Time in Afghanistan Culture

One of the four key elements of Afghan culture is understanding how time is interacted with on a daily basis in Afghanistan.

There are big differences between how Westerners view time, and how Afghans manage time.

In the West, time is regulated by the clock. To be "on time" means usually within 5-10 minutes of the designated time. From their earliest ages, children learn to tell time by their favorite television programs, the school day, and the constant reference to the clock.

There are great pressures in the West to organize life around the clock. Whether factory workers or salaried workers, time is a valuable commodity to be watched, carefully used, and measured.

In the west, punctuality is a virtue.

Afghan time is different. The five prayers a day regulate the schedule, which are fixed according to the position of the sun. The amount of daylight and when it becomes light enough to see by in the morning, and too dark at night regulate the daily routine.

Both the sun and moon are important aspects of time. Holidays are regulated by the moon, which is "read" by the Mullah's who report to the people on the morning of the day expected to be a holiday.

So time is not precisely measured. An appointment in early afternoon in Afghanistan could mean sometime between 12-3pm. Of course, Afghans living in the city or who work with foreigners are becoming much more attuned to the Western demand for strict observance of minutes and specific appointment.

Patience and clarity are helpful when interacting with Afghans. Teach Afghans who are new to the Western way how to manage time, and be very clear in your expectations.

Allow a lot of time when visiting with Afghans during off hours, so that you are not rushed in giving the greetings, having tea, and taking your leave appropriately.

Enjoy a more relaxed attitude towards time, as relationships take center stage in accomplishing daily tasks. Dialogue with your Afghan counterparts on how time can be managed to get the task done "on time."

Finally, let me know how it goes and your experiences with the Afghan cultural attitude towards time!

Want to know some more about Afghan culture? Check out these links below.

Politeness, Time, Hospitality, and Social Structure.

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