Economists dating back to Adam Smith in the 1700s have wondered why savings behavior varies widely by country. Recent data show that people in the United States and United Kingdom save around 15 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Those in Switzerland and Japan save twice as much. Why do countries with similar economies have significantly different savings rates?
Keith Chen, a behavioral economist and UCLA professor, has an interesting theory. He suggests that one’s language is linked to how one plans for the future. How a language speaks about time – the future and the past – leads to visceral changes in the speaker. English, for example, is what Chen calls a futured language, while German and Mandarin Chinese are future-less.
In English, we say “it will rain tomorrow” and “it rained yesterday.” A Chinese speaker, on the other hand, might say “it rain tomorrow” and “it rain yesterday.”
“Chinese doesn’t divide up the time spectrum in the same way