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Moving Overseas and Time Zones

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Guide to Moving Overseas and How to Handle the Time Zone Change

As people roll off their beds at 6:30 AM in Houston, people in New Jersey have started to leave for work around 7:30 AM. At that same moment, people living in Seattle still have three hours before they wake up to drink their morning coffee. On the other side of the world, people in London might be returning to work after their lunch break since it is 1:30 PM there. In Japan, people have started to tucker down into their beds for the night as it is 9:30 PM. All of this happens at exactly the same time that the sun has begun to rise in Houston. This phenomenon may seem baffling at first, but it can be easily explained with a scientific concept known as time zones, or designated areas that fit into relation with the passing sun.

Time zones correspond with the amount of hours in a day, which means there are 24 different time zones in the world. Time zones may vary depending on location, however, due to different time interval interpretations. In other words, some time zones may have a shorter or longer duration in one region of the world than they would have in another. When taking this into account, there are actually about 40 different time zones.

The United States recognizes nine time zones that affect people living in the country. The majority of U.S. citizens live in one of the following time zones, including Eastern Standard Time (EST), Central Standard Time (CST), Mountain Standard Time (MST), Pacific Standard Time (PST), Alaskan Standard Time (ASKT), and Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time (HST). While many time zones share special names as the ones listed above, some time zones are known just by the number of hours that are different from the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

In Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), all time zones measure from a small town in England named Greenwich. When looking at a map, it becomes easy to spot the acronym UTC in relation to different time zones in the world. The acronym usually has a negative followed by a specific number when reading a specific time zone. For instance, Houston falls into time zone UTC-6, which means that it is six hours behind Greenwich's time. In Tokyo, the time zone reads UTC+9, which means that it is nine hours ahead of Greenwich's time. In some cases, the UTC has a different name called Greenwich Meridian Time (GMT).

The same rules apply to GMT in regards to calculating time zones by the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). This sounds easy to understand, but it can get complicated when entering time zones along the International Date Line. The International Date Line divides UTC+12 from UTC-12. The complications arise when crossing the International Date Line because a traveler technically loses a day in only a matter of minutes. It can also get complicated when considering regional time changes, such as Daylight Savings Time, which helps to keep time in correspondence to the sun.

Time zones seem harmless on a chart. Losing an hour between flights may not exactly disorient travelers; however, 3 to 10 hours can have an immediate impact upon arrival. For instance, someone who travels from Tampa, Florida to Seattle, Washington may start to get sleepy around 6:00 PM because the citizens circadian rhythms are in sync with Eastern Standard Time (EST), so their bodies would think that it is actually 9:00PM. Conversely, someone traveling from Seattle to Tampa would be very awake around midnight. The effects of travel can be quite serious, especially for those who travel clear across the globe. In fact, the effects are so severe that people coined a term for it, which is jet lag.

Jet lag carries several symptoms, including disturbed sleep, daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle soreness, stomach problems, and menstrual symptoms in women. Travelers eventually adjust to these symptoms, but it takes some time to get back onto a normal schedule. When someone chooses to move overseas, it may not seem that important, but one of the things they need to take into account is what time zone they will be living in. There is sure to be an adjustment period following the move in which a person's body will need to become used to the new time zone. Learn more about time zones by consulting the following resources.

All About Time Zones

Coordinated Universal Time

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