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A Geography of Time: The Temporal Misadventures of a Social Psychologist, or How Every Culture Keeps Time Just a Little Bit Differently
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A Geography of Time: The Temporal Misadventures of a Social Psychologist, or How Every Culture Keeps Time Just a Little Bit Differently

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  670 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews
In this engaging and spirited book, eminent social psychologist Robert Levine asks us to explore a dimension of our experience that we take for granted--our perception of time. When we travel to a different country, or even a different city in the United States, we assume that a certain amount of cultural adjustment will be required, whether it's getting used to new food o ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published July 23rd 1998 by Basic Books (first published May 31st 1997)
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Community Reviews

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Niko
Jun 19, 2011 Niko rated it really liked it
I picked this up intrigued by the idea of time, how we conceptualize it, and how much or little we have (or think we have). We recurringly hear people decry our pace of life. We read of the way people in other countries and cultures treat their time differently than we do. The author covered these and other topics that I hadn't considered but found fascinating. Some of his points and conclusions are predictable, others are actually rather unexpected.

By the final pages the book had started to dra
...more
Caroline
Jul 09, 2009 Caroline rated it really liked it
Very interesting book about different concepts of time. I liked the explanations of time in cultures that are so unlike the ones I have lived in, and the historical information about clocks was fascinating. The author introduced me to the difference between clock time and event time, which made me think about the way I manage my own time day to day.
Brian Boyce
May 07, 2015 Brian Boyce rated it it was ok
Cultural time theory is multiculturalism in disguise, nice but academic mush
Enes
Apr 05, 2016 Enes rated it really liked it
İlginç bir kitap. Maya Yayınları'ndan Türkçe çevirisiyle(2013) okudum. Yazar bir sosyal-psikolog. Bundan olacak, kitabın alt başlığı olan Kültürlerin Zaman Algısını da görünce mest olarak aldım kitabı hemen.

Beklentim, biraz daha felsefi bakışa sahip, zaman kavramının alımlanması ve gelişim/değişiminin incelenmesi yoluyla kültürlerden bahsetmesiydi. Karşıladığını söyleyemem, ama büsbütün bundan bağımsız bir kitap da değil.

Kitapta 31 ülke sathında yapılmış, saha araştırması sayılabilecek, zaman al
...more
Terry
Dec 23, 2010 Terry rated it it was ok
The book was a pile of anecdotes that were neither systematic nor really detailed. Great, the author knows a lot about how people feel time but the examples, except the excerpts of his life which go way too long, are shallow and in some cases repeated. The writing itself is lackluster with excessive adjectives and reliance on both appeals to authority and appeals to conventional wisdom. I do not get the sense that this book is based on hard scientific work or comes from a hard scientist and this ...more
Simon
Jul 28, 2011 Simon rated it it was ok
Interesting in patches but, being honest, this tries to make a lot of what would be very interesting as just a long essay. A bit wearisome after you've read and got the main points the first time round.
Paul
Apr 25, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it
A fascinating examination of the temporal cultures around the world. Levine strikes an amazing balance in describing the way different countries and sub-groups see the world, operating with a scientific rigor and deft touch in a subject that could easily shade into gross stereotypes. In the very fraught area of detailing the way poor American black populations deal with time, he lays out how poverty and exclusion drains one's ability to plan for the future, and how the cultural ramifications of ...more
Ami
Dec 02, 2011 Ami rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
Maybe more of 2 and a half. I diligently read it from cover to cover, even flipping to the bookmark I kept in the endnotes section. The topic itself is fascinating, the experiences of the author interesting, but somehow...somehow...the writing itself was just a titch more engaging than an academic paper in a peer-reviewed journal. I *think* that's what knocked it down this low for me, because I can't imagine any other reason. I will say that every time I opened it, I learned something, and almos ...more
Dan
Nov 03, 2010 Dan rated it did not like it
I'm typically a sucker for pop science, so I was really excited to read the book. Unfortunately, I don't think Dr. Levine is a particularly good scientist or writer. First, his writing is pretty flat and sober. It doesn't help him that he doesn't seem to be drawing any fascinating conclusions either: Western Europe is fast and South/Central America are slow. Great. New York is fast and LA is laid back. Wow.

