I have to admit that it does make sense! I remember when I first went to China in the beginning of 2006. Learning Mandarin was an easy task compared to culturally understanding Chinese people. It’s grammar is way simpler than my mother tongue Portuguese but all the cultural intricacies particular from a culture so fundamentally distant to mine posed a real challenge to life there. But once I got to fairly understand the language to the point where I was able to see it more than just sounds that come out of my mouth but most importantly as a cultural medium, I could completely see why they sometimes behave as they do in circumstances we would behave completely different.
How are China, Estonia and Germany different from India, Greece and the UK? To an economist, one answer is obvious: savings rates. Germans save 10 percentage points more than the British do (as a fraction of GDP), while Estonians and Chinese save a whopping 20 percentage points more than Greeks and Indians. Economists think a lot about what drives people to save, but many of these international differences remain unexplained. In a recent paper of mine, I find that these countries differ not only in how much their residents save for the future, but also how their native speakers talk about the future.
In late 2011, an idea struck me while reading several papers in psychology that link a person’s language with differences in how they think about space, color, and movement. As a behavioral economist, I am interested in understanding how people make decisions…
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