“What’s the time difference between India and Spain?” a colleague asked me in the middle of a general conversation at the office one day.
“3.5 or 4.5 hours, depending on the time of the year because India doesn’t have Daylight Savings Time and Spain does” I replied.
“How can that be?” he asked. “I’ve never heard of a half-hour time difference!”
Ever since I learned about the concept of time zones and India’s time zone in particular, I always considered a 30 minute time difference normal and never really gave it any thought. But now this simple conversation got me thinking and I decided to investigate.
After some quick research, I understood why he found it strange. Most of the world doesn’t have half-hourly time zones. So, just like a 30 minute difference in time zones was normal for me because I had grown up in one, a one hour difference was standard for him as he had never seen any other. In fact it’s kind of funny, but most of Western Europe and parts of Central & Eastern Europe (> 30 countries), have just one time zone and the US, which is one country, has 6!
As it turns out, apart from 30 minute differences in time zones, there are also 45 minute differences. Both these kinds of time zones are generally more prolific in the Asia-Pacific region. Often, they are also associated with islands that are part of some country, or independent island nations.
In general though, such time zones seem to be used mainly for secular purposes-for countries to distinguish themselves and help them create a distinct national identity.
Some of the larger countries that have non-hourly time zones (including some islands that might belong to these nations) include India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Afghanistan, N. Korea, certain areas of Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
And so, just like that, one simple question challenged a long-held assumption and along the way, the both of us learned something new.
To read more about time zones, you can click here to visit the Wikipedia page.