Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The White People's Guide to Field Work: #3

Continuing on with guest blogger Victoria's series...

(source: http://www.jtrue.com/cartoons)

#3 Learn the pace of time in that culture.

Quit being so up-tight. You look like a storms a brewin' and there's steam coming out of your ears! Yeah I know they said they'd show up half an hour ago, and you're still waiting. Better fix yourself a cup of tea, you might be waiting an hour more... if they decide to show. For the rapid pace modern world, we are accustomed to a very linear and almost flat concept of time. Plus, the time-is-money mantra guarantees that waiting or stalling is "wasting time" and is reason alone to be irate and angry. Many philanthropists who grew up in hard-and-fast big cities come across as too abrasive to those who have never been.

No, no, no. This is barely acceptable for rude travelers, but in any sort of business or collective collaboration, it always leads to project failure on account of human relationships getting strained. Learning the kinder and gentler pace of time that pervades in Latin America and Asia will help make you seem more approachable, more worthy of their affection, and more easier to work with. Be firm on getting things done, and be accountable to what you do, but try to adjust your inner clocks to the local lull and the different sense of time. In religious cultures such as Islam or Tibetan Buddhist, where the idea of an afterlife is crucial and death is only a transient phase for the spirit, time may even take on an eternal bent. Respect this, and earn a whole lot more goodwill from the locals.

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