• by XpatAthens
  • Thursday, 05 February 2015
A Matter of Time

Learning to tell time is a great challenge when we’re young – the hours, the minutes, ‘half past’, ‘quarter to’… As we get older, it turns out that interpreting time is almost as difficult, and equally important!

Living in Athens really drives this point home. In the past week, I had no less than three ‘timing errors’, based on my apparent lack of temporal interpretive ability (ahem!).

I had planned to meet a friend for coffee – ‘this afternoon’ – at a place ‘10 minutes away’. This afternoon meant 7:00pm. 10minutes away meant at the speed of sound.
Needless to say, the concept of time varies across cultures, and Greece is one of those places where this actually plays an important role.

- It’s 10 minutes away
- Let’s meet this afternoon
- See you in a few minutes
- Let’s go at 2:00 (or, more usually, ‘around’ 2:00).
- It starts in an hour
- I’ll be there at midday
- I’ll leave around 6:00…

These may have very different meanings to a North American, an Asian or a Mediterranean person. And to those of us who live in a double- or triple-culture headspace – well, it’s a wonder I get anything done…

Of course, the day of the week also matters, and of course the nature of the meeting – is it professional? Is it coffee? Is it dinner?

Telling time seems to be a not-so-simple thing in this world. With all my watches and gadgets and sense of timing – I just never seem to get it right.

So I’ve given up. Let things happen when they are ready to happen. Now or never.

Until next week sometime…


In this weekly space, keep up with ‘Jack’ as he navigates daily life in Athens… Anecdotes, stories, hits & misses, the good, the bad and, well, the rest…