Guests: How to Tell Time Here

Post by Lauren

A few months ago, I did a post on the metric system and how difficult it is to get used to when you are used to another system.

Another cultural difference is in reading time.

Clock tower in Bern


In Europe they use military time most of the time So, I get invitations for lunch at 13:15 and for French class at 14:30.

But, sometimes not. And that makes it really difficult when taking appointments over the phone. When arranging our next rendez-vous, I heard my French teacher say at “à douze heure” [ah-douz-urr] but she really said “à deux heure” [ah-dooz-urr]. One is 12 and one is 2. I asked for clarification once I saw her pencil it into her afternoon instead of mid-day and she quickly told me no one says 12pm, only “midi”. Okay, glad we have that solved.

They don’t use a.m. and p.m. here. I do some copywriting for the women’s club. As a habit, I write things like a certain group meets at 11am and constantly get reminded that it simply doesn’t apply. It’s 11:00. The other day I was tutoring English to a French lady at the women’s home and tried to explain the concept of a.m. and p.m. She commented that it was very odd we had that.

To keep complicating things, dates are listed here in Day / Month / Year vs. Month / Day / Year. So the grocery item marked 12/04/2012 actually expires in April instead of December of 2012. When you have mixed US and Swiss pantry items and medicine, it can get a bit confusing.

How does this apply to guests??
Please note that when filling out any paperwork, doing the date Day / Month / Year is important. Also, when you buy any type of train or airfare, pay attention to the date in this format and the time in this format. This would also be key for buying tickets to a show or museum. An 8:00 ticket would be in the morning vs. 20:00 in the evening. A train ticket on 2/3/12 is March 2nd, not February 3rd.


5 thoughts on “Guests: How to Tell Time Here

  1. Hi Anonymous.  I do agree with your opinion.  This post was not meant to suggest that the US date/time way was right, merely to inform our guests that they should pay attention to the differences in date and time that exist in Europe when booking travel and tickets….

  2. “differences in date and time that exist in Europe “.. Don’t be so narrow.. The world is not only the US and Europe.. There are 7 continents (and the US is not one of them)..Nevertheless I do appreciate your kindness towards your friends who will be visiting you.. At least they will learn “new” things.. 😉

  3. @  anonymus, I am curious why you chose to spell it anonymus vs. anonymous? is this a cultural difference as well?Thank you Lauren for all of the helpful hints for your guests.  We hope to get to put them into action before too long!

  4. Anonymous – you sound a little bitter.  Different is different not necessarily better or worse. Don’t be so defensive – I think freedom means freedom from prejudice such as you seem to espouse.

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