<Sigh> You’d think that the worst thing about living in another country would be the language or maybe getting used to new foods. Or that the religion is a mystery and it is an important part of the culture. You are lost half the time and around people you can barely communicate. You’d guess this would be difficult. People often ask me ask about loneliness and the feeling of isolation.
Of course, these are, at times, frustrating. In my experience, though, you get used them and adapt. You get better at the language and you become a mime. You learn the tenets of the religion and how they apply to every day life. You find foods you like. You learn that being alone is OK. You learn your way around. You adjust.
My undying frustration is with TIME, or the perception of time, particularly appointments.
Obviously, there are time related differences in the USA, too. I’m from the Midwest, so when we agree to meet at “noon,” what that really means to me is that I will be at the appointed meeting spot at 11:45a, ready and waiting for the other person so that we can actually do the activity at noon. In the southern states, this would mean that we will try to be at the spot at noon, but no later than 12:15pm with the expectation that we will actually start the activity before 12:30. I was quite frustrated in the south until I realized this.
but time is fluid in the rest of the world. Based on results, “noon” means something entirely different. So far, in the last 10 days:
- “I will call you at noon,” resulted in a 6pm phone call.
- “Let’s have breakfast Thursday” clearly meant no such thing. There was no breakfast, nor any apology. When I ran into the person on Friday, they didn’t seem embarrassed or even mention it.
- “The refrigerator will be fixed Monday,” resulted in a repairman showing up Tuesday to unplug the refrigerator with a promise that he would come the NEXT day, between 9 and 10a to actually fix it. I let my landlords know that I had to leave the apartment for an appointment at 10:30a. If the repairman didn’t come during the appointed time, I would not be there to let him in. Naturally, he didn’t come. In fact, he didn’t come all day. We were without a working fridge for a week.
- The activity schedule at my school is, in theory, put out weekly, and starts on Mondays. The last month, when it was posted at all, it’s come out on Tuesday or even Wednesday. It may or may not be emailed to teachers, so no one knows when they are working. We haven’t seen a class schedule in over a month. New classes are handled by word of mouth. This has not gone well, yet nothing ever changes.
- “I’ll be back in 2 minutes,” resulted in me being completely abandoned at lunch. I thought my dining companion was just walking outside for better phone reception. I have no idea where he went. After 15 minutes and no word from him, I walked outside to look for him. He’d taken a taxi and left. I paid the bill (his meal AND mine) and left. But at least I had the courtesy to text him what I was doing. He didn’t apologize, just said he had to leave.
This is not an unusual week, either. These actions frustrate me. It was just as bad in Vietnam. Time to me is ridged. I am honor-bound by time agreements. Not so, the rest of the world.
I don’t know if I can ever change my perception completely, but I’ve got to give up my concept of time if I want to keep traveling AND have low blood pressure.
1/17/2016 ADDITION: My contract says I’ll be paid on the 15th of the month for the previous month’s work. So far, I’ve been paid on time the full amount only twice. When my pay was two days late this month, I simply said, “if you cannot pay, maybe I cannot work.” The other teachers were shocked by my response. Most felt it was “threatening.” Before I left for the day, I was called into the office. I expected to be fired, but instead I was paid the full amount owed. It turns out I was the only teacher to be paid. The rest were offered 500TL toward their payment.
Being paid late is very common in Turkey, and I knew that. I agreed to come to work for English Time on the strength of their reputation for paying the full amount on the day owed. I knew they weren’t the highest paying school and they certainly don’t have the best teaching materials. I chose them because prompt and accurate payment is extremely important to me. The new owners have completely lost that reputation and now English Time is having trouble attracting native English speakers. No surprise there. I can’t recommend the school to teachers.