Ticktock | An intercultural activity

Time cultural differences.jpg

This activity looks at differing perceptions of time by exploring some intercultural critical incidents.


  • Explore varying perceptions of time causes by intercultural differences and their impact on work and relationships.


  • Making tape
  • OHP pen or similar
  • Critical incidents listed below

Pre-activity prep 

  • You’ll need to do this before participants come in. Stick 12 fairly long pieces of making tape in a large circle as if they were points on a clock face i.e., the masking tape takes the place of hour marks that run along the periphery of your imaginary clock.
  • On each bit of tape, write one of the critical incidents.
  • If you don’t have enough space for a clock, you could stick the masking tape on the floor along the walls of your classroom or anything else that works for you.

Critical incidents 

  1. When you mail your Japanese colleague to ask for his opinions on anything, he takes days to get back to you.
  2. Your Belgian French team members come in 5 – 10 minutes late for meetings after lunch, even important ones.
  3. Your Indian direct report commits to deadlines he can’t meet and asks for extensions only after you request for a progress update.
  4. You are debating a critical issue with your German stakeholders and the meeting runs over. You ask for 5 – 10 min to conclude but they refuse to stay.
  5. Your Dutch colleague gets annoyed when you send her reminder mails about upcoming deadlines.
  6. Your Thai client tells you that he will send you his requirements tomorrow but tomorrow never seems to come.
  7. Your Swedish coworker asks you to stop sending him mails over the weekend although you don’t expect him to respond until Monday.
  8. Your American team members want to implement ideas immediately often without spending time thinking through challenges and issues.
  9. Your Brazilian clients spend a lot of time in meetings on social conversation instead of focusing on the agenda.
  10. Your Australian team members stop responding to emails by 4 PM Sydney time and often leave for the day by 3 PM on Fridays.
  11. Your Omani counterpart refuses to commit to a specific timeline, preferring to focus on outcomes and whose support will be required.
  12. Your Filipino direct reports never seem to be able to submit their deliverables per the deadlines you’ve established.


  • Ask participants to stand up and find a partner.
  • Stand at 12 o’clock and signpost the clock on the floor of the classroom and ask the participants to quickly move to their favourite time of day with their partner. Make sure there isn’t more than one pair at each point.
  • Participants read the critical incident on the masking tape and discuss it with their partner. They should look at the situation from the perspectives of the two parties involved.
  • Ring a bell or strike a gong to signal that each pair should move clockwise to a new point and repeat the procedure.
  • You can have the participants process as few or as many critical incidents as you have time to cover. You can also stop and take whole class feedback in between.


  • Use fewer critical incidents.


  • Ask participants to talk about the critical incidents from this list that they have personally experienced or that they found interesting.
  • Point out to participants how easy it is to become judgmental when dealing with cultural differences over time – she’s inefficient – he’s lazy – they’re wasting time etc.

Action plan 

  • Ask participants to reflect and discuss how they would address or resolve intercultural critical incidents caused by different perceptions of time.
  • You could assign a critical incident to each participant and ask them to research different cultural orientations and report back to the group either in the next lesson or through asynchronous online forum.

One thought on “Ticktock | An intercultural activity

  1. Pingback: Immersivities, the Motherload of Original Classroom Activities | The ESL Review

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