Wednesday, July 26, 2017
I have been working in Cape Town, South Africa for about a month and a half and am just writing my first blog post. This is evidence of my having adopted “South Africa time.”
South Africa time refers to the fact everyone is very laid back. Someone shows up 15 minutes late to a meeting, and they’re probably the first one there. The trains are expected to be on a delay 24/7, and no one complains. The train being late is simply an inevitable fact. Admittedly, adapting to this laissez faire attitude was one of the most difficult cultural humps to overcome, especially as a journalist.
Sources are in no rush to respond. Coming from the U.S., I was used to people replying to emails within a day, if not within the hour. A previous intern for the Cape Chameleon (the magazine I’m interning at) was here for three months. He was doing a feature piece about HIV prevention being taught in schools throughout Cape Town. He left about two weeks ago, but yesterday we received an email on our shared account from one of organizations he’d been trying to contact. They apologized for the late reply.
The original email to them had been sent on May 23rd.
Another reflection of the indifference towards time is the South Africans complicated use of the word “now.” There are three forms of “now:”
Now: Eventually, possibly not at all
“Now” does not mean now in South Africa. It does not imply the same sense of urgency or immediacy that the rest of the world expects. In fact, it’s the opposite. If someone says they’ll do something “now” it means they’ll do it later. Much later. Or perhaps they won’t do it at all. It’s definitely not happening now (as we know it. Confused yet?). I was especially crushed when a waiter told me my food would be out “now” during my first week. I caught on about 15 minutes later.
Just now: Later
“Just now” is an improvement from “now.” It is still not anywhere close to now. When it comes to “just now,” it’ll for sure get done, but still not until much later. You can usually expect whatever is occurring “just now” to be completed within a day or two.
Now : Shortly
“Now ” is as close to now as one gets. “Now ” is basically the equivalent of “as soon as possible.” This does not mean, however, it’s at the top of someone’s priority list. It can still be about an hour or two before something gets done “now .”
There simply is no now in South Africa.
As soon as I embraced this, life became much less stressful. I learned it’s most effective to work on multiple tasks along with a feature story. While working on one story I filled my time helping other journalism interns whose first languages were not English, volunteering in different communities, and working on other stories (I usually had about three up in the air).
I have managed to complete a few articles as of "now." I’ve included a link to my first story for the magazine. It took me about three weeks to complete:
I’ll be sure to post again just now.