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10 of the world's slowest cities

01 May 2013

With a more laid back workforce and flexibility on what 'late' means (we're looking at you, Dubai), these cities move at a calmer pace

DUBAI
The fishing village transformed by oil money into a high-rise global metropolis likes to take things slow.

How late is late?
Everyone is late all the time in Dubai. No one is on time for anything. It's 'Dubai time'.
Are commuters 'plugged in'?
Dubai's metro offers fabulous views, but everyone has their face in their BlackBerrys.
How fast is the food?
For a fast-food joint about five to ten minutes. For a gourmet restaurant about 15 to 30 minutes.
How long to wait for a coffee?
Three to five minutes.
A 24-hour city?
Some corner shops open 24 hours and the malls are open until midnight most days. Takeout joints will deliver until 3am/4am. Gyms close about midnight.
Do people walk or stand on escalators?
No one walks. Everyone is happy to just do everything slowly here.
How long's the wait for a train?
About four to ten minutes.
Sonja Stephen

SANTIAGO
The Chilean capital works efficiently but isn't open 24/7

How late is late?
Half an hour is the rough cut-off point, but they would be straight on their phones to find out what's happening.
Are commuters 'plugged in'?
Around 40 per cent have their Blackberrys/iPhones out.
How long does it take to get a coffee?
Two minutes.
How long do people take for a lunch break?
A lunch break is just one hour, unlike some of the country's smaller cities, where the siesta means workers have three hours off in the middle of the day.
A 24-hour city?
Not so much. Shops opening until 6.30pm, malls till 8pm or 10pm.
Do people walk or stand on the escalator?
Around 90 per cent of people stand on the escalator.
How long is train waiting time?
On the metro the trains arrive every two minutes or so.
Sarah Gordon


RIO DE JANEIRO
The most visited city in the southern hemisphere feels hectic, but Cariocas are laid-back.

How late is late?
There is a saying in Rio that 'you are never late, you just arrive when you arrive'. Cariocas are some of the world's worst timekeepers — largely because of the traffic and infrastructure.
Are commuters 'plugged in'?
There's a lot of looking out of the window on buses, because Rio is so beautiful, and smartphones are a luxury most people don't have. Everyone talks to everyone too.
Do people hang out in the park?
There is a lot of lounging in Rio. Some people sit there all day.
How fast is the food?
It could take 30 minutes, sometimes it is hours.
How long to wait for a coffee?
There isn't really a coffee-to-go culture, you sit and wait to be served, about five to ten minutes.
How long is lunch?
One to two hours. Everyone eats out. A lot of big companies have to provide employees with food tokens, so they can dine in the city's top restaurants. There is always an excuse for why lunch ran over (rain and traffic are just the beginning).
Do people walk or stand on escalators?
Everyone stands. People love to watch the world go by.
A 24-hour city?
Beach kiosks open 24 hours, and you can always find bars and pizza restaurants. Shops usually shut by 7pm. People like their time off.
Lauren Holmes

AMSTERDAM
In this city of cyclists, park life's important and rushing less so

How late is late?
People are punctual — 15 minutes late is late.
Are commuters 'plugged in'?
Almost everybody below the age of 40.
Do people hang out in the park?
In the summer people finish work early and go straight to the park if it's a nice day.
A 24-hour city?
No. Some shops are open 24 hours, but you can probably count them on one hand. However, the Mayor has just granted some 24-hour licenses to a handful of clubs and restaurants to stimulate trade.
How fast is food?
Sometimes you have to wait 15 minutes just to get served.
How long does it take to get a coffee?
Quicker than food, but still at least 5-10 minutes.
Do people walk or stand on the escalator?
We have two here, and everybody stands.
How long is train waiting time?
Pretty much everybody cycles in Amsterdam.
Will Georgi

PARIS
Paris is a city that lives at civilised pace

How late is late?
In Paris, late means 15 minutes.
Are commuters 'plugged in'?
On the metro, most people are plugged into their mobiles — listening to music or playing video games, though a lot of people still read books.
Do people walk or stand on the escalator?
The number of people who walk and stand on the escalator is about equal.
How long is train waiting time?
Train waiting time is three minutes on average.
How long does it take to get a coffee?
Getting a coffee takes about five minutes at your local café.
How long is lunch break?
At lunch people take between 50 minutes and 1.5 hours and restaurant service is usually quick — about 25 minutes.
Do people hang out in the park?
Yes, in summer the parks are jam-packed.
Is Paris a 24-hour city?
Shops are open till 7:00pm, nothing really stays open 24 hours.
Rooksana Hossenally


LOS ANGELES
Everyone drives in the US's second-most populous city, but LA has a 'que sera sera' approach.

