Time/Fall Back

UK daylight savings time (a.k.a. British Summer Time) ends this weekend, and I’m delighted. Why? Well, I love an extra hour. I could use one more often. “Fall Back” time has always been a happy time for me. But never so much as when I moved abroad. The first thing that is immediately noticeable is that the US does not switch at the same time, so there is a magical week of decreased time differences: 4 hours to the east coast instead of 5. Five to Minneapolis instead of 6. I love this. We get a few magical weeks each year in the spring and in the fall when this happens. I wish we could maintain the shorter time difference always, and I panic at the thought of the proposals to equalize the UK with European time and permanently move forward an hour, thus increasing the difference to 6 hours UK-east coast. Hopefully the UK-France animosity will prevent such an equalization and the Eurosceptics will prevail in this one small thing.

But this line of argument reflects the overall expat existence in some ways. I don’t live in British time. I live in some strange mid-Atlantic time-zone between here and there. The east coast is normally 5 hours, from me, the midwest 6, my colleagues in Colorado 7. I don’t seem to have many working relationships at 8 hours away in California, but I know it’s there. In general, these time differences are an automatic subtraction when I look at my watch and think about who I need to talk to and what I need to say. Fortunately I have a relatively flexible job in terms of the timing, and as a result I don’t normally book appointments before 10 am. And I often don’t “down tools” until 8 or 10 pm. I don’t religiously work a New York day, but I’m definitely closer to that than to a typical working day for those around me in the UK (although thank goodness 8 am starts are not the norm here, in that I do NOT miss Minnesota!)

That said, I have the intrinsic tendency to be slightly nocturnal, and sometimes this does not help. The time zone shift provides me an excuse for not integrating into UK time as well as I should. When I have to do something at 8:30 am (as early as I’ve been asked to do when not travelling) I’m pissy and resentful, because you can bet I was not in bed before 1 am (8 pm on the east coast!) It’s a delicate balance. And I’m eager to hear from readers–on both sides of the pond–how they accommodate this moderate but not insignificant time difference. Is it a help or a hindrance? Is it better to be in China (as my sister is) and be completely shifted in the US, or is it good to have this evening window both in the US and UK where people can overlap in timing, as long as the US person gets home from work early and the UK person manages to stay awake late?

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7 responses to “Time/Fall Back

  1. I don’t even have the work thing and sometimes I feel the same. There are very small windows in the day when I can phone friends in the UK. When I get back from taking the kids to school (8.30- 9am) they’re jusst picking their’s up. By the time I get mine to bed it’s far too late to call anyone in England.

  2. I usually speak to my Gent every day and it has really made both of us hate the telephone because of the difficulties the time difference presents. I have to schedule my “lunch” for 3 pm or he has to stay up until midnight for us to be able to speak. It might only be 6 hours, but it still makes it really difficult to find a mutually good time to speak. I do find that it is harder on those residing in the UK (if they are speaking to those in the US) – my poor Gent is continually sleep deprived.

  3. We Skype grandparents on a Saturday morning – Saturday afternoon their time. Seems to work. But as Expat Mum says, during the week is harder.

  4. I just know I have to call my Gran after 12pm and my mom after 10pm. Otherwise Gran is still asleep or Mom is still at work..although I do cheat and call Mom at work sometimes if it is “important”. AKA OMG KIKI CUT HER HAIR!

  5. I still dont get the phone call thing right. People are either about to eat or just going out for errands or I forget to ring until Im in the middle of dinner when suddenly my mother rings and I groan because I either have to talk to her in the middle of dinner or try to remember to ring her back after kids are in bed and I usually forget or something and my life is too chaotic to set a regular Skype/phone call time for any rellies. I know, Im a bad daughter for not scheduling in talk time as another thing on my regular agenda… I do TRY to talk as often as I can, does that count?

  6. Equalize the UK with European time? Why? Would this bring any real benefit to anyone?

  7. First of all, I lived in Indiana once and we didn’t change time – so part of the year, we were Eastern, and part of the year, we were Central. I loved not having to adjust my body clock. I always hated springing forward.

    Secondly, the fall time change has always been the last weekend in October. Has that changed in the US?

    I know that the spring time change in the last 2-3 years moved up in the US – so that the UK is only ahead of the Eastern time zone by 4 hours for two weeks. It used to be the first weekend in April, now it’s the second week in March. Whereas, in the UK, it’s the last weekend in March.

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