Where Time isn’t Money

Americans are obsessed over time. From fast food to the latest electronics, we’ll gladly open our wallets to save a few seconds. If there was an invention to avoid the hassle of peeling bananas, it would sell like hotcakes… banana hotcakes that is.

Ghanaians live on the opposite side of the spectrum. While certain aspects of their life such as the education system and medical visits require being on time, almost all other parts of life here runs late.

This morning my AFS “Auntie” sent a text to my host-mom and said that she, “would be picking me up at 8:45 A.M. to drive to Achimota Secondary School to pick up my uniform.”

I woke up at 7:30, planning to get a haircut. However, by the time I finished showering and eating it was already 8:15, and I didn’t think 30 minutes would be enough time to walk to and from the barbershop.

Forsaking the haircut, I waited for my Auntie. 8:45 soon arrived. So did 9:00, 9:30, 9:45, 10:00, and 10:15. I was starting to worry for her safety when, lo and behold, at 10:27 she finally knocked on my door.

Theoretically, not only did I have enough time to get a haircut, but also if the barber had accidentally cut me, I would’ve had enough time to go to the emergency room and get stitches – with time to spare for bowfloats and coffee.

When Americans are late, they’ll call in advance to let you know, and usually apologize profusely. Ghanaians are so used to it that when Auntie came into the room, her body language seemed as though she didn’t even notice she was close to two hours late.

My host-mom said if you show up on time to a party, you’ll be the only person there. People will normally start arriving anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour after it "begins." I'm rapidly coming to realize that is the truth.

This post isn’t meant to argue that the Ghanaians concept of time is bad, or good. It’s just “different,” and takes time to get used to it.

But thanks to my latest experiences in Ghana, I know one thing for certain. Next time I have a get-together at 8:45, I won’t wake up until 9:30.