I recently took a trip to Jamaica. I still semi consider Jamaica my home as most of my family members are from Jamaica and I did spend my childhood there. With a family wedding planned it was time to make our almost yearly journey to Jamaica. Unlike most people I’m not usually overly enthused to go back home. It’s hot, air conditioning is still a luxury, and then you have to contend with island time. Island time is not restricted to Jamaica, from my experience, it’s a universal Caribbean island expression and experience.
It’s a bit sad because I too have my own sense of time. When I’m at work and I need to go home I’ll say I’ll be leaving in a ‘LaToya minute.’ That means it’ll be maybe 30 minutes to one hour later. What’s funny is that while I hate island time, it’s manifested its way into my life. Island time, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, is when a set time is more like a general guideline. The wedding I attended was set to begin promptly at 4 o’clock. That meant the wedding would start closer to 5pm as 4 o’clock was when much of the wedding party was just beginning to get ready.
The pace in the islands is drastically different from that of the US. Here we are all about being somewhere on time, starting things on time, not being late. Being late is almost expected in the islands, especially for social events. It’s a bit exasperating really. If someone tells you they’ll meet you at a certain time or even in a few minutes, don’t hold your breath as it’s not likely to be so. The laid back style extends into so many areas of Jamaican society. It makes me wonder if the problem is in being American and being a slave to the clock. Is it too much to expect to being on time?
I realize that I have had the privilege and luxury of being able to compare two very different cultures with personal experience. There are certainly things in Jamaica that I think are far superior to the US namely the education system, however, I can’t quite get over how slow the pace is there. While I did see a FedEx plane at the airport upon my departure from the island, simple things like the conveniences of internet purchases and next day delivery is not the norm. I like having things when I want it. I like not having to give too much thought to the value of the dollar compared to another country. These are the things that you often have to consider in the islands. So much of what we think is a part of regular everyday life is not so. There are no McDonald’s, very few American restaurant or clothing chain stores, and sadly there is a lot of corruption. It’s one of those places that’s pretty nice to visit but if you’re used to ‘common conveniences’ it’s not a place where you’ll want to live.
Jamaica is the land where “out of many, one people” but from my perception and experience, with seemingly no sense of time or urgency, it’s most definitely a place to be when you don’t need to live by a clock and possibly have a lot of time on your hands.
This article was originally posted as a Web-Exclusive on 8/17/11. This article appeared on page 5A in the 5/22/13 issue of The Union-Recorder.