so your last homework assignment will be graded as your midterm test.” Our jaws dropped, because of course we would have worked more diligently on the assignment had we known it would be graded more heavily. There was no anticipating this. Our other teacher even replied straightforwardly that she didn’t know the next time we’d be having a test. “When we need it, that’s when we’ll do it.”

This all has the effect of making advance planning rather difficult. If you ever expect something to happen in the future at a given time, there is always a strong chance the timing will change significantly due to last-minute circumstances. Music concerts are rescheduled not a week before the performance. The 10-day summer camp JM taught for changed its dates less than a week out. The administration at our school still doesn’t know the day classes will be starting next term. It’s a new way of life for we who like to plan things out months in advance. This is simply not the way our new cultural surroundings operate.

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4 Responses to “”


  1. 1 Lucie October 19, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    This is so true in Costa Rica and various other LA countries also! Although, sometimes there instead of ‘now time’ it is ‘ahorita time’, ahorita means ‘in a little bit’ so what ends up happening is that you schedule to do something in a little bit with someone and usually, unless you are extremely persistant, it never happens and that turns out to be ok with everyone but you! I struggled so much with the planning thing at first. Coming from a home where my Mom has everything written one year in advance for the 8 people in our family on the calender, I was like ‘whats up people? you don’t know what you are doing tomorrow!!??’ But in the long run, it can be refreshing to adjust cultural norms about planning that we have in the US. Sometimes we can be over planners. I found that to not know what I am doing tomorrow, although sometimes disconcerting, can be nice. I don’t have to stress about it and if it doesn’t happen, well I guess I don’t have to be that upset, because no one else seems to be! (oversimplifying, I know, but it was interesting to experience nonetheless). Hope you are well Liz and JM. hugs and kisses to you and Leo!

  2. 2 Becca October 19, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Oh my gosh that must be driving Liz CRAZY! Can’t make a list if you’re doing it “right now”! :o)

    (Speaking of which…I need to be writing a paper…RIGHT NOW!) ;o)

  3. 3 coffeegopher October 21, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    I think this is the reason Dana and Krista had such a hard time planning the Cultural Olympiad. It was really difficult to nail down anything specific so far in advance. Good observation!

    Hope all is well!

  4. 4 Chris Burgwald October 22, 2008 at 3:16 am

    of course we would have worked more diligently on the assignment had we known it would be graded more heavily.

    Slackers! 😉

    Let me be clear. Crystal clear: Kidding!


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