Tuesday, 05 December 2023
Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

What happened to the laid-back Croatian lifestyle?

Written by  Jun 26, 2022

“Time is on my side, yes it is,” sung the Rolling Stones, but were they correct, I don’t think so. Time stops for no man.

How good is your time keeping? I can remember someone wise once saying to me “It is better to be one hour early than one minute late.” Well, this week I managed to be 12 hours early.

So it didn’t take me too long to get used to the laid back Mediterranean lifestyle of Croatian coastal living. A few glasses of wine, a nap after lunch and the “manjana” approach to obligations. However, I have to be honest my early experiences of life here two decades ago and today and somewhat different. The speed of life has certainly kicked up a gear or two, afternoon naps are rare and there’s no more putting things of until tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong we are still some way from the pressures and stresses of living in a major city, but the days that time was measured in days rather than hours is behind us.

I used to joke that people in Dubrovnik didn’t have a watch to keep time but a calendar. Largely that joke doesn’t work anymore. Manjana has been replaced by “can you finish this by the end of the day.”

It was inevitable. Progress and development are time consuming. And as the whole country transitioned this process started changing our lifestyles and eating into our time.

And I have noticed that more and more people have less tolerance for tardiness. It used to be that you could almost guarantee that whoever you were waiting for would be at least 15 minutes late, or the “school hour” as they would joke. And then they would say “why didn’t you sit and have a coffee whilst you were waiting for me,” as if it was normal for them to be late. Again that is mostly a thing of the past.

At first it would annoy me that they were late, because being punctual is a sign of respect, but I simply got used to it.

Time marches on, it is the master of all and a slave to none.

So, how did I end up half a day early for a meeting? Believe it or not it was a situation of “lost in translation.” So, this well-known Croatian scientist and former minister contacted me to present a conference he was organising in the city. As my written Croatian is terrible we were chatting in messages in English. “I will arrive in the hotel at 10:15” he said – “OK, I’ll come at 11:00,” I answered.

So I arrived at the hotel at 10.45, it was then that a colleague phoned me. “Are you sure that you didn’t get the day wrong?” she asked as I explained who I was meeting. “No, today for sure. But why do you ask?” I replied. “I watched him give an interview this morning on Good Morning Croatia,” came the reply. That set alarm bells ringing. How could he have been on the TV this morning and arrived in Dubrovnik so fast. Had I got the day wrong?

I opened our online conversation to double check. The classic mistake. Unlike the rest of Europe, the UK doesn’t use the 24-hour clock, we add either am or pm to notify which part of the day we’re talking about. And that was when I noticed the “pm” after the 10:15. Yes, I was 12 hours early for our meeting.

Time is a strange thing. Sometimes we think that we don’t have enough and others we simply let it go to waste. It’s the one thing that is equal to all of us. When we all wake up in the morning we all have the same amount of time in that day ahead of us. Even Elon Musk can’t buy an extra hour.

The Beatles sung “Money can’t buy you love,” but they could have exchanged the last word in that title for love to time. What, however, isn’t equal is how we use the time ahead of us in that day, that week or in that month.

So use your time wisely. Or as the great Einstein said ““Time is relative; its only worth depends upon what we do as it is passing.”

Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to


The Voice of Dubrovnik


Find us on Facebook