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东篱采菊

明月松间照,清泉石上流。

 
 
 

日志

 
 

On the sense of time (时间观念谈)  

2009-11-25 09:10:48|  分类: 英语美文 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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                                               On the sense of time

Before meeting with my friend Leticia from Honduras, Central America, I would ask

 her if she was arriving according to North American time or Latin American time. Smiling,

she would answer, "A la hora Latina, of course." This meant that she would be late. The

 concept of time is very different for Latin Americans than for North Americans.

Life in the United States is fast-paced. There are fast food restaurants, overnight delivery

services, shuttle services, instant cash machines, fast weight loss plans, and even instant

minute rice. Avidly following such sayings as, "The early bird gets the worm," and, "First

come, first served," North Americans even have their meals in an efficient manner.

Microwaves help nuke their early breakfasts, noon lunches, and five-o'clock dinners.

"Time is money" for big businesses. Everyone follows set agendas. Minutes are taken

 at meetings that are precisely scheduled. North Americans take pride in juggling busy

work schedules and still finding time to spend with family and friends.

Latin Americans stroll leisurely through life. They amble past open-air restaurants,

across shaded patios tucked behind walls of Bougainvillea. In the cafes, the service

is slow but 6courteous. Outside on the streets, people walk by, not for weight

 purposes, but to get somewhere. Buses arrive and depart on their own schedule,

sometimes sooner or later than their printed times. And if you miss the bus, wait.

One will come along eventually. Mid-morning breakfasts are homemade. Lunch is

around three in the afternoon and dinner could be anytime after the arranged time.

No one follows a set agenda, but business is accomplished at a gradual and

comfortable pace. Watches are not followed precisely, and one barely ever

hears the question, "What time is it?"

This cultural difference has proven to be a problem for many North Americans

 visiting Latin American countries and vice versa. For example, this problem has

 escalated on the issue of adoption. While in Honduras the summer of 1989, I

 translated for couples from the United States who were looking for children to

adopt from Central America. All legal procedures were transacted between a

lawyer from the U.S. and a Honduran lawyer. Legal matters on the North American

 end were handled almost immediately. The Honduran lawyer, however, was

considerably slower with field work and paper work and was unable to give definite

dates or times for the completion of the adoption. This created a cultural barrier

and added to the confusion of the situation.

Without understanding these cultural differences, one could eventually feel

offended. Having lived for five years in the Dominican Republic, I am able to

understand the two concepts of time but am torn between them. People in the

United States, while accomplishing much, need to live less by the clock and

stroll through more of their days. Although Latin America can sometimes be

very frustrating and remind us that, indeed, patience is a virtue, one should

slow down long enough to enjoy life's simple pleasure. So whenever I am asked,

"Why are you late?" I simply reply, "According to whose time?"

 

我的朋友莱蒂西亚是中美洲国家洪都拉斯人,每次约定见面的时候,我都会事先问她

是依据北美时间到达还是拉美时间到达。她总会笑眯眯地回答说:“当然是按拉丁时

间啦”,这意味着她将会迟到。拉美人和北美人的时间观念是大不相同的。

美国的生活是快节奏的,例如有快餐店、24小时速递服务、特快专列、即时提款机、

快速减肥计划,甚至是速熟大米等等。美国人坚信的信条有:“早起的鸟儿有虫吃”、

“先到先得”。 北美人就算是吃饭也很有效率,微波炉一早就把他们的早餐、午餐

和五点的晚餐加热好了。

对于商业活动来说,时间就是金钱。每个人都按安排好的议程办事。开会所用的时

间跟时间表上的时间一分不差。北美人对可以有效地兼顾事业和家庭感到很自豪。

拉美人的生活节奏显得从容不迫。他们悠闲地走过露天餐馆、穿过阴凉的天井,旁

边的墙上密密麻麻地长满了九重葛。虽然咖啡馆上菜的速度很慢,可那里的服务态

度却非常的好。大街上那些走着的人不是在减肥,而是为了去某处。公共汽车按照

它们自己的时间表来来去去,有时会比预定的时间早或晚。如果你错过了一班公车,

等吧!下一班车总会来的。中早餐是自己家里做的,午餐大概是下午三点钟,而晚

餐则相当随意,多晚都行。他们的议程安排是随意的。但达成生意的节奏是轻松并

且是循序渐进的。没人会精确地按时钟行事,几乎听不到以下的问题:“现在几点了?”

很多到拉美国家参观的北美人对这种文化差异感到很不习惯,反之,拉美人也有同

样的感受。例如在儿童收养问题上,这种文化冲突问题就表现得很明显。1989年的

夏天,我在洪都拉斯帮一对美国夫妇做翻译,他们想收养一个中美洲儿童。一位美国

律师以及一位洪都拉斯律师被指定负责办理相关的法律程序。美国方面的律师很快就

完成了有关法律文本的制作,但洪都拉斯的律师却是进展缓慢,他的调查工作和文本

处理都显得很拖沓,并且他还不能给出办好手续的确切时间。这种文化冲突使事情变

得更复杂。

如果不了解这种文化差异的话,有可能闹得很不愉快。在多米尼加共和国住了五年后,

我对两地的时间观念有了深刻的理解,也深受其苦。美国人的效率很高,但却需要减

少对时钟的依赖,让生活过得悠闲点。虽然拉美人有时候给我们的感觉是很消极的,

但有耐心是种美德,每个人都应该留有充裕的时间慢慢享受生活中简单的乐趣。所以

当有人问我:“你为什么迟到?”时,我总会回答说:“根据谁的时间呢?”

 

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