One of the most fascinating cultural observations is the approach to the concept of time.
Americans are obsessed with time. Time is to be managed, utilized, conserved and organized. Time is of the essence. Time is saved by short-cuts, conveniences, and efficiencies. Time is money. Apparently, time is tangible because we can spend it, lose it, make it, and kill it. Time is also limited; people always hurry to get where they are going, and the effort to be on time is justification for rudeness and a lack of respect for one’s surroundings. This attitude toward time is what enables Americans to consistently raise the bar in innovation and production across any industry.
America is a culture of “do-ers” and “go getters” where one must be productive so as not to miss opportunity. The pursuit of the American Dream requires Americans to spend more, earn more, and do more in the least amount of time. Americans constantly worry about time and this mindset is stressful, unnatural, and exhausting.
Turkey has been such a blessing in that I’ve been able to escape that mindset. Here, time is acknowledged but that’s the extent of it. Turks don’t stress about time or worry about sticking to schedules. And waiting is just part of the process, it’s not an inconvenience. In Turkish, there are apparently only two acceptable responses to the question “when.” The answer is either “today” or “tomorrow.” While in English, “tomorrow” is defined as “the day after today,” the word appears to mean “”any day after today” to Turks.
I find myself often asking about the next delivery of beer or Coca-Cola; I notice that our supply is low, and in anticipation of unhappy guests, I stress about the possibility of running out of beverages. In response to my inquiry about the next delivery, the answer is always “maybe tomorrow,” and that’s that. There’s no point in stressing about the exact date of delivery; it either arrives today or it doesn’t. If we run out of beer, we’ll figure something out; it would be foolish to worry about something that hasn’t happened yet.
Turkish Time. What a beautiful, beautiful approach.