Personal Commitments: “Jam Karet” and Keeping Promises

I know that our nation is unbelievably clueless about time concept.

The term jam karet (or rubber time) is very famous, and this particular thing has been the best jokes among expatriates who happen to encounter this annoying culture (or habit?) with their Indonesians counterpart. Hell, even WE make jokes about it. Somehow I think deep down we are proud (!?) of having this uniqueness.

As an Indonesian, I try hard not to fit into this embarrassing label. I’m not saying I’m perfectly punctual all the time, but at least I try. When I first came back from Australia, I brought the habit of being punctual back. But after 4 years living in Jakarta, I got relaxed, one reason is because everybody else’s doing it, and the other one is because I don’t want ot die young of heart attack of being mad all the time of having somebody turned up late! But I’ve got annoyed when my boyfriend has made a joke of me being late for my personal appointments. Although I’m not that terrible, I don’t like that label, so I determine change this bad habit. And I think, especially starting this 2006, I got better.

The thing is, although most of my friends can be punctual and turn up on time for their business meeting, some ‘forget’ to do so when having personal appointments.

I mean being late for 10 minutes is ok, given that Jakarta traffic is unpredictable. But 30 minutes will be followed by “where are you”-sms, and 45 minutes would be “are you coming, everyone is waiting”-calling time, and one hour is well, you can guess from the colour of my face. But some of my friends can turn up almost 2 hours late and just say “sorry” with (or without) additional explanation and with no guilty feeling at all. Time is an absurd concept for these people.

This is very different from, for example, if my boyfriend and I have a Sunday brunch with his friends. When they agree to meet up at 12.30, most of people will turn up exactly at the precise moment. Few would be late, but it would be only like 10-15 minutes late. If somebody turns up later than 15 minutes, they would get nasty comments from the others.

Turning up late is one thing. Keeping a promise is another thing that I see my friends can easily ‘forget’. No wonder my boyfriend always wonders why I always have ‘no-plans’ plan for the weekend, because nothing, nothing is certain. One day we promise to meet up for a coffee and the next day everyone starts canceling or having time changed.

One occasion happened a few weeks ago. A guy was throwing a party on his house. Everyone knows him, but actually he’s a friend of my friend. After being busy fitting our schedule in on that particular Saturday, we finally agreed to go to his place for the party. My friend informed us that open bar starts from 6 to 10 PM, no dinner served, and after 10PM there would be a possibility everyone would go somewhere else. I told everyone that I wouldn’t be able to have a a late night anyway, since my flight was scheduled at 8.00 AM the next day.

On Friday my friend told me that she couldn’t go because she actually promised her another friend to stay over on her place for that night (I have no idea that she had us double booked with another appointment. See, this is a perfect example of promising something then simply change it). Although she’s the closest one to this guy, she ensured that it’s perfectly ok for the rest of three of us to go there. So I arranged with these other two to go together, and since they agreed to pick us up, I suggested to pick me up at 8.00PM.

I was ready before 8 and sent text to one girl, and to my horror, the other girl hadn’t turned up yet. After 8.30 I canceled the event, simply because it means they would have turned up at 9.00, and we would have arrived at the party few minutes before 10, which would had been the time everybody had to leave somewhere else anyway.

Mind you, I wasn’t mad at all. I knew this was coming before it happened. I’ve learned to get a balance between being punctual (for myself) and being understanding (for the people who do not respect my time). So as long as I turn up on time, it doesn’t matter if others are late. It’s their problem, not mine. They’re the excuse maker.

These two things, being punctual, and keeping promise, are called commitment. It doesn’t matter whether you have an appointment with a CEO from a Fortune 500 company or to your hairstylist in the beauty salon, you must respect the time that the other person provides to you. Because that’s exactly what other do, they respect your time, therefore they show up on time.

Luckily, most of my work colleagues – who are my friends as well – can be on time. An extreme example would be Tamara, who would time her time by the minutes (you know how rare Indonesians are like that!). One night she called me and promised to turned up 9.30 PM, and then called me again, apologizing for turning up 6 minutes earlier!

I read these quotes somewhere: Successful people keep commitments. They show up on time, they don’t break dates and promises. Their word is their word, and they stand by it.

I want to be recognised as a committed person. At least, there would be another ONE Indonesian who is not labeled as a “jam karet” person. So this is my word and I stand by it.

I hope.


  1. Anonymous says:

    wish that the messages will help me cut my habits from being late

Speak Your Mind


To help prevent spam, please answer the match challange: *

CommentLuv badge