…Africa has time. I just learned that idiom. (Shout out to my new pal, Jill, who taught me this one!) This is especially true in Kenya. We wait and wait and wait and wait…and wait.
When will you be here? Just now. (A year-and-a-half in, I still don’t know what that means.)
When will this be ready? I will have it ready Saturday. (That means any given Saturday)
I’m learning how it all works. I’m accommodating the culture difference between me, Ms. New York Minute, and this place where time is just different.
Sometimes, you have no choice but to wait it out. Traffic and things affected by traffic is a good example. Are you at the waiting room at Aga Khan? I hope you brought a good book because you’ll finish it.
Sometimes, you can be explicit and set your expectations. You can state a time frame and if the person doesn’t meet the time frame, that person loses business.
Yes, that’s possible here. You can indeed set a time. But, you have to push on it and really follow up. In other words, you keep calling to check. You let the person know he or she is accountable. You make it clear that you’ll take business elsewhere.
Mind you, there are some outliers. There are some people who are very timely. They are very rare, but they exist. If you find such a person, hold on tight. Usually, timeliness (respect for your time) and quality of work go hand in hand in Kenya.
For example, my housekeeper is great with time. The medical practice at Columbia Africa is very timely. Some drivers (not all) are excellent with time.
I’m finding the balance on this. I’ve tempered my New York pace. I’ve learned to slow down. I’m also learning how to control time expectations so that I don’t have to spend all my days waiting. In other words, be here by a certain time or you lose the job.
It’s taken a year-and-a-half to get to this point and I suppose that’s right on schedule here.