The Spanish are always late, but it’s only recently that I’ve found out exactly why.
I have a lot of appointments with Spaniards, a few of which are, without fail, at least half an hour late each time we meet. Terribly apologetic, they rush their greetings and persistently express regret. Admiring of my crazy ability to appear on time at the designated hour, last time we met, we got so far into the topic of cultural nuances that I was offered a rare explanation of this national trait.
I shy from saying “national defect”, as to extract the relaxed Spanish attitude to lateness from the mentality of its people would be to remove a vital component of a fabulous culture.
But late they are, and it was Carlos who finally spoke up the other day:
“When you say eight o’clock, you mean eight o’clock and zero minutes. When we say eight o’clock, we literally mean during the eighth hour.”
The language supports the theory too. The Spanish for “at eight o’clock” is:
“A las ocho”
Notice the las, which signifies the plural. Giving the most exact translation as:
“in the eights”.
If this is nothing more than a grammar mishap then I’m blown. To what extent does the mentality of a language’s lexicon affect those who speak it? Truer understanding is a great key into understanding a people.