Where Time isn’t Money

 In Ghana

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.

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Showing 8 comments
  • Avery Lucas Kwadwo Segal

    Hey Mimi! I actually left my phone in a taxi and am currently working on getting a new number. When I do, i’ll let you know.

    Everything is going okay; I’m just waiting anxiously to start school.

  • Mimi Donella Forson

    Ayt wish u al d best

  • Kathryn

    Hey Avery! I enjoy reading your posts – you’re an entertaining writer! Juliana, who lives in Colombia now, says the same thing about Colombians – no concept of lateness! So very different… makes life interesting, that’s for sure!

  • Michael

    Avery, we love hearing about your life changing experiences. Can’t get enough. You make m”us so proud!!! All the best, Jeeves aka Michael PS would have responded earlier but was a little late…didn’t have any extra time….didn’t want to be too early…but as we say… Timing is everything and now is the time!!!

  • Emma

    This is the same in Oman! We were an hour and a half late to a birthday party… and the first people there!

  • Zach

    Different cultures have very different views on time. I am not surprised that Ghanians are lax about time. America is one of the more rigid countries when it comes to time.

  • ebenezer asumang nyarkoh

    Hello Kwadwo Avery,how are you and am really following and enjoying your good work..All that you have said about the rules and discipline is really true especially during our history class in school..I hope you continue that good work I will be expecting to receive more from you okay..Just have a nice day and take care…

  • Bailey Palmer

    It’s completely the same here in Oman. Not only are they utterly late, but they have no concept of it. When you ask them about it, they don’t realize they are late, let alone that they are making you wait. And they don’t mean to be rude- in fact, it isn’t! It doesn’t even cross their mind.

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