Time is relative, and I’m not talking about Einstein’s general relativity. I’m talking about cultural relativity. One hour for me is not one hour for an American and it is not one hour for a Ugandan. It’s hard to understand this concept but it’s one of primary importance whenever you’re dealing cross-culturally.
Ugandans say that here you should not go to a restaurant when you are hungry, you should go at least 1h before you think you will be hungry. Any nutritionist in the US would probably tell you the same but here it has a different meaning. It means it takes at least 1h to order food to the table. If everyone is fine with that, why shouldn’t I? Furthermore, they even warn you so no complaints.
A meeting time does not mean that people will be on time for the meeting. It is a suggestion; you know you should show up around that time, maybe half an hour later, maybe more, maybe less. If you are early, you drink a cup of coffee or tea and wait. Why should you hurry if no one does?
This logic is repeated again and again in different contexts and situations. Time is relative, so why worry?
Disrespecting local timing is rude because you are assuming that everyone thinks like you, that you are the center of the world, the one who dictates the rules. When we came to Uganda we were repeatedly told that time in Uganda does not mean the same as in the US. Everyone repeated the warning again and again. Nonetheless, those warnings often seem to be left where they were given, a few thousand miles away.
Have you ever thought why should that report be delivered on Monday and not on Tuesday? I’m not asking who gave you that deadline; I’m asking why was that deadline set? Why is half an hour a reasonable time to order food and not one hour? Why should someone be ready to give me what I ask for when I ask for? Why should I be angry whenever someone does not understand my time? Shouldn’t they be angry because I am angry?