Asking the date? 

You may get an unexpected answer!

Most of the business world uses the Common Era year combined with the Gregorian calendar, which divides the year into twelve months of 30-31 days, save February, which has 28 or 29 on leap years (of which 2024 is one!). But the Gregorian calendar isn’t the only one used in the world. Many people are familiar with the Chinese lunar calendar, with the Year of the Dragon having started on February 10, 2024. But there are numerous other ways of counting years, months, and even the hours of the day.

Expatriates traveling to Saudi Arabia or other Muslim countries in 2024 may see the year as 1445 AH in some contexts, or 1446 AH after July. This is the year according the lunar Hijri calendar, marking the time since prophet Muhammad migrated to Medina. Those in Japan may see the year listed as 令和6 (Reiwa 6), even in professional contexts. The Japanese calendar is based around the reign of the current emperor, and the Reiwa era began on May 1 2019, with the abdication of Emperor Akihito and the ascension of his son Naruhito.

Two other countries with particular calendars are Ethiopia and Nepal. The Ethiopian calendar consists of 12 months, with 5-6 days at the end of the year (early September in the Gregorian calendar) comprising a bonus “month.” The Ethiopian clock is also unique, with a day and night cycle. The day is considered to start at 1:00 (7 a.m. according to the common clock). When scheduling business in Ethiopia, it is extremely important to double-check meeting times. 

The Nepalese calendar, called Nepal Sambat, has between 11 and 13 months depending on the year. This calendar has a history in Nepal dating back to 879 CE, but was only officially re-adopted in 2011 after pressure from cultural lobbies. The Nepalese date is now printed on currency and in newspapers. 

Even though our world has become globalized, with business norms generally consistent between countries, something as simple as a date can have deep cultural meaning. Living Abroad provides information on local calendars and time norms in Holidays and Festivals, with extra information on dates in Business Correspondence. We also include a link to World Time Buddy to smooth out any bumps when scheduling business between time zones. Written by Kate Havas, GMS-T, Content Manager