I also have a problem with his scientific rigor. He relies very heavily on anecdotal evide
...more
David
Aug 06, 2011 David rated it really liked it
I have never really traveled outside the country. I've been all over the U.S., and somewhat felt I had a grasp of the time differences people had - until I read this book. This book was, quite simply, a huge eye opener. The crux of the book is the idea of how each of us perceive time is very dependent upon the culture we live in. Robert takes a year, and travels the world to study all of this - and the outcome of his travels was a research topic about this.

A large distinction between countries i
...more
Bruce
May 28, 2012 Bruce rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: philosophy lovers and readers of Cosmo
Expectations are everything. I was very much looking forward to encountering an eminent social psychologist's lay-level summary and synthesis of over 30 years' empirical research about time. Among the questions I thought Levine would address were:

- How do people experience time?
- Why do they experience it as they do?
- Are the roots of this experience cultural, organic, or some combination of the two?
- What roles if any do geography, population, climate, etc. play on the experience of time?
- What
...more
DoctorM
Jul 14, 2010 DoctorM rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology
Not a bad exposition of the idea that different cultures and eras look at time in different ways. Levine can be a bit glib and shallow, and the later parts of the book go off into a cliched account of the need to slow down and smell the roses here in the U.S., but the idea that perceptions of time--- and its value ---are culturally-shaped is worth exploring. [See Pico Iyer's essay "Living on Muezzin Time" for thoughts on life in places where time is divided by events--- the calls to prayer ---ra ...more
Brendan
Apr 06, 2011 Brendan rated it liked it
Levine's book explores the way that different cultures perceive time and how that correlates to a variety of different facets of society. Levine's researchers measured time in 31 cities of varying sizes by timing how fast it took people to walk 60 feet and how long it took postal clerks to sell a stamp and make change. The researchers then compared those numbers to a wide variety of statistical measures to learn what effect the tempo of a place has on the lives of the people who live there. It's ...more
Susan Grodsky
Mar 18, 2015 Susan Grodsky rated it liked it
I finished this book with a great feeling of relief. Done at last! I suppose I could have quit any time but there was just enough substance to keep me reading.

There are interesting concepts (clock time versus event time) and convincing bits of history (the railroads lobbied intensively for a few standard US time zones).

But there's a vast amount of padding and repetition. For example, the 26 page chapter on time and power could have been boiled down to 20 percent of its length.

There's also many
...more
Val Delane
Jul 09, 2016 Val Delane rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite
Very interesting! My take-aways: 1/ There is "event-driven" time (the human default) and "clock-driven" time (a comparatively recent development). 2/ Perception of time varies tremendously from culture to culture, from individual to individual, and even within the individual in different situations. 3/ Stress is caused not so much by a fast pace or a lack of time as by an inappropriate fit between the individual's temperament and their environment, or hard-driving competitiveness and hostility, ...more
Tracy108
May 17, 2015 Tracy108 rated it it was amazing
I love this book! It is brilliantly researched and an engaging read. It is informative about time, cultures, differences, and similarities and does a brilliant job of linking facts and data with our human experience. It is the kind of book that is energizing for all the new ideas and insights available to the reader.
V
Oct 01, 2009 V rated it it was ok
Shelves: z2009
This was a fairly easy read that discussed differences in the ways that various cultures perceive time. This topic may sound dry, but the author manages to make it interesting. It is completely approachable for the masses. Any traveler should be aware of these differences and this book certainly would prepare a person to expect the unexpected.

