Fashionably late

I had just arrived in Nashville for the first time. It was time to visit the city and get familiar with the place where I was going to live for the next two years.

My family is friends with an awesome family (also from Argentina) that lives here in Nashville. They were great with us and hosted our visit as we explored Music City.

One of the daughters of the family invited my sister and me to eat dinner with her and her older sister. We were very excited about our first outing around downtown. She told us she will pick us up from our hotel at around 7-ish.

7-ish? My mind tried to figured out what she meant by that “ish.” I knew that it meant around seven, but does that means that it’s going to be a few minutes before or after 7 p.m.?

In Latin America, we really don’t know the meaning of “being five minutes early.” Why would someone choose to arrive earlier than agreed? Apparently, most Americans dissent with this worldview.

I was about to get ready for our dinner, when I realized that it was only 6 p.m. and she had told me that she would come around 7. So, I still had time, right?

It was 6:30 p.m. when I was finally getting ready. At 6:45 the phone rings. It was my friend that was downstairs.

“Hey, I’m here,” she said.

That’s when it hit me: 7-ish is not only used for when I am going to be a couple of minutes late, but also for when I am going to be a bit early.

“If you are not going to be on time, be 10 minutes earlier,” is what one of my professors says all the time.  If you are going to live in America or partake in events with Americans, this is my advice to you, as well.

As a Latin American, I grew up in a society where no one really cared if someone was “fashionably late,” and for us that could mean up to half an hour late. Since I am in the U.S., I had to adjust my mind clock to function in the American way, and try to be as early as possible for every event.

Are you from a culture that is always late, always early, or maybe right on time? What is your interpretation of 7-ish?

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