Monochronic or polychronic, that’s the difference… Which are you?

No they are not diseases. They are not forms of art. They are ways of time orientation. They determine the way you view and interact with the world. They are different ways to manage time. Let me explain to you how this influences me and how I needed to adapt.

I heard about these terms the first week we were here during intercultural training. I am in no way an expert so please forgive me any errors. Let me start by explaining the difference between the two terms:


A monochromic person has a very strict way of viewing time. Time is to be used efficient and spend on useful things. Meetings in companies need to have an agenda, start on time, follow the agenda and finish on schedule. During the meetings actual decisions are taken and real work is done. Monochrinic people like to have fixed projects with targets deadlines and outcomes. The most extreme monochromic concept is that of being able to waste time.


The polychromic are the opposite of this (you guessed it). For a polychromic person dealing with time is a more flexible thing. In a business context this can be seen in meetings starting later, with a limited agenda. The work is done outside meetings. For polychromic people time is more flexible. Every moment is a chance to build relationships with people and to discover new things. The most extreme quote I heard on this is: ” Life is in the hands of God, so why run for the train?”.

We have experienced that the French are generally much more towards the polychromic. For example, when the land lord made an appointment to send some builders over they showed up several hours late. Lines at the supermarket do not go very fast. At work meetings start late and begin with discussing non subject related things. The advantage of this flexibility is that it is easier to cancel or move meetings, there seems more time to relate to people. Although work and private are strictly separated.

The downside is that things progress less quick and efficient. There are less rules on outcomes and less targets. There is less to count on or plan, visitors for example are usually late.

So my question to you is: which one are you? If you come here your monochromic time view will be challenged if it is not at work it will be somewhere else.  I know mine has.

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