What’s the big deal about being on time? Why do you need to be punctual in Canada?

Read Original Version (CLB5+) You are reading the Simple Version (CLB3-4)

Skip to:

Why is it important to be on time in Canada?

Do you usually arrive for an appointment 15-30 minutes late? This is normal in my culture. We know that being late is wrong but it is not considered really bad. It is just a minor thing.

Here in Canada, being late is considered almost a crime. Why is punctuality a big deal in Canada?

The cultural concept of time

How people see time is related to culture. “High context” cultures have a flexible view of time. “Low context cultures” observe strict rules about time.

High context cultures

– This is observed in countries in East Asia or Latin America.

  • Time is cyclical (it goes around). Time that passes will come again.
  • Schedules are flexible.
  • Relationships are more important than tasks.
  • Values are shared.
  • Communication is implicit. This means that not every rule is said or written; it is assumed that everyone knows them.

Low context cultures

– This is seen in countries like Canada, US and Western European countries.

  • Time is linear. It is a limited resource. It’s gone once it passes.
  • Each minute is precious and not to be wasted.
  • They are task-centered. A person’s ability is seen by how much is achieved at a given time.
  • They have less time for interpersonal relations.
  • Communication is explicit. Rules are explained and made clear to everyone.

Why do you need to be on time in Canada?

  1. Time is money

    Delays cause expense in business. Deadlines are set to meet production goals. If an employee is always late, how will he get work done? You are expected to come to work 10 minutes early in the Canadian workplace.

  2. It shows your character

    Being on time says that you are:

    • highly professional
    • organized (because you manage your time well)
    • dependable
    • a person of integrity (because you value your word)
    • trustworthy
  • It is a form of respect

    You arrive on time because you respect others. You don’t want to keep people waiting and waste their time. You are saying that everyone is equal. Other people’s time is as important as yours.

  • Is it hard for you to be on time? Try these tips:

    1. Remember your reasons

      Why do you need to be punctual? Because you want to be known as a highly professional individual? You want to keep your job? You want to impress your boss/client/teacher? Remember your reasons to motivate yourself to be on time.

    2. Prepare ahead of time

      Plan and do all that you can beforehand.

      • Get your clothes and things (e.g. keys, bag,) ready the night before.
      • Check the location on Google Maps. Visit it in advance before the meeting.
      • Check your gas tank. See if you have enough.
      • Check if there is parking. Know the rush hours.
      • Be ready for any emergencies.
    3. Plan for trouble

      Have a 30 minute allowance for every appointment. This will be time for traffic, minor accidents, composing yourself, retouching your make-up etc.

    4. Track your tasks

      Know how much time you need to get ready. List down your morning routine. Use a timer to know how long you shower, get dressed, have breakfast and get your things ready. You might discover that you need to wake up earlier or move faster.

    5. Make it a habit

      Be consistent. Wake up at the same time every day. Be at your desk or arrive for appointments 10 minutes early. Set your clocks at home, car, and watch five to 10 minutes ahead. Being on time will become a habit.

    Article updated July 23, 2021.
    Sources: High and low context, Culture at work; 5 reasons why punctuality will always be relevant in your career, Robert Half; Manners and etiquette in Canada, Canada Guide; Newcomers Guide to the Canadian Workplace, Kristle Calisto-Tavares Workplace Integration of Newcomers; How to be on time every time, Dustin Wax, Lifehack; and 12 tips for being punctual – Improve your life by being on time, Daring to live fully. Accessed January 31, 2019.

    Back to top

    We'd love to hear from you!

    Please login to tell us what you think.

    Related Learning Activities

    What to do if you have a car accident in Manitoba

    graphic of car collision at a stop

    Having a car accident can be very distressing. Knowing exactly what to if this happens is of utmost importance. Attend… Read more »

    WorkCom_Before you begin

    A woman giving a presentation at work

    Thinking about your knowledge and skills is an independent learning strategy. When you think about what you can do and what… Read more »

    WorkCom_Week 4

    A woman giving a presentation at work

    This is our last week of Workplace Communications. This time you are in the driver’s seat. We look forward to your presentation… Read more »

    WorkCom_Week 3

    A woman giving a presentation at work

    We have now reached week 3 of Workplace Communications! This week, we are engaging in a number of activities that allow… Read more »

    Back to top

    CC BY-NC-SAText of this page is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA, unless otherwise marked. Please attribute to English Online Inc. and link back to this page where possible. For images and videos, check the source for licensing information.