Saudi Arabia: The Contrasts of Punctuality

Better Be Prompt!



If you are an expatriate in Saudi Arabia and have a meeting with a Saudi you are expected to punctual if not a little bit early.  You might have to wait for a short period until your meeting takes place but make sure you are there on time.

On the other hand, if a Saudi has a scheduled meeting with an expatriate, the Saudi may or may not show up at the appointed time.  In most cases, he will be late for the scheduled appointment.

Saudis do not have the same sense of time management or importance attached to punctuality, whether in a professional or social setting.

Khalid Al-Seghayer discusses Saudis and punctuality in a recent piece published in the Saudi Gazette.  He brings up valid points on the lax of punctuality such as official events when a Saudi VIP guest will likely open up an event and inevitably the Saudi can be up to more than one hour late.  However, as this is part of the custom, people have learned to take this tardiness in stride.

Deadlines are also lax and there is not the same emphasis placed on due dates as there is in other parts of the world.  Al-Seghayer sites the lack of punctuality due to the Saudi tradition and culture of accepting life as it comes.

However, the lack of punctuality comes with negative consequences, the greatest being an overall lack of productivity.  One the personal level, the lack of punctuality is also viewed as a lack of respect for the individual who is kept waiting.

One may hope that the rising generation of Saudi youth who are being educated abroad in cultures where punctuality and meeting deadlines is paramount will reinforce the practice and importance of punctuality on their return to the Kingdom.


9 Responses

  1. I have a home stay company in the US and this is the number one complaint I get from home stay families about their Saudi students! Real problems are brought out when the student has a doctor’s appointment and the “home stay parent” is taking them. Sharon Youngblood

  2. I hate being left waiting. So disrespectful!

  3. I do not know if generalizations are possible but my experience tells me that the more important the meeting is the more punctual the person is. Maybe there is a lack of seriousness in life or let us say a relaxed view of the world which in some ways is not such a bad thing when you are not under so much stress of punctuality and instead give leeway for the person to be late and respect his reasons for it. There is a saying in Arabic which means an absent person has his reasons with this in mind the absent person knows that people waiting for him understand his being late and there is no disrespect. On the other hand this does not get things done. There is a balance somewhere.

  4. I’m used to the Indian standard time, but eventually when indians move to the US they become punctual, so now i’m quite sure it’s not genetic 🙂
    likewise saudi lives in it’s own time ,, after so many years here i find it rude to be late, and cant abide any delay !!!
    and if a patient shows up late — without calling in advance with a good reason . well guess you don’t need to be seeing me today. 🙂

  5. It isn’t just Saudis, there are certain groups in the US who are referred to as being on their own time.

  6. If you are not punctual you are playing with the lifetime of the other person… disrespectful…i hate waiting and wasting my time…you dont know hoe much time is left…

  7. Arabs were the last to take on the concept of time when it came to using clocks etc. like the rest of the world. They still haven’t gotten the hang of using it I guess. A favorite saying of Arabs is..change takes time…no kidding. LOL

  8. and there truly is “Saudi time” as compared to any other time! (smile)

    On Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 6:11 PM, American Bedu

  9. Punctuality or lack of…is culturally influenced. Would be a tremendous shock for an adult Saudi to move and live permanently in North America, especially work.

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