African Time is something that both Africans and foreigners joke about. Basically, it means that you come to a program or meeting after the scheduled time for starting. Generally, it's not considered a big deal to be late although there are many Nigerians who advocate that people should keep to time better.
For weddings and social events, I generally go two hours late. Weddings often last three hours (10 a.m.-1 p.m.) and the photos and reception take another three hours. If I have a personal appointment to meet with someone, I will usually go right on time, but if I have an idea that the person may not be there in time, then I will often delay.
A wise older missionary once commented to me, "Some missionaries were on African time before they ever came to Africa." Touche.
I was one hour late to my own wedding. (Oh yes, there's a story behind that.) And people actually came to our wedding on time because they knew that foreigners generally keep to time!
These days it's common to get a wedding invitation that says: 10 a.m. Jesus' Time. I get a kick out of that one. What they mean is: come on time. But actually, was Jesus so bound by time? Seems to me he was on African time--at least that's what Mary and Martha thought when he didn't show up before Lazarus died.
There's kind of an odd counterbalance to all of the laidback African time: Nigerians are excruciatingly proper about time labels in their conversation. Just for the sake of information: It is never proper to begin greeting with: "Hello" or "Hi" or "How are you?" You must start with "Good morning" or "Good afternoon" or "Good Evening." "Good morning" is pretty easy because it starts from whenever you get up. Good afternoon is from 12:01 p.m. til 3:59 p.m. Good evening starts right at 4 and goes until bedtime.
It always gives me a little chuckle when I see people check their watch, or more likely their phone, for the time before greeting someone--especially if it's around noon.
When someone says, "Good evening" to me at 4:00 p.m., I just can't say it back. To me, 4:00 is completely in the afternoon. In my response, I just avoid saying "Good evening."
One Sunday after church I told my friend I would contact her next week. To her that meant a week from Sunday, but I was thinking of the next few days. In my growing up years, phrases like 'next week' and 'last week' were a bit nebulous. But here, it's important to be very exact, i.e. the week starts on Sunday morning and ends on Saturday evening.
We also have some interesting phrases here such as:
the upper week (the week after this one)
the upper, upper week (two weeks after this one)
next tomorrow (the day after tomorrow)
beating up the time (instead of meeting up with the time)
While I'm at it, I guess I could comment on British/Australian uses of time:
I'll meet you at half two. (Is that 1:30 or 2:30?)
We're leaving Sunday week. (We're leaving a week from Sunday.)
Well, I need to beat up the time if I'm going to get my family ready for work and school this morning.