20th post - do timetables make us happy?

By SeaBas | winds of change | 10 Apr 2021

My 20th blog. (listen to this GEM, currently my favorite music)


So I come from a country where we value reliability, honesty, punctuality. It is that important actually that it took me about two years of traveling to realize that this is not the case wit heveryone and that people can be sarcastic and say things they don't really mean. Like my Aussie friend that told something about killing a guy because he knew about him eating wallaby sausages or something like that. In my head I spun a whole spiel of how I would silently watch, scared to shits and contemplate what I would say to my mother about my time abroad and why I ended up in custody. While my mind was loud, I remained silent. He smiled at me for about 5 seconds, until he realized I didn't get the joke and he said: oh my God, Seb, I was sarcastic! I exhaled very relieved. Yeah, obviously it would be a joke, it would have been an utterly silly reason to kill someone for, but that is how good we are with sarcasm back home. Not at all obviously. Words have a serious weight and if I'd be to tell you I show up on September 15th 2023, people would count on it and call me and wonder where I'd be, if I wouldn't show. 

It took me thus a while to realize that other countries have other rules, guides and social norms. Would I be 10 minutes late back in where I grew up, here it would go like this: 'lets meet at 10.'-'ok'. Me there at 10.15. 'oh, you are here? It is 10!' -'Yeah, like we said, right? At 10.' -'Aah, yes.' Being on time here is like being late back home. Not expected. But so I had to get used to be patient with people. Just yesterday I was about to give about 500 USD of medicine to a local family. The son, about my age, works to feed his whole family of (I don't remember) about 6 siblings and a mother, a father and kids. He works 15 hours a day and gets paid around 10 to 15 USD, per day! That is about a USD per hour. And so we' help him out while we are here with free medicine. So I call him, we agree to meet at 4pm. Now, in my mind, I prepare the stuff before 4pm in order to go there to be on time. I calculate what I can do in the meantime, how long it will take me to prepare, get there, etc. I do stuff, and when I think time is about right, I go. Ten minutes before our meetup I call him again and say, that I am on my way now and will be there in 10 minutes, because you know, I know those guys here are often late. So I make sure to double check with him. "Oh, yes, perfect, I will be there too, in 5 minutes". Good, got it. Prepare and off I go. I get there but he isn't there yet. It is a quarter past 4. I call him again. "Hi, I am here. Are you here too?" - "Ah, you are there. Ok that is good, I make myself on my way now then". I am baffled. I wait another 15 minutes and wonder how I could have been any clearer. Here I am, holding 500 USD of medicine that can't be in the open for too long, and yet he is late. And while I feel this feeling coming up that I play the other guys clown again and feel my personal time and my offer of free medicine is not respected, I have to let go of that thought. Because I know that this is another place. Things work differently. Nobody would think of your personal time in that way. It is not a question of respect. It is just not a consciousness around being on time. So why would he hurry? Nobody does. If I would have been late, he would not have mentioned it. He would have not thought of it as a disrespectful move. He would probably not have thought about it at all. He would have just waited. And this sometimes can go much longer. I remember waiting for patients for three hours until they'd finally call me and tell me that they wouldn't make it. And I was anxiously waiting for three hours, not doing anything else, because I had a duty. But again, it works differently here. They could show up and me not be there and it would just be what it would be. The reason for me not being there wouldn't matter. They'd come another day. So might the other guy we waited for today for about two hours. We then left because, well, because we want to to something with our time and I don't like to wait anxiously for a no show up. And apprently nobody expects me to do so here, something I still struggle with to comprehend.

And after being here now for 4 years this still bugs me in a way. I am too used to people being punctual. And I now get why people got mad at me at home when I wasn't on time and wouldn't tell them. Maybe Karma gives me here some good old "see? Now that is how you made others feel" - food for the soul, possible. And while I do still not like it, because it is highly inefficient and in a way (from a personal perspective now) disrespectful, I value those values I hated before, much more. I appreciate the talents of my old people of being on time, being reliable, hold on to their words, valuing your expectations of their words. As here anyone can say anything to you and it doesn't mean nothing, I appreciate the value words and promises have back in where I grew up. Because it makes a society efficient and somewhat calculatable. And while I enjoy the goodies that they offer here - be it sarcasm, the joy of the moment, their relaxed way of dealing with people that mess up and pretend more than actually do - I now get to also see why those talents lack in my born into culture. It is just the unconscious they have about spontaneity and sarcasm as they have here about timetables and reliability. I guess as with everything, we might have to find a middle way. Like my grandma uses to say: everything that starts with too, is of no good. Be it too serious, too easy going, too fast, too much. 


But it leads me to some interesting thoughts. Do the people here, now that I know they seem not to have a concept of the other persons time and schedule for events, meetups and duties in the future, have a sense of time like I do? Do they know that you could split a day in half hour blocks of 'meetings', 'duties' and 'project-windows'? Maybe they never thought of it in that way, because they never experienced that concept here in their culture. Maybe they never thought of it like that because inevitably someone would be too late and it would mess up the whole block system for the rest of the day, so having one would not make sense at all. I as a matter of fact tend to start to adapt to that as there is always someone late and hence half hour blocking a day is somewhat pointless here. So what is their concept of time? I wonder if they experience life and time different because of that. And as they might get less done in a way, does that mean their days are less interesting? Or do they, because of it, still have the ability to live the moment and be spontaneous? Are they more aware of the moment because there is no timetable to follow? And do they eventually feel time passing slower? I tend to think so sometimes. In the western world we get a lot done, but are we aware while we are getting there? And here they might enjoy company longer and mess up a meeting, but does it matter as they don't know the benefits it could bring if they'd follow the timetable and be reliable? And after all, which price is higher: missing out on a good time with your friends in that moment or missing out on the opportunity and the effects of attending that meeting on time?

I guess my grandma might have the solution. A bit of both as it depends from case to case. Keep a timetable but include spontaneity and awareness training in there. Sounds good to me. 



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Reseacher, Innovator, NonConformist, Lover

winds of change
winds of change

I am writing a daily little blog about basically anything in order to spread hope and joy. We life in a very interesting time and I just feel like providing humanity in my way with some positive words. Let's see how it goes.

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