When you set a time for a business meeting you expect people to arrive a few minutes early so the meeting can start on time. This doesn’t always happen in the business world but it it expected, and those who arrive late are frowned upon.

I’ve become aware that there’s another type of time expectation – it’s called “bush time”. There are no clocks when you live in the bush and time has a different meaning.


How’s that possible?

Time is just time – right?

Time is a perception. A figment of our imagination. There’s no such thing as time. It’s been created by society.

In fact, the feeling of time can shorten or lengthen. Have you ever been some place you hated being at? The time goes slower. Can you recall a time when you were having the time of your life? Time seems to pass faster. In a blink of an eye.

Time is only a perception.

City folk. People in business. They have a different concept or expectation of time than people in the country. Than bush people.

Working with Indigenous people I’ve had to realise that the concept of time varies. When a meeting is set for a particular time… well, be prepared for a few delays before the meeting actually starts. If the meeting is set for a particular location… well, be prepared for location changes too. Time can vary from “yes, we’ll do it on Monday” when it actually happens a few weeks  or even months later.

Many different cultural elements come into play such as seeking Traditional Owners’ permission and land rights. These things take bush time and add an extra spicy flair to the business workings.

Business protocols and expectations differ in different cultures across the world. It is important for any business person to learn Japanese business etiquette before a business meeting with a Japanese man or woman. Switched on business folk are very aware of the differences in culture in business.

I find it fascinating though how many white folk continue to be oblivious of this mere fact when working with Indigenous Australians. A business person might demand a particular time and have their normal rushed expectations – and find themselves frustrated.  I’ve even seen two business people ooze their credibility and superiority over Indigenous business people telling them what to do. This particularly frustrates me.

If a person was going to try to put their normal business expectations on a Japanese business man – well, they would lose the business opportunity.

I believe it’s time white folk here in Australia acknowledge the way Aboriginal Australians work in business. It’s different than what you might be familiar with – so be aware of bush time in business, eye contact, non-verbal cues and especially maintain an awareness and follow their lead.

Many Indigenous Australians are passionate about their culture and have many out-of-the-box brilliant ideas on how to share their culture with the world.

There are many wise Indigenous Australians in business – they just do it differently than non-Indigenous Australians. And thank goodness for that!

What’s your experience with bush time in business?