Saturday, October 30, 2010


One thing that expats will have to adjust to if they come to Turkey is the general lack of punctuality. In the beginning, it used to make me furious. Friends, who in every other aspect, seemed like kind, thoughtful, and caring people, would think nothing of having you wait for 40 minutes for them some place. Their excuses were usually lame, at best, but nonsensical is the standard fare. Forget trying to reform them. Forget trying to be rational or patient or providing them with an ideal model. Nothing will change this attitude. Really.

Example: Waiting for my friend at a minibus stop for almost an hour. I tried calling. No answer. This isn't the first time, I whisper to myself, try to relax. But it's like trying to ignore an aching tooth. Finally, she (who shall remain nameless) shows up, with a pretense of being flustered. "What happened? Where the hell were you?" I ask, veins shivering all over the side of my forehead. "I had to dry my hair. If I don't dry my hair after washing it.. I'll get a headache." We were going to the beach.

In the end, take my advice. Get used to it. There's no sense in making your hair gray and filling your pretty little face with wrinkles. They are NOT going to change. Your time is obviously less valuable than theirs.

When you have an appointment, be sure to take a book with you. Have a fully charged MP3 player. Sudoku, if you are into that.  Tritely tell yourself to "go with the flow." You ain't going to be swimming upstream, so get over yourself.

Unlike back home, there's not a clock staring you in the face all the time. There isn't a bell chiming and chiding you for being 3 minutes late. And perhaps that's why you decided to leave home in the first place. To get away from all that stress. And you found a place where people are more relaxed where people are not running around from place to place in such a rush.. and suddenly Bitch Karma has come back and bit you in the butt.

And it isn't just an individual problem. This lack of  punctuality  pervades the whole society and it's also self-reinforcing. So, because the  city bus driver doesn't think being on time is a feature of his job, you will not be on time for your appointment. So maybe you will miss your interview for that life-changing job. Not to worry, because there's a 99.9 % chance the person who will be conducting your interview will also be late. Perhaps even later than you.

My sage observation on this subject is… If you are 20 minutes late for any appointment, please remain calm.  Because here, it still means you are about 15 minutes early.  

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  1. Ha,ha, well said. (And love the clock!)

  2. Amen to that. I've spent many angry hours waiting for people at bus stops, meeting places, and cafes. I now schedule all meetings an hour before I want them and make sure to come late myself. The worst is when you get called in for a meeting on short notice at a horrible time and then you get there and wait an hour. Drives me nuts.

    No matter how hard I try, I still get offended by it. You know very well they left well after they should have. I simply don't understand why it's so hard to leave before you're expected to be somewhere. The only person I've been able to change on this whole issue is my wife, who now knows not to leave me waiting or I won't be there when she does arrive :P

  3. I once told a friend who was nearly always late to set her clock about ten minutes faster so that she would be able to arrive on time.
    Her reply, I thought, was telling. "It just wouldn't work. If I knew the clock was ten minutes fast then I would just add ten extra minutes."
    Astounding I thought. "Ok. Then you really just want to be late."
    And there's nothing to be done about it.

  4. aaargh...keep writing comments and losing them!

    Anyway was saying (twice before...third time lucky I hope) that I can't get used to this even though I lived here for nearly 13 years. I don't know why I didn't blog about this's something that still annoys me, being someone who has always been on time...early mostly. We refer to it as Turkish time of course...when someone says they will be somewhere at a specific time...just add on an hour or two for Turkish time!

    PS. Did you see the Youtube ban has just been lifted? Have posted on my blog and FB about it this morning.

  5. As a turk I enjoy being late. That makes me feel like an important person. Instead of being punctual I can watch an entire episode of my favorite TV show. Drink a can of bear, read a chapter of a book. And lots of extra things which I can't remember unless I know people are waiting for me. Nothing wrong with that. Trust me. Take it easy.


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