What time is it?

Reading time: 2 mins

A question for any readers from the U.S.A. that are in the audience.

I have a question about the American education curriculum … I’m fighting the urge to suggest that’s an oxymoron, but only because it’s be a bit cheeky of someone from the ‘worst small country‘ in Western Europe, a certain case of the pot calling the kettle an uneducated and unwashed boiling implement.

I digress, quite often as it happens and it usually ends up with me trying to figure out how best to punctuate such digressions. Should I move them to their own paragraph, or perhaps enclosing them in parenthesis? Dashes maybe? Or ellipses? (which are grammatically incorrect I know but we are more about style than substance here). Ahh yes, the joys of the English language are many and manifest themselves constantly, no wonder it’s so bloody hard to learn comprehensively (do they still have comprehensive schools or do I mean ‘completely’? See, I’m doing it again!). Now, where was I?

Ohh yes, can any of my esteemed American readers confirm whether or not they are taught ‘timezones’ at school?

An example, if I’m ‘attending’ a webinar or some kind of online event or meeting, it is invariably with American colleagues and they invariably set the time using a timezone in America. Now, coming from a country which only uses one, this continues to baffle.

PST, EDT, MST… none of which seem tied to a city or state and leave me flummoxed and late… or early… depends.

Apparently, to use one of my examples above, MST equates to “Mountain Standard Time”. What the HELL does that mean? Are your mountains so high that the timezone at the top is different to that at the bottom, thus defying the very premise of establishing timezones based on longitude?

Does this confuse other Americans? Do you too have to check your time zone abbreviations or do you mostly know the different zones in your country?

And whilst we are on the topic, can anyone tell me what happened to GMT, when did it become UTC? What bloody timezone is that!! Honestly, it’s a wonder that I get to work on time… although I guess I could use timezones to my advantage, I mean, as the old saying goes, “it’s always beer o’clock somewhere on the planet!”.

What timezone are you in?

Post at 10.26 am (GMT). Or should that be 1026 GMT… UTC?? AARGH!

21 comments

  1. I’m commenting at 10:54 BST, which is also 09:54 GMT/UTC.

    And I’m commenting on 11/6, which could either be the 11th of June or November 6, depending on where you live.

    Just to make this a bit more confusing.

  2. I think you’re being a bit unfair to the Americans here. Or too lazy to Wikipedia.

    I mean timezones are confusing, with daylight savings, not all countries on the same lines of longitude being in the same time timezone. BST, CET, it’s not like it’s any less confusing for setting up meetings with Europe either. BST != GMT but in the same place.

    And PST, pacific = west coast. EST, eastern = east coast. MST = mountain = middle.

    It’s not all that complicated.

    As for UTC, from the Wikipedia

    Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) is a high-precision atomic time standard. UTC has uniform seconds defined by International Atomic Time (TAI), with leap seconds announced at irregular intervals to compensate for the earth’s slowing rotation and other discrepancies. Leap seconds allow UTC to closely track Universal Time (UT), a time standard based not on the uniform passage of seconds, but on the Earth’s angular rotation.

    UTC is used for machines. GMT is used by people.

  3. Dam I hate it when you moderate me. I never know if comment has failed or not.

    You should really have a “this message is being moderated” page.

  4. Yeah but then the evil spam comments would KNOW they were being moderated… ohh wait..

    OK, I can ignore UTC then…

    Now which mountains are in the middle of the USA?? My geography isn’t THAT good but ain’t the Rockies over on the west coast??

    And the difference with setting up meetings with Europeans is that they are more aware that you won’t necessarily understand the time difference and tend to offer some additional, helpful, information. Probably because they are distinct countries… hmm maybe we should chop the USA up into smaller bits… counties maybe.. ohh wait…

  5. I’m in Charlotte which is EST, Atlanta was also EST, but Alabama (one state west and a 45 minute drive from Atlanta) is CST, Half of Tennessee is CST too, basically from Nashville westwards

    All you need to worry about is this Gordon

    New York? EST
    Detroit? EST
    Chicago? CST (typically the start of CST too)
    Dallas? CST also
    Denver? MST
    Phoenix? MST also
    Las Vegas? PST
    Los Angeles? PST also

    Here’s a nice map so you can visualise it

  6. After 10 years of working in multinationals I’ve had hardly any problems with Americans setting up meetings. And that includes meetings they come into the office at 6am for so that we can go home, because of timezones.

