Tijdsconcepten en tijdsbeleving, een probleem uit de interculturele communicatie. Case-study: Rwanda

  • Gerda Cammaer (K.U.Leuven)


The confrontation between people from different cultures causes a lot of problems, most of all communication problems. They are too often considered as only langu- age-problems, but the so-called "cultural-shock" is a lot more comprehensive. Reducing any cultural problem to language troubles, means ignoring the non-verbal and other cultural principles that make cultures so rich and different.

The experience of time and the concepts of time are such principles, rooted in culture and traditions. For the members of the culture in question, these time-principles have become so natural that they remain unexperienced or even unconscious, but they might surprise, even irritate, the members of other cultures. The scientific discipline called "chronemics" examines how humans perceive, structure and use time as communication. Every culture has its own conception of time and its own customs for the use of time. In this sense the Western culture is totally different from the Central African culture in Rwanda. This often causes intercultural conflicts when Europeans working in Rwanda are confronted with the different attitudes towards time of the Rwandese people and vice versa. 

The purpose of this research is to find an answer to the question whether the intercultural communication between Rwandese people and Europeans (sometimes, often, always) is disturbed because of misunderstandings caused by the differences in their time-codes. This survey contains two parts: first, a literature study on intercultural communication and time as a message system with references to the two cultures in question and second, a field study in Rwanda consisting of 120 questionnaires answered by Europeans and Rwandese people who work together.

KEY WORDS: chronemics, communication science, intercultural communication, formal time, informal time, Rwanda 

How to Cite:

Cammaer, G., (1991) “Tijdsconcepten en tijdsbeleving, een probleem uit de interculturele communicatie. Case-study: Rwanda”, Afrika Focus 7(2). doi:

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Published on
13 Jul 1991
Peer Reviewed