Every clock measures time the same way. Not every culture does. Some places are notorious for their complete disregard of the clock. Others are governed by it. It isn’t just the relationship with the clock that marks a difference between cultures. It is how they choose to spend what time they have. These choices show what is truly valued in a culture. Time is a finite resource. Every decisions you make on how to allocate it provides insight on what is ultimately most important to you. Do you value work, self, family, or free time? What does how you spend your day say about you?
Here are 10 things I’ve learned about allocating time from my stay in Germany.
1. Don’t eat and run. Meals are better when they can be savored, when you take time to enjoy the company you are with. Meals with friends don’t begin as soon as you step in the door and end as the table is cleared, there is time to linger. Waiters don’t run you off as soon as you finish your meal, they expect you to remain after you’ve finished your meal. You rarely see someone walking or driving while eating.
2. Take at least one day off every week. With the exception of bakeries and some restaurants, nearly everything is closed on Sunday. Not even the mall is open on Sunday. The few special open for shopping Sundays each year are marked with large sales and take on the air of a street festival. Sundays are for attending church, enjoying nature and spending time with family.
3. A pause in the afternoon is an opportunity to recharge. Many stores and restaurants are closed for at least an hour in the afternoon. It is a normal part of the day for many people to come home for lunch.
4. It can wait until morning. Not much is open 24-7 in Germany, things actually close up at night.
5. Find time for stillness every day. Every day, two hours are designated as quiet hours. From 12 – 2 every day, and all day Sunday, there is no loud outdoor work going on in the neighborhood.
6. Take time to enjoy life. Germans work hard, but they also take time to celebrate life. Whether the festivity is religious or cultural, you can count on something nearly every weekend. They’ve been celebrating a wedding fest (Oktoberfest) for 200 years. Even birthdays are bigger in Germany.
7. Be punctual. In Germany, you don’t show up early or late. When it says 6, people arrive at 6. No one is ever ready 5 minutes early, nor do they expect you before the appointed time.
8. Take the time to participate in the things that bring you joy. My German friends always manage to make time for themselves. They all seem to have something they enjoy doing, and make the time to fit it in their lives. Whether this is a club, an activity, a craft or a hobby, Germans take time to find something that brings them joy. They seem to realize that it takes some effort to create happiness in your life.
9. There is always time to make a healthy body a priority. Whether it is squeezing in a run, a walk, or a fitness class, Germans have time to “make sport”.
10. Make time for things that really matter. Germans always have time for their friends. Whether it’s a coffee, a meal, an activity or an outing, everything is more enjoyable when you are spending time with the people you care about.