How different cultures view time

Essay by kthpow1College, UndergraduateB+, June 2004

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Change in Time

A culture's sense of time is based on how that culture views the past, present or future. Americans have a very different sense of time compared to China and France, our view of time is time is important and shouldn't be wasted on trivial things. Americans believe deadlines are more important than building relationships or getting comfortable with big decisions. China has a very different point of view on time, it's to be cherished and used to build relationships and to make better decisions. The French have a similar point of view they treat time as a way to enjoy life and work to have more time, not work to fill time.

Polychromic cultures tend to perform multiple tasks simultaneously with a higher commitment to relationship building than to task completion or meeting deadlines. Tasks are accomplished through building strong relationships rather than creating detailed plans. Punctuality is defined in looser terms as some delays are expected and deadlines can be adjusted.

Whereas "soon" to a North American usually means in the next few minutes, hours or days, "soon" to an Asian may mean three months, a year, or whenever they are ready. Time is not fixed but rather an organic, flowing process. Asian, Arab, and Southern European cultures are polychromic.

Monochromic cultures are highly committed to doing one task at a time and meeting set deadlines. Devising and then adhering to a detailed plan or schedule is highly valued. Punctuality is defined precisely and time is sliced into fixed categories such as seconds, minutes, and hours. One's time is scheduled and managed in great detail at work and at home and "wasting time" is unethical. Individuals focus on tasks rather than relationships. Germany, Switzerland, the USA, and Scandinavian countries are very monochromic.

In a culture that...