#SwedeInMadrid: Exact time of no importance

Eleven fourtytwo.
 That was the time for the doctor's appointment for our son. Not 11:30, 11:45 or even 11:40. We could meet the doctor at 11:42.

We looked at the note and wondered why on earth a Spanish doctor would make an appointment at 11:42, when Spaniards in general seem to look at time as something very approximate. 

Alex, my English hair dresser, says that Spanish people are the worst clients. They can show up an hour or two late to an appointment. Or they do not show up at all. Or they cancel the whole appointment because it rains. (See "Do they understand it's just water?")

It is not only time that is stated accurately. When my husband chose a Spanish course, the fee was: 111,76 euros. Not 110, 115 or even 112. The cost was 111 euros and 76 cents.

 How anyone can care about 1 euro cent is beyond me. In our house we have a jar filled with all the "red coins" as we call them. Coins that are more or less worthless; 1, 2 and 5 euro cents. 

Once we have gathered a whole lot of these coins I plan to give all of them to one of the many street artists in Madrid. To give them just one or two of these silly coins would be an insult so I will wait until they amount to a few euros. That will take a while...

This useless exactness makes me think of something I heard in a course many, many years ago. It was a course in project management, and that day we learned about the project planning tool Microsoft project. The teacher told us that unless we had projects that were only one day long, we should not use the feature that allowed us to plan with hours and even minutes.We should not fool ourselves into thinking it is possible to predict a project that will take weeks, months or even years, to an accuracy of hours or minutes. 

Just because we can measure something accurately, like cents and minutes, does not mean we can live according to such accuracy.

Regarding the doctor's appointment at 11:42; we were there around 11:30 but we did not get to meet the doctor until some half an hour or so later. 

We were not surprised.


  1. Hi!

    Unfortunately, the reason for the doctors to be late in Spain is not so much as they do not care about time, it's because they put in more appointments than the doctor can handle. That way, doctors stay overtime (for free) and the state does not need to hire more doctors. Before the big crisis, the situation was not so bad. I remember not needing to wait for the doctor if I was on time, before 2008.

    BTW, I do not know about kid doctors, but I must say that all the doctors I have go to are always on time - or a few minutes before the appointments. So are the specialists for kids I have been forced to go to with my baby :(

    I suspect the lack of punctuality is more evident for general-purpose doctors :(

  2. Thanks for your comment!

    I am not surprised about the lack of punctuality, in Sweden this is very common when going to the doctor. (Even though in general Swedes are punctual).

    What surprises me is that a very exact time is stated, I have not seen this in Sweden or the Netherlands where I have lived before.

    I agree with you about the likely reason for not being able to stick to the agreed time. It is most likely because too much is crammed in there for reasons of profitability.