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

A Geography of Time by Robert V. Levine
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's review
Aug 06, 2011

really liked it
Read from July 01 to August 05, 2011 — I own a copy

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 is a relation to the Type-A, Type-B, and Type-AB personalities. In short, the Type-A personality is one who is always on the go, and hurrying all over. More information is available on Wikipedia. Anyways, in the U.S., Japan, and Western Europe we live by the Type-A personality. Since this was his background, he pays special attention to visiting countries where the clock isn't so much watched. He explained that he really had to adjust to the surroundings to really live there - not so much just to the people, but to the definition of time. One example was various meetings he would attempt to have...sometimes 30-40 minutes would go by, even hours after the meeting was supposed to start, and he'd finally be able to have the meeting. While I had a bit of a grasp that some cultures were a little slower...it wasn't quite this much.

Surprising, one thing he went into that I really appreciated was about how we define the Type-A personality as the ones who tend to get heart disease. He said that wasn't really the only factor. Basically his argument is that a person's personality needs to be matched with their living environment. Also, he mentions that the problem really happens when we're exposed to either too much Type-A or too much Type-B when we're expecting the opposite.

There are a few problems with the book, though. The first problem is that the organization of the book is pretty poor. I found it difficult to really follow some parts of the book...and read more like a stream of consciousness than anything else in those areas. Sometimes he'd also write far more about something than was needed to get the point across. I got the distinct feeling he ran out of thoughts to convey at times.

Overall, I feel the book is worth reading though. This book may not tell much to those who travel a lot. To those who don't travel much, this book should be quite illuminating.

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