Time is money, they say where we come from. Time is life, you could say here. Whereas people in our country often bustle along the street looking agitated and rushed, here it’s normal for people to stand around chatting or doing nothing at all.
Recently I needed a haircut. I hesitated a long time because I didn’t want to have to wait, and the barber always seemed to have lots of customers. When my better half finally insisted, I went – and was served immediately. The others weren’t there for haircuts at all, but just to pass the time chatting. Instead of hanging around on the street, they preferred to visit their friend the barber.
But that’s the only place where you don’t have to wait. In any other situation, waiting is part of everyday life. You not only wait at the airport or in line at the cash register, you also wait for friends, for the start of a public event, for the next taxi, for the bus….
It could even be said that people don’t feel you are interested in them if you don’t wait for them. Waiting means you take something seriously. At first we waited because we had nothing else to do and had plenty of time anyway. Later we realized that if we hadn’t waited, we would have missed an opportunity.
The others were there just to pass the time chatting!
Of course it’s often annoying. We lose time because the information we receive is simply wrong, because we have to wait for hours instead of a few minutes, because things function differently here and we don’t understand how.
We have spent a total of about 30 hours waiting in airports instead of the one or two hours we normally would have expected. A delay of 1 1/2 hours might turn into 5 hours or even 10 hours after a cancellation.
Algerians, especially business people, could tell you a thing or two about waiting. One man told us about a time he was to meet some people from the South. They did arrive at the appointed hour — but two days later. Of course, it is not always the fault of the individual. Public officials can hold things up, or circumstances, or weather, or just plain bad luck.
Note: Mike, a friend of Arne, lived in Algeria for nearly two years in 2010-2011. He allowed us to publish some of his short comments on culture and language that he wrote in that time and sent to friends.