Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Being on time....


...is one of those things that seems to be impossible for a lot of people here in China. I don't know how many hours I have spent waiting since I moved here in 2006, but if you add it all up, I bet it will be equivalent to a couple of weeks. You wait for people, you wait for your table at a restaurant, you wait for your business meetings to take place, you wait in lines to sign up, (and then in another line to pay), for airplanes to take off, in throngs of people at starting lines to run races.. hardly ever does anything here happen on time (except for train departures).

Yesterday, I spent a good hour waiting for our landlord to come and fix our leak in the bathroom. He had been all anal about it for at least 3 days, sending me tonnes of text messages, first to set up a time that worked for both of us, and then, during the 'fixing day,' at least 2 more messages just to 'confirm' that I would be home at the decided hour (1pm) so that he and the repair guy could come. Fine, I thought, and stressed like an idiot in order to squeeze in a mega quick work out at the gym (I had to.. Not working out for 4 days had left me in a climbing-the-walls-state-of-mind: I had to sweat and burn in order to be able to function normally again) and then broke all possible traffic rules when I rushed home on my bike, almost hitting one lady and her little child (I am so ashamed!). So, there I was: sweaty, hungry, exhausted, but... ON TIME! Sure, I looked kind of ragged, but I figured my landlord and the repair guy would be more interested in the bathroom than me, so I didn't care. Besides, as a result of me screaming out cleaning orders to our sweet ayi last week, our flat was shining this time, and I was expecting our landlord to come and go without one single cleaning remark.

But.... I could have as well stayed for that 12.45pm yoga class at the gym. Because not until 2pm did our landlord care to show up. With an apologetic smile, of course, but that doesn't that help me, does it? I was close to furious. It always happen over here! Actually, when I learned the word 'ma shang' 马上 (meaning: immediately) in class and our teacher explained the meaning of the word, one of the male students (who had been in China for a good 3 years) raised his hand and asked:

-In China, when somebody says that they will attend you 'ma shang'... how long of a while does that then mean?
The teachers giggling said it all. It means it can take anything from 5 minutes to two hours...

Yup, because rarely, things happens 'ma shang' over here. I just have to learn how to be late myself in order to fit in better.

4 comments:

MG said...

HAHAHAHAHA
Thanks for the valuable "ma shang" lesson

shopgirl shanghai said...

haha i think it's the opposite, when i tell my friend to meet me at 3pm, i just know she will get there about 3.10 - 3.15 pm

kabul tan said...

入乡随俗 呗!

sarah said...

Not everything should be seen as "When in Rome." If you are already a puncual person then you might as well stay that way because you know the first time you're late is going to be the first time the other people are on time!