    And I have had plenty of British people get confused between GMT and BST for setting up meetings and then wonder why everyone comes an hour after the meeting. Or before.

    In fact because USA is three major timezones, I find Americans often more aware.

    I’m calling you on this. I think you’re being unfair.

  7. USA is three major timezones, eh? There are more than that!

    And I’m not being unfair, I’m being selfish.. 😉

    Yes I’ve stayed late to have meetings to overlap with American co-workers, no problems with that at all, it’s the presumption that everyone else knows what CST means and what it equals, that causes the problem.

    So, OK, not just Americans but inconsiderate people the world over. Everyone needs to make sure that *I* get the information *I* need. Thanks.

  8. You think that the US time zones are confusing. Try setting up a teleconference with some clients in Nepal – now that’s confusing. Their time zone is UTC +5:45 hours. Plus they don’t observe daylight savings. And that’s just the time zones…

    They also use a completely separate calendar system too. So today, for instance, is Monday, Jestha 28, 2064. Their calendar is 56 years and 8 months ahead of A.D.

  9. Looks like I’m the first American to get up today. I don’t know about everyone else, but I learned about time zones from TV.

    Ie, Pee Wee’s Great Adventure will be on at 8 pm EST.

  10. Jen, that’s exactly what I did. I’m in high school, and I can safely say that we were never taught time zones in school. But to be honest, knowing the difference between EDT and MST and UTC isn’t particularly useful information. I generally just google ‘Time in India’ and skip the acronym nonsense.

  11. Wow.

    At least one reader in America then?

    I share the confusion on this issue, and admit that I never even bothered to try to understand it, just hoped that one day, we would get America back, and put them right.

    Spelling too I hope. Colour = Color, Aluminium = Aluminum

    As for the worst small country in Europe, it serves you right for not supporting England. So there.

  12. I like summer time. I would like England to stay with summer time all year round. You are welcome to GMT or UTC (whatever that is), Gordon.

  13. England can stay in summer time but us ‘oop North’ can’t. It gets dark way too early if we don’t change the clocks and ends up being dangerous for the kiddies walking home from school.. and you wouldn’t want THAT on your conscience now would you?

    Glad it’s not just me that finds this confusing enough to be annoying, but not confusing enough for me to seek out a permanent solution (i.e. learn the zones).

    Has the internet made us lazy?

    And Andy, it’s got nothing to do with not supporting England. We’ve not supported England for centuries, and this poll is quite new.. 😉

  14. I’ve left my laptop clock on PST so that I always know what time it is back in Vancouver if I want to try and catch family and friends online. In Canada the timezones generally follow the provinces until you get further east then it gets a bit messy. But for a large country it doesn’t have all that many huge cities so it’s pretty easy to remember. And Newfoundland is always half an hour ahead because they’re special. And Saskatchewan (CST) doesn’t observice daylight savings time because they’re stubborn and the cows don’t care.

  15. Scotand, well lets see where the investment is, higher taxes for business, higher council tax for high earners…..

    Oh for those of you in Blighty.. council tax here is about £200 pcm, not £400 per year as it is in SW1

    So higher living costs, higher taxes and shite weather. Coupled with the fact most of the population is 40+ and more interested in slippers and a pint.

    Its gods waiting room up here!

  16. That was what I meant – I see every reason why Scotland should stay with GMT, but not why England shouldn’t have BST all year round.

  17. Armin’s post brings it home for me.

    I can deal with timezones but oh my goodness, I hate seeing dates written as 06/13/07. Crass as it may be, I remember and pay respect to the terrorist attacks in NYC on September 11th on the 9th of November.

    What is the reasoning behind the backwards date thing?!

  18. Whats the date?

    November the 10th 2007?

    Howd you write that?

    10/10/2007

    Or in the Uk

    Tis the 10th Of November 2007

    Thats why its different, usability.

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