Posts Tagged ‘saving money’

Why do Chinese, Koreans, and Scandinavians save money better than Americans?

January 21, 2018

If I’m speaking in English, I speak grammatically differently if I’m talking about past, present, and future. It rained yesterday. It is raining now. It will rain tomorrow. Notice that English requires a lot of information with respect to the timing of events.

It’s simply not permissible in English to say it rained tomorrow. In contrast, that’s almost exactly what you would say in Chinese. They would say yesterday it rained, now it rained, tomorrow it rained. The Chinese language doesn’t divide up the time spectrum in the same way that English does.

Chinese is a futureless language. English, on the other hand, is a futured language, which means that time constantly intrudes into our speech in all kinds of ways.

That difference led UCLA professor of economics Keith Chen to an intriguing hypothesis – could how you speak about time affect the way you think about money?

You speak English, a futured language, and what that means is that every time you discuss the future or any kind of a future event, grammatically, you’re forced to cleave that from the present and treat it as if it’s something viscerally different. Now suppose that that visceral difference makes you suddenly disassociate the future from the present every time you speak. If that’s true, and it makes the future feel like something more distant and more different from the present, that’s going to make it harder to save.

If, on the other hand, you speak a futureless language, the present and the future, you speak about them identically. If that suddenly nudges you to feel about them identically, that’s going to make it easier to save.

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