Sunday, 21 February 2010
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My dear girl-friend, the adorable Miss M from P, has an expression for my attitude and approach to being punctual and general time-keeping. She calls it “German” time. When she says that she generally refers to my ability to show up for almost anything pretty much anywhere about 30 to 45 seconds before the agreed meeting time. One of her favorite stories is us walking through London for hours supposed to meet somebody at 18:30 and showing up at the restaurant at 18:29:47 or something like that. All without seemingly ever adjusting our walking pace.

With the exception of Switzerland (where they measure you being late in seconds and milli-seconds on their atomic cuckoo clocks) living on “German” time is not easy in many places. In my (admittedly limited) experience you will be in fine in most parts of central, western and northern Europe and thankfully also the US. The rest is a different story.

When I was in Panama in December I learned that if an invitation there reads that your presence is requested at 7:00pm, this only roughly indicates the time when the lady of the house will put her hair curlers IN so she can welcome you about 2 hours later. If, like me, you operate on German time,  and you would present yourself at about 6:59:45 (give or take) you would be met with nothing but shocked expressions and (I’m reliably told this is true) you would quite possibly run into the only other person in Panama that adheres to this sort of time-keeping. Luckily for me, that person is the father of my girl-friend. For you however, if you do not know Dr. B from P, this might develop into a bigger problem.

Still what goes on in Central America is harmless and given a decade or two, one might in fact get used to it.

But then there is of course the Caribbean… Luckily for me, I went to Curacao first which is relatively European in this respect and you might end up keeping your sanity. It turns out this was just a warm-up.

Now I’m in Saint Lucia in the West Indies. They say a West Indian would be late for his own funeral; that’s only if he makes it there at all of course.

After Curacao I thought the Caribbean regard, or disregard, for timeliness was little more than a well-worn cliché. Then I came here and was soon reminded that clichés have their root in fact. I had been warned of course, but how bad could it be? As it turns out, it depends. At work it is in fact not too bad. Sure, everybody is a helluva lot more relaxed than any white dude could ever be, but looking at our meetings everybody pretty much shows up on time. Outside our work environment things change, and not for the better.

There is no malice in this tendency to tardiness, it’s just the way it is. Something trips between statement and act. ETAs are flexible, that’s generally understood.

I have no personal experience with this, but reading around, most people seem to agree that it is the worst in Trinidad and that it is undoubtedly the worst when it involves some sort of “workman”. There is even an expression for it. It is called" Trini Drift”. It is exemplified by the expression “Yeah, I’ll check yuh in ah coupla days, nah.” Days drift into weeks, weeks into months, and before you know it, you don’t even want that bathroom tiling after all. And this, my dear readers, is the point you know you have really arrived in the Caribbean…

I have found this great translation table in the LIAT magazine and as this is also supposed to be educational as well as entertaining, I have plagiarized it for you. You will need to get your ears around a slightly different kind of English, but I’m confident you can manage. Have fun!

Ah leaving now – I forgot I was meeting you

Ah get tie up in a lil traffic nah – I’m just getting dressed

Yeah, ah at de top ah de road – I’m just leaving

Yeah man, ah get held back at work – I’m in a bar

10 minutes – Universal ETA; expect arrival somewhere between half-an-hour and three hours but never ever 10 minutes

It have plenty rain in dis side boy – I’m not coming

Yuh not late til you reach – You’re already late, you’re in trouble, so delay it, have another beer

Man can only be late once – You’re already late, have another beer.

Sunday, 21 February 2010 01:42:02 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  |