Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Italian punctuality: reliably unreliable

Italian punctuality: reliably unreliable
If an Italian tells you to meet them ‘sometime around 9pm’ there’s a pretty good chance they really mean 9.15pm. While it’s nowhere near as vague as Caribbean Time, which can be hit or miss whether someone shows up at all, Italian punctuality can at times feel like an oxymoron, even though to many Italians, unpunctuality is a constant annoyance.
In saying ‘sometime around’ many Italians are secretly implying a time you’re expected to arrive (9pm) while giving themselves a 15 window of time to arrive. And with the Italian tendency to delay or push back deadlines, it could be later still. This habit seems more prevalent the further south in Italy you go, where leisure time is highly prized.
Mobile phones have made the habit worse. Before everyone had a phone, a wait passed 15 minutes could result in the meeting being abandoned by the person who was on time. Now, if it’s getting close to a 15 minute wait, a simple text message along the lines of ‘OMW’ (on my way) can buy the unpunctual even more time, and next thing you know, a 9pm meeting ends up at 9.30pm. Which could partly help explain why Italians eat out so late.