Indulgence versus Restraint 

Lesson 2: Topic 15 of 19

Indulgence cultures are those that place a greater emphasis on the individual’s needs and desires, and on the expression of emotions and impulses. Restraint cultures, on the other hand, are those that place a greater emphasis on the needs and desires of the group, and on the control of emotions and impulses.

One of the most highly indulgent country cultures is that of Mexico. With a strong reliance on family bonds, elaborate (and expensive!) celebrations such as quinceaneras or weddings, and a social preference for living in the moment, Mexican culture is predisposed toward indulgence. Many people are quite hard working, but with a perspective toward events that are near at hand. They are people primed to have an optimistic attitude toward truly enjoying life with friends and loved ones.  

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On the opposite pole is China. Chinese culture places a great emphasis on collectivism, group harmony, and the control of emotions and impulses. This restraint is reflected in the way different elements of society function. For example, the Chinese education system emphasizes discipline and conformity, and the Chinese economy is characterized by a high level of savings and long-term investments. Additionally, Confuscian values encourage utilizing a measure of reserve in a variety of situations. 

For another example of a restraint culture,  let’s turn to Japan, once again. Japanese society is known for its emphasis on discipline, respect for authority, and a similar control of emotions and impulses. Japanese education is also highly competitive, and the Japanese economy is likewise characterized by long-term investments in infrastructure and technology. Additionally, the Japanese value hard work and perseverance which are important for the control of impulses.

To recap, Indulgence cultures are those that place a greater emphasis on meeting the individual’s needs and desires, and on the expression of emotions and impulses, whereas restraint cultures are those that place a greater emphasis on the needs and desires of the group, and on the control of those individual emotions and impulses. 

“The crucial differences which distinguish human societies and human beings

are not biological. They are cultural.” Anthropologist Ruth Benedict