On Island Time in the Prairies

Back in Fiji
Island time is a concept that most of us are familiar with. It is a weird concept because it links a bunch of very different people, living in very different cultures, to a single vibe. On the other hand, most people that have traveled in the tropics would agree that there is something real to it.

I haven't spent enough time in enough countries to hazard a theory as to the origins and probably most explanations are nothing more than guesses.

Still, island time has seeped into me, deep into my core, and changed me in a way that became starkly apparent as I re-entered North American culture. I've thought a lot about this and tried to get to the heart of my change. I believe it is this.

I no longer worship efficiency.

In North American culture, it is an article of faith that busy people are important, that managing your life to pack more things in is desirable, and that idle time is wasted time - or at least only to be allowed occasionally, in a scheduled manner, as an indulgence.

We are so strident in our belief that being efficient and busy is the ultimate life goal, that we get angry at anyone who makes us less efficient, who causes us to waste precious minutes. These slow people are disrespecting our schedule, disrespecting the busy lives we lead, by failing to properly adhere to rules of maximum efficiency. They are too slow, in the wrong lane, asking the clerk a question - all signs that they are not among the efficiency faithful. How dare they?!

Now, step back and imagine a culture that values quality over quantity, a culture that does not worship efficiency, but rather richness of experience.

Rather than the slow person being in the busy person's way, this culture sees the busy person as being incredibly rude for trying to force their rush onto other people, as being flawed for trying to do so many things at the same time that they feel they must sacrifice the quality of their interactions and their experience. These busy people don't say hello when they walk into a store, get upset when things don't appear instantly - all signs that they don't understand how life should be lived. How dare they?!

That is the head space I am now inhabiting. I refuse to value someone else's packed life* more than my purposefully unpacked life. I'm not trying to slow them down, or get in their way, because I'm not a jerk, but I'm not going to jump/hurry/apologize to accommodate their rush either.

I force myself not to get mad when other people try to rush me. It's a cultural difference and my internal culture has changed. I even feel a bit bad for incredibly busy people which I know is a bit judge-y - particularly because I know that I am still rushed by island standards even if I am slow by N American. I try instead to be amused by the lack of eye contact, the lack of presence caused by screen obsession, the people who walk underneath the happy clouds without noticing them.

Efficiency is overrated for this hedonist.

*For most people I know, the packed life is chosen, but of course if it is truly forced on someone like a single Mom with a couple of jobs or whatever, then just like the islanders I have met when I was in trouble, I will go out of my way to help.


  1. I liken this to the luxury of enjoying retirement. Being blessed to be able to retire along with the knowledge that it is a privilege. And going out of your way to help those less fortunate is to complete that circle. You are blessed.

  2. Ah efficiency...How's that in-clearance process going? ;)



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