The Chinese & Time


Your Chinese counterpart has a much longer view of time than you do.

A strongly held cultural belief in China is that the long term matters more than the short term, which tends to give them a longer view of time than that of Westerners.  This matters to you because Chinese people don’t stick to schedules, or put the same premium on time efficiency, as you do.

When the renowned cultural anthropologist Geert Hofstede first measured the Chinese orientation towards time, their score was literally off the chart: Hofstede's scale went from 0 to 100 (a larger score representing a longer term view of time) and the Chinese averaged a score of 120.

A few tips for dealing with this different view of time:

  1. Be patient
  2. Plan for long time frames and don't be surprised that things take longer thane expected
  3. o NOT set up plans with the Chinese that rely on tight, exact timing, or high levels of time efficiency (i.e. build time for delays into your plan).
  4. Understand that the Chinese are absolute magicians when it comes to getting stuff done at the last minute.  Look at the Beijing Olympics.