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.