Friday, August 13, 2010

Cariocas and Time: Does it really matter?

I had some rare but now definite (WOO HOO) free time while the kids were at school this afternoon, so I went out to run some errands. 

I left a store and glanced at the huge street clock in Largo do Machado to make sure I still had time before I had to pick them up.  That got me thinking.  There are ginormous digital clocks all over Zona Sul.  I mean, they are everywhere. I'm sure you've seen them, they switch off between the temperature and the time. 

So why are Cariocas always, at least, 10 minutes late.  They can't blame watches. "Oh, I didn't realize the time! Wait a minute, I'm standing under a 6 foot tall clock."  And they can't blame not being able to read it. It's digital for goodness sake!

I'm thinking the government voted between tackling the corruption issue and the punctuality issue.  They figured posting a clock every 200 meters would be cheaper and not cut into their salaries, so they went for it. 

Well, a couple of things could have happened. 

First, locals could just think that the thing just tells you the temperature and the other random numbers are a computer glitch. 

Second, it's not actually a clock but a suggestion of what the time really is.  If their watch has a different time, that must mean they have about 10 more minutes. 

Then there's the final guess that they just don't care.  Cariocas don't really care if they are 10 minutes late and it works for them. You know why? Because EVERYONE is 10 minutes late. If everyone is 10 minutes late then 10 minutes late really is on time and on time is 10 minutes early.

As for the clocks, I think they should stop putting time and just write "You're already late!". Come on clock managing guys, do it for just one day!


  1. Hilarious. I guess I'll be "early" in the beginning of my new life in Rio, and perhaps with time I'll learn how to arrive "just on time!"

  2. Oh btw, does that mean we can drop our kids off at school 10 minutes late and pick them up 10 minutes late as well?

  3. No no, school is on time, at least ours is :)

  4. Maybe the city should adjust every clock to 10 minutes early!!!
    That way everyone would be one time :)
    By the way, maybe worth mentioning that Business appointments and conference calls are strictly on time always, at least this is my experience working with Cariocas of the Banking industry.

  5. Ten minutes!? Please. Back in San Francisco we had to plan for two different parties. The Americans would show up at 8 and start eating all the food. The Brazilians would not arrive until after 10 pm - so we has to protect a whole separate food spread for the late night crowd.

    I have learned that if your friend says the party is at 8 pm what they really mean is that you should wake up from your nap at 8 and begin to get ready to go to the party. If you are there before 10:30 you have hit the mark.

    The sin to to arrive too early, not too late.

  6. Jim - 100% correct - anyone who arrives on time at my parties will find me getting out of the shower or still working on the decor (seriously, it has happened before) - it's considered lame in any case, like you have no life and planned your entire week around that one event, the famous party rice, first one to arrive and at the end there are always some left. Plus, come on, 10 minutes is not late. It's like parking lot tolerance time.

  7. I arrived to Thais' daughter's birthday party on time (4pm btw) and she was getting out of the shower. Like mother like daughter ;)

    You both are right! I have a friend from Finland who put on her party invitation that the party was going to be on Finnish time. It was pretty full when I get there around 8pm. Of course, the standard crew showed up at 10pm anyway