Rumour: Finnish punctuality

At least from a German point of view, the Finnish cannot be punctual. Of course things like punctuality are subjective and depend on individuals but after all, studying abroad confronts you with different perceptions of time.

“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t
own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep
it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it
you can never get it back.”

 Harvey MacKay

In the case of Metropolia Myyrmäki Campus times seems to be rather irrelevant as all clocks in the hallways show different times being at least 25 minutes off the real-time for two or three weeks. Nevertheless, students come too late and have been even with correct clocks.

I would like to share one embarrassing event from my first semester of study – it was the day of my first university exam and it should start at 8 in the morning. Unfortunately I have a quite long way to school and have to change trains 4 to 5 times during one way. The first train was only late 3 minutes but made me miss my second. The train coming 10 minutes later was canceled and the next one was 7 minutes late. At this point I already lost 27 minutes, even so my journey continued flawless, it was not the fastest connection and I was late 45 minutes and still perfectly on time for the exam. That is German extrem-punctuality but it is how we are raised. There is no excuse for being late in class, some high schools even lock the main doors so that you cannot sneak in late. Public transport does not count as well, best answer I ever heard when a student tried to apologise because train delays: “You just have to anticipate this and take one or two trains earlier.”

Of course Finnish people are more punctual than Spanish or Italian for example. My only Finnish teachers from the first semester were both late in the first week. One did not show up at all without informing students via Tuubi or the university. The first time I invited a Finn over to dinner, he was half an hour late without any apology,and the dinner was cold by this time. Another experience I made was during a school visit in a secondary school in Helsinki: pupils come too late all the time and they do not have to fear anything as the schools are not allowed to put it on final certificates even so they report it to the parents.

Lately I experience quite often the Spanish punctuality: showing up at least 10 minutes late and leaving an hour earlier. But they are Spanish so nobody complains about because they have been raised this way.

In my opinion we should start closing this gaps in a globalized world. Orientating at the host country would be already an improvement even so I would still be way to early even if I plan to come too late. Better too early than too late.

The sense of being in time lies in the fact that it is respectful treatment for the host if he or she expects this. I agree that being too early bothering the host is not respectful either but being too late might also be disrespectful for other participants.

But I really like the idea of being able to apologise for being late because of public transport, it would save a lot of time if I would not need to have security times whenever I travel. Maybe it is just the german world which needs more flexibility in time matters.