The British have “between 3 and 6pm” or preferably, “3.25pm and don’t be late”
The Spanish have “manyana, manyana” (phonetic because I’m not sure how to do those ‘n’s on my mac) which is fair enough because at least they set expectations.
The South Africans have “just now” (later) or “now now” (right now) which whilst confusing to the rest of us seems to work South African to South African.
The people of Dubai have “I’ll give you a time and then ignore it completely and turn up at a time of my choosing. I will then blame it on the traffic, or the van breaking down, or I won’t give you a reason at all.”
A typical example would be today. I arranged for workmen to come because water was leaking from the bathroom hose. (for those who don’t live in Dubai, this is a shower nozzle-type attachment next to the toilet that is used to..erm…well, ‘clean things up’ before you wipe). They promised to come back ‘very soon’ after the inspection and returned THREE HOURS LATER to turn off the water which by this point was pouring all over the floor.
Also today, I was supposed to open a new bank account. A very nice lady called to say another lady would be calling me straight after we had finished on the phone to go through what I needed to do. One hour and 47 minutes later I received the second phone call. Question: why bother to tell me I would be receiving a phone call immediately, if I wasn’t going to? How is that ever going to be helpful?
Here’s another one. From today. Because just two examples in a day would be churlish and this is the one that really irritates me. The people who emailed me to buy our old baby furniture who said “can we come after 3pm today?” never turned up, so I just assumed they weren’t coming. How naive of me. They have just called to say they are coming NOW. It’s 6.46pm. To me, “after 3pm” would indicate, say, 3.30pm. Or at the latest, 5pm with an apology sms for running late. Not 4 bloody hours later. Why not say “after 6pm”??
Which is where we revert to rule no.2 of Dubai timekeeping, which is the ‘Inshallah’ rule. This basically can be applied to any situation by anyone living in the UAE (you don’t have to speak Arabic to say Inshallah, they teach it to you on the plane) in order to indicate that something may or may not happen but that it’s all in the hands of fate. In the Muslim faith, applied properly, it means ‘God Willing’. But it gets it’s fair share of abuse here by anyone and everyone. It seems to have been rejigged into a polite way of saying “we want to help you/turn up on time/supply you with what you asked for, but we may have over-promised and if we don’t deliver then it’s not our fault”. Technically, my buyers should have said “after 3pm, Inshallah”. Then I would have known to expect them any time between mid afternoon and next Saturday.
So, by the way, they are still not here. And now it’s nearly 7.30pm, way, way, way, way past 3pm, and distinctly not the ‘now’ they promised half an hour ago. To the average person (or just me, if I’m not average) this is borderline rude because it’s my afternoon and my evening dammit and now I’m waiting for these people to turn up before I cook dinner and sit down for the evening and it is SO INCONSIDERATE and so utterly predictable.
And I can guarantee when they get here they will try and barter for the stuff I’m selling even though they probably have more money than Bill Gates. That’s if I answer the door…