Today it’s …

I have a sneaking suspicion that the debit on my bank statement dated 30th February has something more to do with some archaic German law on payment periods rather than appearing to show that my bank thinks that February has more than 28 or 29 days!

One never knows.  But it did get me thinking about dates.

There’s a lot of variation in the way that dates are written worldwide. In the punctuation used between each element, for example – spaces, commas, full stops, dashes, slashes or ideographs – all make an appearance in formats used in various countries.  There are “official” formats, but many of us have our own preferences on whether we use dots, hyphens or slashes.

More fundamental is the order in which we write the date elements. It was recently Pi Day – at least according to my Twitterfeed – when the date corresponded to the first digits of pi – 3.14.15.  But only if you are in one of the small number of countries where the month is written before the day in a date.  Here is Europe we’ll never have a pi day because we don’t have 14 months and we written the day before the month.

These days most countries and societies use the Gregorian calendar, but it’s not universal.  Saudi Arabia uses the Islamic calendar for all purposes, so that my 24th March 2015 AD (or CE) is their 3 Jumada al-thani 1436 H. Afghanistan and Iran use the Persian version of the Islamic calendar, so that today is 4 Farvardin 1394 SH. Both of these are lunar calendars, so days don’t move on one at midnight but at a time dictated by place and the cycle of the moon.

Ethiopia still uses the Julian calendar (where February, and every other month, does have 30 days!), so that it’s 15 Mekawit 2007 as I write this. Some countries (Bangladesh, India and Israel) use other calendars in parallel with the Gregorian calendar; and others (Taiwan, Thailand, North Korea and Japan) used alternative versions of the Gregorian calendar.

Your weekend will be different, depending on where you are. It’s often Friday and Saturday in Muslim and Jewish countries. New Year may start on 1st January for many of us, but other cultures – Chinese, Vietnamese, Iranian, Sikh, Balinese – start their years at other times.  There are also variations in the dates that feasts and holidays are celebrated. The first mother’s day of the year falls in January in Myanmar, and the last in late December in Indonesia.

Like much when you start working internationally, never make assumptions about anything – the deeper you dig, the more you’ll discover. It may be a recipe for confusion, but I love it – it’d be a boring world if we all did everything the same, wouldn’t it?