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Orientation towards time: fixed or fluid? Deep in the Cultural Iceberg

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Orientation towards time: fixed or fluid?

In cultures with a fluid orientation towards time, relationships tend to be more important than the task at hand. For example, people believe in taking time to know someone before getting down to business. Delays are tolerated and punctuality is defined loosely.

Cultures with a strongly ingrained free-market economic system tend to have a fixed orientation towards time.  More traditional cultures tend to have a fluid orientation towards time. Cultures with a fixed time orientation often possess a low context communication style.

Please see the card “communication style: high or low context?” for more information.

Cultural traps

If you come from a culture with a fixed orientation towards time, you may discover that your more fluid colleagues or acquaintances view you as rigid. At the very least, they may think you are missing out on the quality of life. They may even be insulted by your tendency to get right to the point instead of spending time on cultivating and maintaining relationships.

If you come from a culture with a fluid orientation towards time, you may have trouble being task oriented. After all, you have probably been brought up to believe that getting right to the point and focusing on the task rather than the person is impolite and disrespectful. You may also find that your colleagues and acquaintances view your delays and flexibility about timetables as unprofessional.

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