However, I was somewhat disappointed that the book did not go into more depth, consisting in large part of anecdotes from the author's own experience as a
...more
Claire
Apr 10, 2014 Claire rated it liked it
This book made me recognize and value different cultural incarnations of time--and even the differences in my sense of time, depending on context. I have always been accused of being pokey--this book made me want to own my pokiness. And appreciate it in others.
Stephen Dorneman
Jan 30, 2016 Stephen Dorneman rated it really liked it
Although it reads at times like an extended PhD thesis ("Another respondent wrote about the discrepant psychological clocks of her husband and herself..."), and is overly repetitious, once social psychologist Levine's book gets past the intuitively obvious (New Yorkers, and Americans in general, live more clock-dominated lives than Brazilians, etc.), it does make one think about how culture defines the experience of time, and vice versa. The chapter on the history of timekeeping, and the within ...more
Emily
Oct 24, 2009 Emily added it
Juicy juicy juicy ideas. If you've ever had to readjust your personal clock in another country, or another culture, or another context, you probably have had a sense of what this guy is exploring. He proposes teaching Time Literacy along with language skills for visiting other countries. This, of course, offers abundant opportunities to learn about our own time sense - just as travel in a foreign land always teaches us more about ourselves than what we saw. He did a bunch of studies about time a ...more
Sammy Ann
Apr 28, 2016 Sammy Ann rated it liked it
Shelves: reality, policy
An interesting read that focuses on how time is understood differently across cultures. Humor throughout the book makes it an enjoyable and relatively fast-paced read with insightful observations.
Jill
Aug 15, 2016 Jill rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016reads
Fascinating. He's a social psychologist whose research has focused on how humans process time. He meanders around this in all kinds of anecdotal ways, including extensive references to academic research. Touches on: the American obsession with productivity & punctuality. How "clock time" came to be a thing here (spoiler: railroads!). How an economy and climate can affect a culture's time priorities (people / relationships vs money). How the idea of hours was new and organic references to tim ...more
Marie
Apr 19, 2015 Marie rated it really liked it
We (at least in the west) tend to think of time as a fixed thing, but it's important to recognize that not all cultures treat time this way.

I would probably die in an event-based time culture, just fyi.
Stephanie
Mar 03, 2016 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
A fascinating look at the seemingly natural phenomenon we call "time." Definitely a book that makes you think.
Jamie
Nov 26, 2014 Jamie rated it it was amazing
I love this book! It provides a great background of culture and how it affects travel, as well as an in depth analysis of intercultural notions of times and what they say about their cultures.
Samantha York
Nov 17, 2013 Samantha York rated it liked it
Enjoying a bit of a self-conscious laugh at how long it took me to read this book about time. Which tells you that it's worth reading, but does not exactly demand your attention. :)

It's full of actual research and references as well as entertaining anecdotes, which is precisely what I'm looking for in "light" cross-cultural studies reading.

There weren't any major revelations in here, nor was it irresistible, which is why I gave it 3 stars instead of 4 - but I happily read it and finished it and
...more
Shawaga
Apr 16, 2012 Shawaga rated it liked it
My obsession with time started when I read Zimbardo's "The Time Paradox" which I can safely say, was one of the most life changing books I've ever read. And I can never view "free time" the same again.

"An elegent gem" is what Zimbardo described this book. Having raised my expectations, I was fairly disappointed. It had bits and pieces of information and some not-so-fortunate experiences with different cultures that were sometimes funny, but not what I hoped for.

I loved the fact that he kept bri
...more
Eric
Jan 04, 2011 Eric rated it liked it
I feel like I should have enjoyed this book more than I did. There were a lot of things that resonated with me, and I half expect that pieces of it will bubble up as time goes on. But I found myself (ironically) racing through it, and feel a little like the gist of the entire book was covered in the first section, with the rest being just expansions that didn't necessarily deepen my understanding any.

Nevertheless, it was a good reminder that I hope will stick with me a long time.
Greg Linster
Sep 07, 2012 Greg Linster rated it really liked it
Anyone who has travelled extensively understands that there are cultural nuances in foreign lands. In this book, the psychologist Robert Levine explains how "time" and our perception of it actually help to create these cultural nuances in the first place. Overall, Levine does a nice job of weaving the tale of his personal travel in with scientific findings. If you're anything like me, you'll think about "time" in a whole new way after reading this book.
Marissa Morrison
May 02, 2011 Marissa Morrison rated it liked it
This book deals with how different cultures interact with time. The author set up an interesting series of tests (e.g. how long does it take to buy one postage stamp at a post office?) and repeated them in cities all over the world and within the United States. The happiest and most useful people balance being busy/keeping to a schedule with not feeling rushed or overwhelmed by how much they have to do in so little time.
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