Hispanic Time: Understanding the Differences


Latino Standard Time (LST) refers to the amount of time between when someone of Latin American origin says that they will be somewhere, and when they actually are. Generally Latino standard time ranges between LT (Local Time) + 30min and LT + 2h. In rare instances, LST can be LT + up to 1 day.” (Urban Dictionary)

Personal Experiences of Hispanic/Latino/Spanish Time

  • When I first lived in Spain and started making Spanish friends, I would get invited to gatherings. They would tell me, “Ven at las 7.” (Come at 7.) So I would show up fashionably late at 7:30 and be the first one there. Others would start to gather about 8:30 or 9:00 – or later. It didn’t matter.
  • I would make plans to meet a friend for coffee at 9 am, and they may saunter in to the coffee shop about 9:30 am and tell me an elaborate story about who they just ran into or what happened at home. Rarely an apology for being late. It just was what it was.
  • Back in the United States, I would tell my Latino friends to be at my house to leave for the movie at 4:00. They may show up at about 4:45 – and we would miss the movie.
  • A few years ago, I had the opportunity to teach at my Peruvian friend’s school for a week. School “started” at 8 am. So we would leave her house about 7:50 am – for the 20 minute drive. The kids would arrive within the first hour or so. Sometime before 9ish. From what I could see, no tardies were given. Was this all schools or workplaces in Peru? Probably not. But it was my experience that week – and it created all sorts of anxiety for me! (I like to get to school early, be prepared with my lesson, and implement my plan with kids who are there on time.)

Latinos tend to focus on relationships – not time

What was happening here? Are the Spanish and Latinos just being rude when it comes to Hispanic time? From the U.S. perspective, it can probably be seen that way. But to a Latino, time is very relative. It is flexible. It is fluid.

Author Daniel Cubias explains the following in this Huffington Post article

“It is a cultural trademark of Latinos that we run late, or flake on deadlines, or just wander in at some point during the party. I’ve heard many reasons for this. Perhaps it is the laidback culture of the siesta that carried over to America. Maybe we don’t sweat the small stuff, and therefore refuse to obsess about what the clock says. Or perhaps we’re prone to some kind of time-space dyslexia that causes us to proclaim, “It’s only two minutes away” when the destination is in another city.” 

It took me a long time to become comfortable with this idea, but most of the time now, I embrace and appreciate it. In fact, after about 2 months living in Spain, I took off my watch. And I haven’t worn one since – which is now about 20 years later.

Latinos as a whole value relationships over a watch. So if something is happening at home or with friends, they will see it through. The person waiting on the other end doesn’t mind – because they do the same thing. 

Are there differences in “when” to be late? According to Thais Jimenez, there are. In 5 Key Differences In The Levels Of Hispanic Unpunctuality, Jimenez talks about the Almost there, Trying to be on time, Arriving when everything is over, Getting up early and being late anyway, and It wasn’t my fault concepts.

As I said earlier, most Latinos do indeed adapt to the U.S. dependence on the clock. But being aware of how time is seen much differently in other countries will also help you make sense of what may be happening at your worksite (parents late for Parent-Teacher Conferences, patients late for appointments, employees late for work, etc.).

Daylight Saving Time

And why we are speaking of time, did you know that not every country observes daylight saving time? And if they do, it could be weeks apart! Check out which countries change when here. I had no idea that countries changed at different times until recently!

Did you find this cultural piece interesting? Make sure to check out more of my blogs on culture, vocabulary, and learning Spanish!

¡Hasta pronto!

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