Relax… We’re on Filipino Time

Americans view time as “monochronic” whereas countries with influences from Spain view time as “polychronic.”
Photo courtesy

If punctuality is a virtue, then being late is rudeness, correct? Well, not quite, not for many cultures around the world… Mag-kwentuhan tayo tungkol dito (Let’s talk story about it).

Have you heard of the expression “Filipino Time?” How about “Maui Time?” What comes to your mind when you hear these phrases? “Late” as in “not being on time,” correct?

Are we using the phrases “Filipino Time” and “Maui Time” as an excuse for tardiness? Or are we the more lenient peeps who would say… “it is what it is, embrace the culture.” Is being late really part of Filipino culture and the local culture on Maui? If so, where did this thinking come from?

A few years ago I was scheduled to attend a very important meeting in my life. At that time I was just starting to get recognized as “the Maui Blogger.” I had received so much attention on the Internet and because there were not many local bloggers at that time, I was invited to be part of this launch campaign with Maui Visitors Bureau where we would use social media in addition to traditional marketing. I was very excited about it and was looking forward to that day of the meeting to get to know the leaders of the Visitors industry on Maui and also some of the famous bloggers in the nation. Guess what? On the day of that very important meeting, I arrived late! LATE! I felt miserable. It was very embarrassing to enter the room, disrupt what was going on and have all eyes focused on me as I mumbled my “I am very sorry I am late” apology.

I should have just stopped with “I am very sorry, I am late.” But no. I added “I guess I’m on Maui Time.” Duh! “What a lame excuse,” I thought to myself immediately after I said that. And of course in my mind I was also thinking, here am I again, arriving on “Filipino Time.”

Now let me explain it was not my intention to be late on that important meeting. On the contrary, I wanted to be there early. I thought I took every precaution I could so I wouldn’t be tardy. But I got delayed in dropping off my kids to school that morning and I also got lost trying to find the building of the meeting.

If you are a Filipino reading this article, most likely you already know what I am talking about. If you are non-Filipino, you might need a little bit more background on what “Filipino Time” means.

As part of my research for this article, I googled the phrase “Filipino Time” and sure enough there are numerous articles about it. There are various explanations, discussions and interpretations. The bottom-line is, it is the common occurrence of Filipinos arriving late to a meeting or event, so much so that it’s seen as part of the Filipino culture. But is it, really?
Being married to an American who is from the East Coast, the “Filipino Time” in me has been a source of major conflicts in our marriage. Understandably, with him growing up in the East Coast, being “late” is considered “rude” and “disrespectful.” The conflict got so bad we went to a counselor to resolve it. And the resolution? We started going to events in two separate cars so he could be early or on time and I could be late, and we won’t be fighting about it. We have gotten so much better now and can go to events, meetings or gatherings together—sometimes we are late, most of the time we are on time, but we don’t fight so much about it anymore.

So let me go back to my first question… If punctuality is a virtue, then is being late rude? In America, in Germany and in other countries—it is rude to be late. In countries influenced by the Spaniards such as Philippines, Mexico, Brazil, and other Latin Countries, it is not rudeness. It is simply part of the culture. As one American missionary who wrote a book about going on a mission in the Philippines said, Filipinos are more “event oriented” and “relationship oriented” than being “task oriented” and “detail oriented.” So for example, on a wedding, even though the invitation says it starts at 9 a.m., but it started at 10:30 a.m.—it is okay because the important thing is they are getting married, not the time they are getting married.

So if the “Filipino Time” has its roots in the Spanish influence we have on our Filipino culture, then where did the expression “Maui Time” come from? Well, perhaps it is because there are many cultures represented on Maui… including the Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures who are more laid back, and the Filipino and Portuguese cultures influence by the Spanish cultures.

In conclusion, this “talk story” is not meant to be an excuse for Filipinos and Maui locals’ tardiness but it is an explanation. The next time you are in a situation on Maui when a Filipino or a Maui local is late, you will know that they (we) did not mean to disrespect. Many Filipinos and Maui locals have the propensity to be late because it was sort of ingrained in our culture. However, for us Filipinos and Maui locals who have the propensity to be late, let’s exert effort to be more on time shall we? Because really being punctual is important and it will show that we respect the people and culture around us as well.
Until our next kwento-kuwentuhan… Aloha!

Liza Pierce of A Maui Blog is an Interactive Media Strategist in Hawai‘i. She started blogging in 2006 and she loves talking story online and spreading aloha around the world. She’s been living on Maui since 1994 and considers Maui her home. A wife, a mother, a friend…and so much more. She loves Jesus; Maui Sunsets Catcher; Crazy About Rainbow; End Alzheimer’s Advocate. Her life is full and exciting here on the island of Maui.
Liza is currently the Interactive Media Strategist with Wailea Realty Corp.