Asian Social Gatherings and Arriving Late

I have always noticed and wondered why in Asian culture arriving early for any type of social gathering never seemed to happen. Over the years I have been involved in many events and I always noticed that when I was asked to arrive at say 5:00pm for a party, I would be reminded by those around me that it meant I should arrive at 5:30 or 6:00pm.  Huh?! I never understood this. As the years have passed I thought and observed this kind of what I would call an Asian “secret code” that has been passed down for generations.  Everyone seemed to know but me that I should be arriving late. In western culture, I was taught that when I am invited to a party etiquette dictated that I arrive at the requested time, maybe even 5 minutes early in fact. So as I began to see this happen at every event with no one having a problem with it, I began to wonder why.

As I have spent so much time involved in Asian culture I have come up with a few reasons why I think that it’s appropriate to arrive late to gatherings:

Diffusion of Attention– By arriving late, they accomplish a diffusion of attention meaning that they can avoid awkward greeting or being particular noticed by others at the event. In a collectivist environment why would you want to stand out?

They May not Want to be There They are either there because their family wants them to, appeasing their girlfriend/boyfriend, or something of that nature. I would therefore make sense that they would rather come later then not at all because the social etiquette says they just should be there regardless of personal feeling or interest in the event.

 There for the Food Asian parties always have an excess of food. It’s always good and there is always plenty of it. Everyone loves free food and Asian people are no exception. At the end of a party everyone takes out the zip-lock bags and snags the left-over food for home. Why show up early when the best part of the night is what you get at the end!

So to me it seems that Asians all know that being late is customary, and no one takes offence.  In the Western style, everybody wants to make everybody else happy and show respect to the host by arriving on time.  Is one or the other better, I don’t really know for sure, but at first it seemed really strange to me.


9 Responses to Asian Social Gatherings and Arriving Late

  1. Jeff says:

    Sounds odd to me. Is this specifically Asian social events, or in general? Because if the latter, it’s probably from experience. More than once I have attended something on time only to be alone or in an empty room with the organisers still getting ready to begin. No-one wants to be there when they’re still setting the thing up

  2. Lucas says:

    As an Asian who lives in Asia since he was born, I guess I can give you another prospective to look at it. In numbers of events that range from friends gatherings, concerts and even some formal meetings, we tend to be late and i guess part of the reason you didn’t explain is selfishness.Here’s how we think, we don’t want to be the one who arrives early and has to be waiting until all the participates has arrived so the events can be started.

    I know you would be like, “If all the participates are punctual, no one has to be waiting and everyone’s happy”. But in reality in Asia, there’s always some annoying people who are always late with different excuses and in order to prevent the situation where I have to wait, (yea, i admit i’m a bit selfish), I’d just be late. It’s not a healthy culture but we have gotten used to it and it’s like a secret code as you said.

    And there’s one thing i want to stress that it only applies to social gathering and if you’re late to examinations and job interviews, you’d still be screwed. I personally would not be late to social gatherings whose attendants are close friends to me as well.

    English is not my native language so sorry in advance if some of my words confuse you.

  3. Lucas says:

    I personally would not be late to social gatherings whose attendants are NOT close friends to me as well.*

  4. Vv says:

    In London if we are invited to a party, we would never turn up on time they gave us, actually nobody turns up to parties at the given time but later. I think some of it may be as silly as just not been cool to be one of the first ones there, or wanting to arrive when the party is already in full swing rather than waiting around… hmm. but ofcourse it depends on what kind of party, if it’s a very small gathering, then we would be on time or a dinner party and anything else more formal.

  5. Alex says:

    I’m also from Europe and this custom is the same in most countries.Nobody will arrive exactly on time.The reason being is because it is common sense to be considerate to the host of the party. If everyone just came at the same time it would be really stressful for the person hosting to properly greet everyone at the door. So I think this custom is just carried out of habit even when there is no formal greeting of the guests.

  6. Brandon says:

    I don’t think it is an ‘asian’ thing. I am always punctual for parties. Even if I know that there will be very few to no one there. I can help with things and/or eat the appetizers before they become all mushed up or eaten up! Didn’t think of that, huh?

    I got being punctual from my dad who makes it a point, a very strong point, to never be late.

    But, now routinely arrive late because my girlfriend is always running behind. The extra curl in her hair, a little touch up make up there, change shoes etc.

    ‘If’ she wasn’t running late, she wouldn’t mind showing up on time either.

  7. Cy says:

    Okay, this comment is not about the previous article, but I don’t know where to post it. I am only posting this because I don’t know where else to post this and it’s the most recent post. Where are Laura’s VLOGs on Youtube? Whenever I click on the Youtube videos that she previously did, Youtube says the video is no longer available because Ksister920 has closed her account! This is terrible! I enjoyed watching those videos, and now it has dissapeared, almost as if some corporate media made it so. Excuse my cynicism, but after you see the extent to which corporate media seems to relegate Asians, you get a little suspicious. Please, bring those videos back!

  8. Frank L says:

    Hopefully all is well with Laura. The vlog is a huge loss

  9. Justin says:

    Hi Laura-I was surprised to see that your YouTube account is gone! Whats up with that?

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