Why Is Everyone In Hong Kong Late All the Time?

Sunday, February 21, 2016 Andrea Lo 0 Comments

I used to be terrible at time management. I showed up late to many things — media events, dinners, parties, blind dates (I was so late, he was probably justified in flirting with the bartender).

When I went freelance half a year ago, it forced me to change my habits completely. Time management is now the name of the game. If I didn't get my act together and start planning and executing my schedule with military precision, my work would suffer (and possibly even dry up).

With this complete overhaul of my timetable — and of course, the freedom to plan my own schedule — I found myself getting much better at being on time. I'm meeting deadlines, responding to emails promptly, showing up to places with time to spare, and not bailing out of commitments at the last minute (but that's a whole other topic for another day).

Just as I started to feel smug about my newfound punctuality, I started to realise a major problem that comes with it: how late everyone else is.

It's a Hong Kong thing. If dinner is at 7pm, people will trickle in any time within the hour after it starts. Birthday party starts at 10? No point turning up then — no one else will be there until midnight. Want to do a nice and early start for your Sunday hike? You might as well go and get some food while you wait for everyone's hungover asses to arrive.

There's only so much scrolling on Instagram you can do, so many 'where are you?' texts you can send until you start to get really bored and irritated.

I think about stuff while I wait around:

This is what I've been doing to other people. This is karma.
They said they were at so-and-so MTR station, so that should be like a 7-minute ride, maybe with 3-5 extra minutes for the uphill walk.
I wonder what would happen if they didn't show up for, like, 30 minutes.
That has happened before but usually some other people will have arrived by then.
In movies I would totally meet a hot guy here outside the bar.
Wait, what? I do meet hot guys outside the bar. That's why I ditch my friends to go outside.
I wonder what would happen if I just left.
Maybe I need to get new friends. 

In all seriousness, I do want to know why we have this late culture in Hong Kong. It's like an epidemic. No one bats an eyelid if someone shows up 45 minutes after they're supposed to, which is fine for the club, but not really OK if your friend is waiting around dolo.

I'm guessing that, most of the time, it's down to bad time management. Sometimes, things do inevitably come up that take up our time and attention, meaning we end up being late for something we're committed to. In Hong Kong, the amount of people during rush hour doesn't help. Some articles go as far as to suggest that people are late out of disrespect and/or contempt for the other party — that they think their own time is more important than everyone else's.

If you think it's a younger generation thing, you would be wrong. My mother and aunt are some of the worst offenders I know. My mum is one of those people who will tell you she's 'on her way, be there in 15 minutes,' when she's really at a house party in Yuen Long with no intention of leaving any time soon (true story).

So, why do you think everyone in Hong Kong is late all the time?