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.