I recently went to a reggae concert near my home in which three major artists from Jamaica were playing. At about the time the show was supposed to start, I asked Sherwin, one of the people sitting at the bar with me, whether we should head towards the stage to make sure we didn’t miss anything. He, cocked his head a little to the left, pursed his lips slightly while turning up both corners of his mouth and gave me a look that simply said “Girl, you must be crazy.”. Then, in his heavy island accent he said “The show ain’t gonna start on time. Man, island people would be late to their own funerals!”. We shared a good laugh and I decided to take it as a good excuse to order another delicious mango daiquiri.
The concept of “island time” is something that I should have remembered from my visits to Anguilla. While hotel, restaurant and other service-oriented staff are usually very attentive and punctual, dealings with others could be hit-or-miss with respect to timing. I had local friends who would agree to meet me at a certain time and who would regularly show up hours late. I had other friends who were always right on time. In some ways it’s the same as it could be with any group of friends anywhere, but it didn’t take me long to sense that the “lateness” was considered to be a bit more acceptable there, and even expected in many cases. Of course, I was on vacation, so I eventually learned not to stress out too much when things didn’t go according to plan. After all, no matter where I was, it was easy to find a gorgeous beach at which to stare or some friendly people with whom to strike up a conversation. I made a few new friends while I was waiting on other people, so I ended up not minding too much.
I will admit, adjusting to island time did take me little while, but once I did, I noticed some upsides to it. For instance, in Anguilla, if you’re stopped at a stop light and you don’t immediately hit the gas when the light turns green – get this – No one will honk at you! Crazy right? At home, some people are so impatient that you’ll not only get a blaring horn a millisecond after a light changes, but you’ll also likely get get some lovely hand gestures and some choice words thrown in your direction. That being said, as a tourist in Anguilla, try to keep the idea of “island time” in mind, so you’re not the one doing the honking! Another benefit to “giving in” to island time is that my stress level just seemed to melt away. Once you learn to accept that things generally move more slowly in this island setting, that’s when you truly learn how to relax and let go of some inner tension. That’s a big deal for someone like me who is used to being on-the-go almost every waking minute of the day and for whom just about every day depends on a certain level of punctuality.
When you travel, it is important to recognize that the cultures and lifestyles of others can be very different from yours, and that just because you’re used to something, it doesn’t mean that you should expect it to be the same everywhere or that people should change their ways just for you. In a place like Anguilla, I would recommend that you leave your sense of entitlement at home, and instead, bring an open mind. If you’re able to respect the differences between you and your hosts and take the opportunity to learn something new, that’s when you’ll reap the true rewards and actually learn to really appreciate the beauty of ideas like “island time”.