Doctor Love: What is Belize Time?

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Dear Doctor Love,

My husband decided to throw a party last month for the people who are working for him on his building project. We ended up by inviting a lot of other people, too. The party went off great with only one big problem. We scheduled dinner for 7 o’clock on a Sunday evening but the only people who showed up at 7 o’clock were our friends who aren’t associated with the building. Not one of the locals or the workers who were invited arrived until almost 8:30 p.m. By then, all of the food was cold and the people who were serving it had gone home. The food was a big waste of money but everyone eventually came and ate or had something to drink. By the end of the night all of the food was gone and all of the alcohol so I guess the party was a success.

This week I was invited to a quince años party that was supposed to start at 8 p.m. I was there at a quarter to 8 and I was the only one there for the first hour. By nine o’clock there were over 100 people at the party and no one seemed to notice they were all at least an hour late.

Is it fashionable to be late? Am I missing something here? Do all of the local people always show up late for parties?

/s/ On Time

Dr-Love

Dear On Time.

Yes.

It is basically a cultural kind of thing – Belize Time if you must know. Belize is being dragged kicking and screaming into the new century but the progress is slowly coming. If you had gone to a quince años twenty-five years ago you would discover that no one showed up until two hours late. Now they are only an hour late. It’s not a matter of fashion. It’s just that everyone knows that everyone else is going to be late, so why hurry?
Up until the 1970’s most of the people on this island made their living off of something like fishing or harvesting coconuts. These are not industries where the workers are slaves to the clock. Few people here saw their father or mother scurrying off to work in hurry to be there on time. Punctuality, which must be viewed as a cultural attitude, has never been as important here as it is in other more industrially developed places.

Times have changed quickly but it takes a lot longer to change an attitude.

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