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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

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  898 ratings  ·  99 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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Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book is full of funny anecdotes on misunderstandings about time, depending on the region and culture in which you reside. Making appointments, waiting in line for an administrative formality, visiting friends: in many cultures the expectations regarding punctuality and duration are sometimes very differently estimated. Levine makes an attempt to map this out, but he does not get any further than that the Western world started living according to clock time at the end of the 19th century, un ...more
Sense of  History
I had hoped to learn from this book why there is such a big difference in time perception between different cultures. I didn't get a real answer to that, but still enough elements to form an image myself. In any case, Robert Levine shows how great the differences are in sense of time: for example, the time of appointments in the US, Brazil or Japan are interpreted in very different ways at each of those places; his book is peppered with numerous amusing misunderstandings on this.
For an exp
Mar 25, 2011 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
Jun 19, 2011 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 st
Jul 09, 2009 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 rated it it was ok
Cultural time theory is multiculturalism in disguise, nice but academic mush
Jul 28, 2011 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.
May 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: philosophy lovers and readers of Cosmo
Shelves: social-science
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
Aug 11, 2010 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 ane
Dec 23, 2010 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
Susan Grodsky
Mar 18, 2013 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.

Bryan Murphy
Sep 10, 2018 rated it liked it
It is easy to imagine the tension between Levine's editor, or Levine-as-editor, wanting sweeping generalisations and blunt assertions that will sell books, and Levine the social psychologist who knows that stereotypes are shit and that reality is inevitably nuanced. In the end, both have their say, so that Levine can sell books without selling his professional integrity. However, I think he over-estimates and occasionally errs about what the many studies he quotes, especially his own, actually s ...more
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
A Geography of Time appears to be an account of the differences in how different cultures perceive time. While the book certainly has some of that, in both statistical and anecdotal form, it’s better to think of this work as a mélange of essays on the academic interests of a professor who studies time use. It begins with quite of bit of analytic summary content categorizing how one might conceive of time, often diverges into anecdotes about other cultural factors, and only moderately discusses t ...more
Lynn Schlatter
I read several passages of this book out loud to my husband, because I was fascinated by how much our perception of time is influenced by both our culture and our individual personalities, and by Levine's contention that we don't have to be bound by what we've always believed about punctuality, priorities and scheduling. However, his descriptions of cultures foreign to him have an air of "breathless anthropology" to them, e.g. "Look at the weird/cool/exotic things these other people do!" that I ...more
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I actually really enjoyed this book. I found it incredibly accessible and I learned a lot of things that I had never even thought of before. The anecdotes were really fun and it made for a quick read, surprisingly.
My one complaint is that this could definitely benefit from getting an updated edition. It's definitely a little dated which took away from my enjoyment of some of the facts because it didn't feel relevant anymore. In addition, there were quick a few typos and even a spot where the sa
Rand Hall
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Levine provides sweeping history of time. He does so in the highly engaging manner. While the subject matter is time, the study of time is largely about cultural differences with respect to time. One would think that anyone interested in understanding other cultures would benefit from understanding their interpretation of time. The highlights for me or discussions about the Japanese sense of time and the concept of event time practiced in "less developed areas."
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was one of the best non-fictional books that I’ve read!
It is really interesting, exciting and also funny. You can learn a lot from it or confirm your assumptions.
It’s also great for people who travel because it gives you an image about the lifestyle/culture and time handling of a country.
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow, I LOVED this book. I read it mostly on vacation, a state I find that a book can seem to have a more profound impact, so I guess take that with a grain of salt. It gave me a lot to think about in terms of how I think about and experience time and how I want to. I have a feeling that I'll be thinking about this book, coming back to mull over these ideas, for many years.
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic book, well summarised and very insightful - despite its age of about 20 years!
I liked that the author is well aware of the limitations of his work (and also of some of his comparisons) but overall, I absolutely enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it!
Martin Ott
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good look at what times mean in different cultures. Written 25 years ago. Even though a few things felt dated in mated you think about how we Americans treat our time and raised some awareness of bad habits.
Sarah Mckinney
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Super interesting and eye opening. Loved it.
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was totally bad.
Aug 06, 2011 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
Feb 08, 2017 rated it liked it
An excursion in temporal relativity between cultures

Every so often I read a book on time management as sort of tune up to the administrative side of my life. Most say more of less the same thing but Levine's book is a bit different. Comparing social attitudes as to how different cultures measure and use time and the kinds of time that people value (ie: personal, appropriate waiting, urgent vs non-urgent, mourning, decision time) gave me some insight into other people's behaviour that I think I
Dec 15, 2010 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
Sep 26, 2012 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
Jun 20, 2010 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
Aug 03, 2009 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
Val Delane
May 19, 2011 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
Sep 07, 2009 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
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