How late is late?
Lateness is tolerated, but not in a work situation. Socially, people have a definite 'flakiness' and often don't show at all.
Are commuters 'plugged in'?
Everyone drives and most people talk on the phone too — hands-free of course.
Do people hang out in the park?
People take time to chill out — hiking in the canyons, playing sport in the parks or volleyball on the beach.
A 24-hour city?
There are 24-hour restaurants and supermarkets, most shops are open until 10pm and clubs close at 3am.
How fast is the food?
Fast but good — there's drive-through healthy, vegan or gluten-free food available everywhere and within a couple of minutes.
Do people walk or stand on escalators?
Most people stand.
Laury Smith

BUENOS AIRES
Life's laidback in the Argentine capital

How late is late?
In Buenos Aires the etiquette is laidback European, so people will wait at least 15-20 minutes before they start to get restless.
Are commuters 'plugged in'?Not a lot, the buses are usually very crowded and people are very focused on getting to their destinations.
Do people hangout in the park?
Buenos Aires is built around big squares and so there is a lot of hanging around in the parks.
How fast is food?
Unpredictable, longer than 20 minutes and up to an hour.
How long does it take to get a coffee?
Everyone stops and sits for a coffee, rather than getting a take-away, which they serve with water and a biscuit and can do in 5 minutes.
How long do people take for a lunch break?
Perhaps an hour but they can also work straight through and just grab a sandwich — Argentines are definitely the most Europeans of Latin America.
Do people walk or stand on the escalator?
About half and half.
A 24-hour city?
Shops are open until 8pm, although there are bars open late, little is open 24 hours. Buses run all night.
Lauren Holmes


HO CHI MINH CITY
While the street life is bustling in the former Saigon, the attitude's distinctly laid-back.

How late is late?
A 30-minute wait is normal when meeting a friend.
How long to wait for a coffee?
Around five minutes.
How fast is the food?
The average time is about 45 minutes.
Are commuters 'plugged in'?
The main mode of transport is the motorbike and most drivers chat on their phone while zooming in and out of the traffic.
How long is lunch?
Lunch breaks — and naps — occur at various intervals throughout the day.
Do people hang out in the park?
Parks are well used with up to 200 young and elderly people hanging out at a time.
A 24-hour city?
Shops stay open until around 10pm but some food stalls are open 24/7.
Kate Healy

CAPE TOWN
Capetonians don't mind waiting and linger chat to each other on commutes

How late is late?
People are happy to wait up to an hour or more.
Are commuters 'plugged in'?
People love their iPods/MP3 players and mobiles but also read, chat to fellow passengers or even look out the window.
How long is train waiting time?
At peak times, there is meant to be a train every ten to 15 minutes.
Do people walk or stand on the escalator?
Most stand.
How fast is food?
The average time from placing an order is half an hour.
How long does it take to get a coffee?
From two to ten minutes.
How long is lunch break?
Officially, the lunch break in South Africa is an hour, but if the weather is super nice, you will find many people heading outdoors to enjoy a longer lunch.
A 24-hour city?
The only businesses that are 24 hours are the bigger petrol stations and their convenience stores. Most shops close at 5.30pm, except for major shopping malls.
Caroline Webb

BERLIN
Creative Berliner like parks and don't tend to rush.

How late is late?
15 minutes is acceptable.
Are commuters 'plugged in'?
The majority have iphones or other smart phones — 70%. Say out of every 10, maybe 7 or 8 have smartphones. Definitely fewer than in other cities.
Do people hang out in the park?
Parks are usually very full whatever time of day if the weather is nice. There is really no 'work rush' except for in areas like Mitte and Kurfurstendamm.
A 24-hour city?
Certain areas like Kreuzberg and Neukolln are 24 hours. Most bars don't have closing times in Kreuzberg but they do close at some point and there are a lot of off-licences open 24 hours. Shops close at 8pm and don't open Sundays.
Do people walk or stand on the escalator?
Most people stand on the escalator.
How long does it take to get a coffee?
Coffee is very quick. 5 minutes at the most.
Sharon Mertins 

Read more: City speeds: fast movers and slow burners and eight of the world's fastest cities.

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