In the video below you will see interesting perspectives of time perception through the eyes of different cultures, countries, generations, religions.
According to Professor Philip Zimbardo, people look differently at time based on cultural and individual values:
- Focused on the past (negative or positive): people remember all the good old times, successes, happy birthdays while other people focus
only on regrets, failure and all the
things that went wrong.
- Focused on the present ( hedonists and fatalists) the hedonists live for pleasure and avoid pain. The fatalists are present oriented because they say, “It doesn’t pay to plan” My life is fated by my religion – fated by my poverty – fated by the conditions that I’m living under.”
- Focused on the future depending on your religion life begins after
the death of the mortal body. To be future oriented you have to trust that when you make a decision about the future it’s going to be carried out. For example : If you have great inflation you
don’t put money in the bank because you can’t trust the future.
- Sense of duration : how much time has expired while you’re sitting in a dentist’s office before they start drilling? How much time has expired when you’ve been waiting in line? how much time has expired when you’re having fun? Time duration is totally a function of whether you’re bored, in pain, excited or not.
- Pace of life: for some people time is money and think it must be spent wisely and are multi-tasking oriented, while for others, time is not limited and they focus more on people and building relationships than being on time for an appointment.
With these perspectives in mind, I found interesting to compare time perception between North Americans and Europeans as there are huge differences.
Most Europeans enjoyed more than 4 weeks of vacation per year: almost 8 weeks in France or 6 weeks in Germany in addition to bank holidays. In America, the majority of small business owners work seven days a week and more than 12 hours per day and many American employees have only 2 week or even less vacation. In the United States,most people can be reached by their company even when they are on holiday. Thanks to the smart phones and other tablets, Europeans employees too can be reached during non business hours but it is tolerated that they don’t answer during their private time.
In many European countries paid maternity leave is 4 weeks before delivery and about 6 weeks after. In the US I have seen many women working until one day before delivery and going back to work few days after the baby was born.
It is not uncommon to see French spending 2 hours for a business lunch and even more for a dinner and Germans have a break and get breakfast at work around 10 am.
I lived and worked in Manhattan and the contrast is big, people walk faster than in Paris. Most people go to a salad bar or get a sandwich and eat in front of their computer. Almost everywhere in America, you have business lunch meetings where employees have pizzas and coffee available while listening and talking.
In the United States, most shops and restaurants are open on Saturdays and Sundays and you can shop 24/7 if you want. This is same in Japan but in many European countries, almost everything is closed Sundays and in Belgium most restaurants are closed for lunch on Saturdays.
You can watch the whole lecture by Professor Philip Zimbardo here: