Monday, October 5, 2009

All things Cayman: We are on island time! (Part II)

_MG_3406-Edit Whether you are a new resident or a tourist enjoying a few hours in Cayman as part of your cruise experience, it likely won't take long until you hear someone say something about "island time". And chances are you will love the concept if you are a tourist, and not always so much if you are a resident from a country in which the concept of island time only applies to students, the retired, or the unemployed.

Island time denotes a certain relaxed outlook on life - hey, it'll still be sunny and warm tomorrow, why do we have to get it done right this minute? Many years ago, I read about a study which concluded that one reason northern countries may have developed into such efficient and 'busy' societies is because they need to get all their work done in half the time that is available to, say, someone sitting on a beach somewhere in southern Greece, Italy or the Cayman Islands. On intuitive level, it certainly makes sense. If winter is breathing down your neck, quite literally, you would of course feel a need to find more efficient ways to complete your projects and stock up on food and fuel before winter. Because if you do not, you may die. In southern Greece on the other hand, if you don't get it done today, there is always tomorrow, so what's the big hurry? Let's sip some ouzo instead.

If anything, it's trying to get it all done today that'll likely kill you because of the darn heat! Which might just be the other reason islanders or those living in very warm climates are more relaxed about things. It's just too hot to be moving around in such a busy fashion. The Spanish knew what they were doing when they started the siesta, something I remember very distinctly from my own time spent in Spain, when the entire city closed down from 2pm to 5pm and the only things moving around the empty streets were stray dogs and sunburnt tourists trying to get in all the sights on their busy schedule....

And so, between having all the time in the world and not being able to physically exert yourself for a good portion of the day, it's no wonder that many a hectic Westerner comes here or a Northern European shows up in Sicily and declares the locals 'lazy', all anthropological niceties aside. But it's a bit like the now famous story about the rich American who runs into a local fisherman relaxing on the beach, and proceeds to tell him about all the things he could be doing to get 'busy' and rich and then he would have all the time in the world, whereupon the fisherman correctly points out that all he would be doing in the end is exactly what he is already doing now....relaxing on the beach.

So it is really a difference of attitudes, isn't it. Judging by this story, the rich American obviously needs the security of money (and status) to achieve a sense of relaxation and enjoyment at some point in the future while the local fisherman is undoubtedly less secure on a material level because he quite literally lives from day to day, yet he seems to have accepted this fact and instead places a higher value on enjoying those hours of the day that are available to him. In the end, both want to arrive at the same place, but the ways in which they go about it are vastly different. And while today's Caymanians are no longer the fishermen of those days, I still notice that contemplative and very dignified streak in some of the older residents I have spoken to.

Which is precisely why I have always found it somewhat interesting that this country would hitch its economic wagon to an industry that could not possibly exist in island time - the global financial industry, where work hours are long (because you must always know what's going in in Singapore), status is important and the money or bonus better be good. Now there's a topic for another day...


1 comment:

Natalia Kononova said...

I just recently was thinking about that matter, why they take it so easy and we can not. You're right, it all make sense. Too bad (or good?) we can't all live in endless summer.