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The Ikarian concept of time

Updated: Mar 14, 2019

We all know about fast paced “American time” and we’ve all heard of the relaxed nature of “Greek time”, but have you heard of “Ikarian time” where being on time is really only a suggestion Ikarians have a relationship to time that confuses even other Greeks.

I remember as a teenager coming to Ikaria from America with my father to take care of some family land. Everyday we would meet with the people from the village, and of course we would have to start with a coffee and a conversation. As the conversation continued, it didn’t take long before the wine came out followed by the appetizers. By then, nobody was really interested in getting the work done, and by now, it was time for the afternoon meal.

Though my father always enjoyed his time on Ikaria I remember him saying “Now I underswtand why no one gets ulcers here.”

Often visitors to Ikaria get confused when they come to the island for the first time. Ikarians are vague about making a time for a rendezvous. Afternoon can mean anything from between noon until 6 p.m. Meeting for lunch can mean beginning at 1 or 2 p.m. and could easily continue until the evening.

When I arrange to go out with friends, it’s not unusual for me to still be at home getting ready at the time we planned to meet.  And by the time I get there, I am still early. In Ikaria, we have a way to flow with time, and use it more as a guide rather than as a rule. This is not to say that we miss the plane or important doctor’s appointments.  When we really need to be on time we can do it, but we undoubtedly feel the pressure.

There was a day in the summer when I had some guests from England. They were eating lunch when some painters came to the restaurant for their lunch break. The men casually ordered a round of beers and food. They were very relaxed, enjoying their lunch and conversation. After about an hour had gone by, the Englishman asked me if they were done for the day. Surprised, I told him, “No of course not, they will go back and continue their work.”

“And what time do they finish?” he asked.

“When they are done,” was my reply.

The thing about Ikaria is work can continue until late in the day. There are no nine-to-five routines here. We don't have the habit of finishing work, going home to eat and watch TV. Instead, we work, (perhaps at a different pace), but also for much longer hours. And in the end, the work always gets finished.

When I am back in America, the issue of time is the only thing I have to consciously adjust to. My brother will alway remind me that I’m not in Ikaria and to get ready for the change. There are hair appointments, meetings, whatever the occasion is, I tell myself I must be ready half an hour beforehand, and that way I am on time.

There is no doubt Ikaria seems to exist in its own time scale and space. Visitors that have come to love the place, know this sense of timelessness well, it allows you to put things into a different perspective. It is very hard to feel rushed when all your senses are immersed in the living history and beauty of a place that is so perfectly isolated from the pace of western life.

It’s clear it has much to do with Ikaria being isolated for so many years. The locals developed their own system and ways that have worked with the rhythm of the land for centuries. And why change something that has worked well for so long?

There is only one rule when you arrive-make sure you throw away your watch...

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