In Ghana schedules are mere paperwork; Dutch colleagues apologize for being one minute late.
It really surprises me when people in the Netherlands tend to apologise for being even a minute late. In Ghana, where I come from, not being time conscious is a national issue. People simply do not respect time and this is reflected in delays in the commencement of well-drawn programmes with strict schedules. Usually these are mere paperwork and people rarely pay attention to punctuality. In Ghana you owe nobody an apology even if you are 30 minutes late. Coming from this background, I could not help but ask my Dutch colleagues why one of our lecturers at the university had to apologise for being only two minutes late. It was so surprising and I still get shocked at how my group work colleagues will quickly apologise for being even a minute late. My Dutch friends tell me that a Dutch person goes by the clock day and night. This is seen in the way almost every Dutch person has a planner to keep up to time. This is not part of the Ghanaian culture. I have tried keeping a planner for myself on countless occasions but have always failed to consistently write in my schedules.
My first shock with regards to 'Dutch time' has helped to reorient myself in my time consciousness. Now, in my second year of studying in the Netherlands, I try to always be on time. And if I am late, I simply say, 'Sorry I'm late, guys'.
Paulina Ayawah , Ghanaian MSc student of International Development Studies, Wageningen University.