Day 25: Say you have a list of things you want to get done today, and on the way to your first errand you run into a friend. The friend invites you in for coffee, and you end up spending hours sitting and talking. When you leave, there is little time to accomplish many of the things on your list, so you end the day with just a couple items checked off. How would you feel? A lot of Americans (e.g., my husband) might look back on that day and say they didn’t get much done.
Between productivity and relationships, many cultures tend to value one more than the other. People within all cultures can obviously value different things, but on the whole most cultures are driven more in one direction. Americans tend to value productivity, and in Ethiopia relationships are very highly valued. Dinner plans might not be made weeks in advance, but frequently you’re walking by and hear—“come, eat with us!”. Meals are eaten from a large shared platter—there’s always room in the circle to add one more. Coffee beans are roasted, ground, and slowly brewed in a communal coffee ceremony, which can happen multiple times a day. At these ceremonies, you don’t usually see people checking their watches and hurrying off to their next engagement. Spending time with people is as important (or more important) than getting lots of things done.
If you know me personally, you know that I like to talk. Like, kind of a lot (just ask Tim if you don’t believe me 😜). I love getting things done too, but I really appreciate the Ethiopian way of taking things slower and valuing people over tasks. Some Americans are so productivity-driven that being in a relational culture is a real struggle for them—they just want to get more done every day than is possible in that place. I’m not saying I won’t ever struggle with that, but in general it’s not that hard for me to lower my expectations of what I will get done in a day. And my people-loving, extroverted self loves me some chill times drinking coffee with others in Ethiopia. #31daysofcalling #lovesinethiopia