As those who have been following my blog and social media accounts already know, I was brought up in Nigeria. Actually, I was brought up in British schools in Nigeria, taught by teachers from the UK.
From the very beginning, the British instilled in me a sense of the importance of time and privacy. Appointments had to be kept, and one had to plan to be on time.
We were taught how to plan ahead for being on time, and how missing an appointment was not an option. If we made an appointment at a certain time, we had to keep it. Come rain or shine, we had to do our best to make it to the appointment.
If for some reason we could not make it on time to the appointment, we were taught to call and apologize for the delay. This was instilled in us from a young age — we grew up with the idea that not being on time was rude and unprofessional.
Similarly, we were taught to respect the privacy of our fellow students and teachers. When official hours ended, it was considered rude to contact teachers or school administrators about work issues. Any such issues had to be addressed during official working hours, in person.
Unfortunately, it seems that these values are not taught in Egypt. I will further elaborate on this in the next section.
My experience in Egypt
My experience with Egyptians has been completely different from what I was brought up to expect — things that are considered normal in Egypt are, to me, the definition of rudeness.
Students seem to think it is ok to call at any time of the day asking random questions. I used to make the mistake of giving out my phone number when I first started working here. I don’t do that any more.
Unfortunately, my phone number is on several parts of the internet — including my own YouTube channel. It’s an inevitable part of my online footprint.
Even if my number is available, the way I was brought up taught me that it would only be used in case of emergencies. Not so in Egypt. Students call in the evening, in the morning, at night — whenever they feel like it, and ask the most inane questions.
Part of my job is handling these questions, but only within working hours and in my office. I don’t expect to get a phone call at 11PM at night asking about a grade.
After many years of insisting that this is not acceptable, most students have gotten the message, but, unfortunately, there are still a few who seem not to have gotten the memo.
To iterate it is not ok to call someone about a work issue after working hours. Everybody has families and responsibilities outside work. After working hours, our time becomes the property of our families. Encroaching on this is not acceptable.
Similarly, being on time is extremely important. If you have a class at 8:30 in the morning, set your alarm clock for 6:30 AM. Make sure that you plan ahead to be on time — being tired is not an excuse for not being on time.
Being on time is very important, it shows that you are a responsible person who can be depended on. It also means that you will not interrupt a meeting or class that has already started with your late entrance.
Even worse is being late for an exam. If this becomes a pattern, it shows that you are an irresponsible person who cannot be depended on.
To clarify, I’m not saying all Egyptians are like this. I can’t even claim that the majority of Egyptians are like this. What I can say is that a large number of the people I have interacted with appear to behave in this manner.
The discipline of respecting time seems to be lacking. I believe it would be a good idea if these core principles are taught somewhere in the Egyptian educational system. Sorry for the rant ladies and gents, but I had to get it out of my system. Until my next post, bye for now.