There’s only a two hour time difference between San Jose and New York, but the perceptions of time between each of these two cities are much farther apart than two hours.
Where I’m from, being on time to work at 8:00am means sitting at your desk, coffee on your desk, coffee on your boss’ desk, computer open and working by 7:55am. The coffee on your boss’ desk is the tricky part – this has to be timed perfectly so that it’s not cold by the time she gets there, but you’re also not late. Here, it seems being on time to work at 8:00am seems to be saying hello to your boss at 8:05, setting your things down at your desk by 8:10, grabbing your coffee and other necessities for the day by 8:15, and having your computer open and working by 8:20. This has not translated well for me so far.
There is a reason we call it a “New York minute” and as I make friends with both ticos and people from other regions of the U.S., I realize how much I have adapted into New York time the past few years. So much so, that any slower or later time frame is almost frustrating to me. At home, I’m wired to think that there is not a free 10 minutes in my day, and if you are lucky enough to have that spare time, it’s because you’re on the point of a mental breakdown and that long 10 minutes off is your only savior. Here, a mere free 10 minutes throughout your day is only between class and lunch, because you also have a few free hours where you’re not even expected to do anything but relax chat with your friends or family
One of the major times I’ve come across this difference is during meals. I eat both breakfast and dinner with my tico family every day here. At home, an average meal for me would be about 15 minutes, and that’s only because I’m eating while working or walking home (yes, this can get a little messy.) Here, each meal lasts anywhere from 30-45 minutes for breakfast, and 60-75 minutes for dinner. My first breakfast before class, I was almost late because I expected to eat quickly, or just grab something and go – boy was I in for a surprise.
I’ve only been in San Jose for a week and a half, and I’m already slowing my walking pace and my eating time (even if only so my friends can catch up.) I hope I can become more relaxed and enjoy my free time within the next month, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever be at a point where I don’t’ cringe because someone isn’t on time and uses the excuse “it’s Costa Rican time!”