Kathmandu & Timezone Oddities

Monday, November 4th 2019

Daylight savings just recently went into effect here in the United States. Normally "gaining" an extra hour as we shift into standard time is a reason to rejoice this time of year. We all pretend we get an extra hour of sleep that night, as though we're not just making this time thing up as we go along. The timing for me was a bit humorous though as I'd only just started to get over my jet lag from a month and a half of traveling for conferences and things. Pushing everything back an hour really makes all the difference!

But that's less interesting than what I learned while I was presenting at Web Weekend Kathmandu in late September. It turns out that Nepal Time uses UTC+05:45.

If you look at the list of UTC time offsets you'll find that most countries have rounded to a full hour. From the perspective of someone who thinks a lot about coordinating with others halfway around the globe, this seems most pragmatic. A smaller list of places use an offset that falls along the half-hour, though the largest of these seems to be India at UTC+05:30. It seems wrong to describe anything in India as "small" since over a billion people live in and use that timezone offset.

Nepal however, as far as I can tell, seems to be the only country in the world currently aligned to an offset that doesn't fall evenly on the hour or half-hour. There are a couple tiny places in Australia and New Zealand that seem to also align to a 45 minute offset, though I think they're quite small—the population for one town was 53.

It might sound silly but trying to coordinate and think about the time back home while I was there was surprisingly disorienting! If you go through the history of timezones a lot of areas have changed their timezone to round to an even hour, I have to think just because it's easier to coordinate with the rest of the world that way.

So... there you go! Timezones. Someday, maybe, we'll abolish timezones all together. I'm not sure when that day will come though—so much of our culture and language, at least in the Western world, revolves around time in a relativistic way it would be hard to unravel. I have higher hopes of getting the U.S. to adopt the metric system before that happens.