African Time…. just now…

Time... (Small)

Time in Africa is a different concept to Time in the Western World. A lot of time (…) is spent waiting… A lot of time is spent doing every day chores with less efficient tools… Most things go at a slower pace… Even walking… Punctuality is not a rule…

Other than on the road, most things tend to be slower. On the road, everyone seems to be in rush, as no-one respect speed limits… this might be the one time when people go faster than in Europe 😉

No… I am joking (well, not about the fact that people are constantly over-speeding on the road…). This is one of those generalisations that we tend to make… things can be on time… things can go at “normal” speed…

But often, there is an element of truth in any generalisations. And spending time here, there are also reasons behind some of the “slow” pace… (food for another post?)

However people do recognise this – and one of the favourite expression around when giving a timeline for something is “in x min/hours/days/weeks… african time…”, just to manage expectations…

My favourite illustration of the concept of time in Southern Africa is based on the use of the English language.

How long will you wait is expressed with different uses of “now”:

Just now: anything from 1 hour to a day (i.e. sometimes)
now: anything between 30 min to 2 hours (not too long)
now now: anything from 10 min to 1 hour (soon)

“Just now” in fact means “later”… as also used in the expression “see you just now” when in England you would say “see you later”. But from an English language perspective, “just now” conveys the notion of being immediate… so it can be very confusing, as I learnt 10 years ago during my first trip to South Africa… but you get used to it…

So… when someone says “later”, it can be…. sometimes in your lifetime 😉

You get familiar with this expression of time, you learn to wait, your patience is being tested often… but things do happen… in their own time… African time…


2 responses to “African Time…. just now…

  1. Pingback: Why do we need to be on the ground? Part 4 – Communication – Newsletter·

  2. Pingback: Patience and perseverance | mayandmeinafrica·

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