Especially for the first week after I arrived, Thais and non-Thais alike frequently warned me about “Thai time.” Thais have a much more relaxed understanding of time. If you schedule a meeting at 9, it might start at 9, or it might start at 9:20. It isn’t considered rude to start at 9:20. I also learned that students frequently come and go from class as they please and it also isn’t considered rude.
I have witnessed this somewhat over the last two weeks, particularly with students walking into class halfway through the lecture, or never bothering to return after a ten minute break.
Yesterday I was running a bit behind. The clock showed two minutes after 9 and I all but ran into my classroom. I felt very apologetic and embarrassed about arriving late. Up until then, I’d shown up to every event at least 30 minutes early!
Much to my shock, I discovered only one other student in the classroom! No professor in sight. I double checked that I was in the right room and sat down in some confusion. Ten minutes passed. A few students trickled in. Fifteen minutes. No professor, a few more students. Twenty minutes…twenty-five…by this point, I felt my incredulity growing. No one seemed in the least bit phased by the wait! If this was the United States, we’d all have bailed after 10 minutes…And while I expected students to come whenever, I could not believe the professor would come just whenever!
Finally, at 9:30, the professor strolled in without an apology and got things started by 9:35. I turned to my companion in amazement. “Doesn’t this class start at 9?”
“What do you mean?” she asked. “All morning classes start at 9:30!”