By The Hunger
Time as we know it is a relatively new concept. Prior to the 19th century, people used to rely on the local town clock or the local “time keeper” to keep them in sync with the sun. The world’s official 24 time zones (40 in total) are the brainchild of Sir Sanford Flemming, which only came into existence in 1879 because of railroad expansion.
As the world became smaller and more people were able to travel further distances, an international standard was required. These zones, set at 15 degrees apart longitudinally, are as invisible as the equator but as tangible as Big Ben.
How well do time zones represent the “real time” of a city or country? The largest country on earth, Russia, has 11 time zones to deal with. The fourth largest country, China, has one time zone for the ENTIRE country, meaning on their western border in places like Kashgar (what, you haven’t been?), solar noon can occur as late as 3:00 pm! Apparently, that’s a good thing if you’re about to start the Silk Road, but am I living in the time zone that best suits my lifestyle?
The famous opening sequence to one of the longest running soap operas in history offers an interesting perspective on time: “Like sands through an hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”
But what if you could control how fast the sand fell? Does an hour in Mexico City feel the same as an hour in Bangkok? Would a year in Bora Bora slow down the hourglass that much and would I like it if it did? Is a New York minute really that much faster than any other city?
Being on Foreign Time in different cities/countries have become one and the same with a different pace of life? Imagine for a second whose postal service would you trust to deliver your mail: Sweden’s or Zimbabwe’s? Thought so.
However, slow doesn’t always equate to bad. Think Greek islands: olive oil, feta, white everything, 8-am-sharp to catch the first ferry out! In most places on the Med you feel as though time doesn’t matter; in essence, you’ve created time without going faster.
“Anthropologists list the toughest things to cope with in a foreign land. Second only to language is the way we deal with time,” says anthropologist John Lienhard.
The same time doesn’t always mean the same thing across different cultures. “Let’s meet at 6 pm” in Germany could mean 6:15 pm in Italy or something else entirely in the Middle East.
How a city breathes is different from place to place. When you travel, you get a feel for the Foreign Time, the pace of the country, especially during meal times and going out. In Spain or Greece, for example, you could have dinner at 10 pm whereas in Australia 9 pm would be considered late. Siestas in Spain are another example of time-related lifestyle. While nap time is popular in South America as well, I can’t see this working in Switzerland or the USA anytime in the next millennia.
Permanent Jet Lag
Ever since I returned to Sydney, I’ve been on Permanent Jet Lag and a 3-snooze alarm system. I’m a night person and in an ideal world I’d like to start work at 10 am and go to bed at 2 am. Ideal time, not the one on your wrist, is one of the most sought after commodities because it’s the crux upon which all other factors in your life depend.
Maybe it’s not a case of the Mondays or the job or the weather. Maybe what I need is a change of time zone and everything in it. Or perhaps I should just create my own Foreign Time zone – then I’d have all the time in the world.