Long-term versus Short-term Orientation 

Lesson 2: Topic 13 of 19

In cultural training sessions, we often discuss differences in the ways in which cultures view time. One of the key big picture distinctions between cultures is long-term and short-term orientation. Long-term orientation cultures tend to be those that place a greater emphasis on the future, and on planning and investing for the long-term. Short-term orientation cultures, on the other hand, are those that place a greater emphasis on the present, and on enjoying and making the most of the present moment.

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One well-known example of a long-term oriented culture is that of Japan. Japanese culture places a great emphasis on planning and investing for the future. In their education system, for example, Japan is highly competitive and prepares students for  long-term careers. The Japanese economy is also characterized by long-term investments in infrastructure and technology. There is also a striking propensity for the most successful businesses to focus on community and employee wellbeing, even during a crisis, instead of shareholder value. A stronger shareholder focus during adverse events might lead to layoffs and other extreme measures.

Germany also has a culture tuned to a long-term orientation. With a pragmatic persistence, a history of resilience through difficulties, and an inclination to save money, Germans overall have an enduring sense of orderly resolve in their society. Patient thriftiness and a preference for quality purchases are quite common attributes.