From a young age the word ‘now’ has always meant: right at this moment. There were no questions asked and no moments spared to make sure to act now. Making appointments, one after another is perfectly possible if none of them starts late or runs out. In a collaborative environment respecting each others’ time is essential. In Holland being on time means being 5 minutes ahead of the scheduled time to make sure one can start on the dot. 

Being in South Africa reminds me of the relative meaning of time. Someone made an appointment with me on a Friday afternoon, time: after sunset. The same person was ‘a little late’ which turned out to be 2,5 hours. Stunned I wondered how the notion of time influences what we do. In Amsterdam or London we rush from the one exact timed meeting to the next. Leaving no time for spontaneous meetings, inspiring conversations to be finished or traffic. We rush, hurry and measure our times to make sure ‘to get the most out of our day’. In Holland I often complain how my days don’t have enough hours. In South Africa I had plenty time to meet, greet and move between appointments.

Ok, I have to admit that I don’t work in South Africa, but the appointments I make are flexible from both sides and never give me the feeling that I missed something: if it doesn’t happen now it will happen later. When I delivered a workshop the people were on time and when I told them that I would track the timed meating ‘the Dutch way’ they seemed relieved.


Another funny element of South Africa; the word ‘now’. Three years ago I was meeting a friend who’d pick me up from home. 5 minutes passed the set time I messaged him to check where he was the message back said: ‘At your door now’. ‘Great!’ I thought, opening the gate only to find out he wasn’t there. Now had meant a timeframe from the mentioned moment to any time in the future. Now has a wide frame, any time from a particular moment up to a month depending on whom you speak with. So they added ‘just now’ which is a bit shorter and ‘now now’ that implies a couple of hours time window. How to find out what right now is? They will say: ‘at this moment’, ‘currently’ or ‘I’m here’.

Timing and time management change by culture and are a factor to take into account when collaborating with people across the globe.


Nina in conversation with South African architect Mbusi

Do you think social responsibility is a topic in South Africa at the moment?
I think it needs to be one. It would sort out so much of the nonsense I see on my Facebook daily.
For Social responsibility to be most effective, it needs to be proceeded by self love, as in a while movement
what kind of nonsense?
I wouldn’t want to uphold any social standards if I felt my country doesn’t treat all it’s citizens the same, even worse doing it along someone who is “the perfect south African”
It is interesting that you talk about self love when I say social responsibility. Because the way we use it here is very different. Love your explanation, makes a lot of sense

Each life has to be given value. Every single one.
People must feel that way.
From that point onwards, it must be clear that it belongs to the owner. Along with that comes the responsibility
Anything that happens to it, the owner (the person) is directly accountable. I feel like that will also help people align themselves with their purpose.
The purpose outside of the family they are born into
What they are really here to do. A lot of people die after living and working for so many years never knowing to look any further or any deeper at things. Those doors need to open. This ties into schooling. Children should grow up always learning to understand that they are all valid.
They need access to current information about the world and to see what is really going on around the globe. This will teach them to be critical thinkers when comparing problems from around the world and the pros and cons of how those problems are dealt with.
Is this something South Africa is talking about in the media for example?
No I haven’t heard anyone talk about it
It’s literally the first time. I see my Facebook Nina
People are so irresponsible with their means and influence.
People are so quick with opinions bit are quiet when it’s problem solving time. What I do like though is that the country is talking about an array of issues.
I want to collaborate in the conversations.
How can we step in as designers Mbusi?
By writing a book
Let’s replace the “the sun” posters in town with messages to open up a conversation
I has to be colourful and like children’s books
Cos when people don’t listen you have to treat them like children
It has to be celebrating like african tribes show celebrations
Just life lessons. How to behave in public….
I paused there because there is a great deal of confusion with this. South Africa is operating on 1993’s social behaviour with the more pressing adjustments done first.
There is something in what you say though. Social Responsibility in the west doesn’t mean a single persons’ responsibility to care about their surroundings. It has mostly to do with the government and with companies needing to understand their impact on the social structures and the environment when they make decisions for their companies.
Like the concept of personal space
It varies across cultures.
I’ll explain
Of course the most pressured adjustments are made first.
But there is an underlying infection that keeps feeding the small fires we try to put out first because they light up too strongly
And the description you gave is one of these infections. How many South Africans I have met who do not value themselves because of their heritage is insane and sad
But the responsibility in my eyes lies in the government and companies to show a difference.
And also in the more social intelligent people to show the alternative
In a shopping que, the person behind often stands too close. I’m the first to notice this and I often move because it is uncomfortable and I do a quick security check on myself. But then I think about the likelihood of that person having always grown up sharing smaller spaces and I stand firm but understanding. In the same situation another person could turn around and say something demeaning to a person who already could be feeling like the world is against them.
You’re completely correct.
The government should be the first to take a position on how to implement and maintain the social responsibility movement.
I get you.
It’s a complicated act.