Nepali time, Swiss time, Canadian time

“Do not squander this time. You will never have it again. You have a crucial opportunity to invest in the next season of your life now. Whatever you sow, you will eventually reap. The habits you form in this season will stick with you for the rest of your life. So choose those habits wisely.”

Time is relative. “Be here at seven” means something completely different depending on what country you are in. In Switzerland it means be here before seven (if you arrive at seven you are late) whereas if you are in North America it means that five minutes early or late is no big deal. And here in Nepal, as well as in any other developing country I have visited, be here at seven could actually mean eight, nine, ten… or even the next day. A person’s sense of time and punctuality seems to be dependent on the organization of their country. Switzerland, being absurdly organized lies on one end of the spectrum, while developing countries such as Nepal which tend to be slightly unorganized to say the least, are clear at the other end.

People in these countries are more relaxed, and with it, their sense of time is much more relaxed as well. The other day when I joined the children for a school function they were excitedly telling me over dinner to be ready by seven a.m. to walk to school. The oldest boy laughed and reminded me that means seven a.m. Nepali time, and that we probably wouldn’t be leaving until at least eight. He was right. Once we arrived at the event it took another two hours for them to actually begin, something none of the children even noticed since that was considered normal.

While traveling you adjust to the different time zone, and with it, to the country’s norms about time. If the bus is to leave at eight, you have to be prepared for it to be at least an hour or two late, if not you will become frustrated and angry. For some travelers, notably tourists on short vacations who have never lived or traveled extensively in developing countries, they become easily frustrated when things don’t happen on time. For the rest of us though, we laugh amongst ourselves, reminiscing about times when a three day visa took eight for no apparent reason.

Though I enjoy the relaxed sense of time here, I can see how it would be frustrating, if not impossible, if I was trying to set up appointments, run a business, or actually get something done. Construction projects for instance are a mess. Something will be left untouched for months, then suddenly in a week everything is complete. This means the week long project took months to complete if you count all of the waiting time. Thankfully, since I am not dealing with any time dependent obligations, Nepali time suits my unorganized lifestyle wonderfully.

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