Dating a Date

There are very few things that I wish were universal, but a universal standard for writing the date would be most convenient and definitely at the top of my list. There are currently three international formats that the world grapples with, yours truly included.

If you were raised with the American format of MMDDYY and use this format exclusively, then you probably grew up in (obviously) the USA, US Samoa, Guam, Japan, the Marshall Islands, Panama, the Cayman Islands, Micronesia, the Northern Marianas, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Togo, or the US Virgin Islands.

The rest of the world uses the DDMMYY, with a select few like Bhutan, China, Hungary, North and South Korea, Lithuania, Mongolia, and Taiwan, who singularly adhere to the YYMMDD format and this alone. There there are the three countries who can’t seem to make up their mind or have a glorious penchant for trying to play nice with everyone: Canada, Kenya and Ghana. All three formats are used officially! Then there is the Spanish speaking world that adds the day of the week to the DDMMYY format but add “de” and spell out the month, i.e. Lunes 3 de Mayo, 2021. Confused yet?

The international format recognised by most countries in addition to one other one, is the YYYY-MM-DD, but not everyone chooses to adopt this, least of all the North Americans. It can be very confusing, and annoying, to have to switch back and forth between formats if you work in an international environment, and it can lead to horrible misunderstandings. I remember early on when I had first set foot in Europe and was wrapping my head around what to me seemed like the inverted date format. I kept writing my date of birth wrong and ended up being disappointed in July that certain people didn’t send any birthday wishes, and being completely flummoxed in November when they did!

I don’t even want to imagine the mixed up deadlines when working in a transatlantic setting – there is a huge difference between 10-02-2021 and 02-10-2021. Is the project to be completed in February or October? Imagine the project manager in Berlin trying to meet the deadline by February 10, 2021 while his counterpart in Washington thinks he has until October 2 to finish things up!

The only reason I’m rambling on about this today is because I had to submit something for a newsletter in my writing community, whose home base is in the USA and of course I had to switch gears and revert to the US date format. I am so rooted in the European format now that anything else throws me off guard and annoys me. During the past six months I filled out an endless number of application forms, in several languages and originating from North America, Latin America, Asia and Europe, so you can imagine that I had to stop and think about my own damn date of birth of employment records for a minute.

No matter what form you fill out these days, the date formats will undoubtedly vary depending of where it was designed. Now that live in a completely global world thanks to the internet, I strongly advocate adopting ONE universal format, once and for all. Don’t even get me started on the concept of counting floors – i.e. what is first floor in which country or the concept of counting rooms when house-hunting, or whether or not to continue using AM/PM for telling time or adopt the the 24-hour format. Hmmm, you know what? I think I will tackle these in the days to come.

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