The Exposure to time in Turkey and Germany

Differences in the concept and valuation of time

Essay, 2011

36 Pages, Grade: Excellent


Table of Contents

List of Figures

1 Introduction

2 General exposures to time: a theoretical overview.

3 Exposure to time in the German and the Turkish cultures
3.1 General Classification
3.2 Analysis and interpretation


Reference List


List of Figures

Figure 1: Linear time model

Figure 2: Cyclic time model

Figure 3: When do you think somebody is late?

Figure 4: How important is punctuality for you?

Figure 5: Reasons for the importance of punctuality

Figure 6: "Time is money" (Benjamin Franklin, 1748) - Do you agree?

Figure 7: Do you see yourself as a punctual person?

Figure 8: How do you react when somebody is late for an appointment?

Figure 9: What describes you best?

Figure 10: How do you plan your day?

Figure 11: How important do you find it to solve a pressing problem immediately?

Figure 12: How do you tend to make decisions?

Figure 13: What are you seeking for in terms of employment?

1 Introduction

“Time is money” (Franklin: 1864, p.129) - Benjamin Franklin stated those words as an advice to a young tradesman in the book of the same name1. It was only one of many pieces of advice Franklin gave in order to achieve success and gain wealth (Carstensen, Busse: 2001). Nowadays, this attitude is still current in some cultures; especially profit-orientated societies, such as the United States, Switzerland, Germany or the Netherlands who see time as “a precious, even scarce, commodity” (Lewis: 2006, p.53). On the other hand, there are cultures which see time in a completely different way - as something that is endless. This exposure to time is culturally dependent; the perception of time, how it is divided and how it is being used varies from culture to culture(This work explores the use of and attitude towards time in Germany and Turkey. The working definition of time used in this work, based on Rüsen (1998), is not the physical definition, but the cultural-scientific one: Rüsen defines time as a fundamental determinant of human existence which encompasses the human and its world, thinking and being, internal and external, culture and nature. It is a general and elementary dimension of human life that is being experienced as genesis and decline, birth and death, change and constancy; and which needs to be accomplished as experiences through human interpretations so that human beings are able to orientate themselves within the time in order to meaningfully relate their lives to it. The comparing cultural studies lead to the comprehension that time in form of an anthropological constant which equally correspondents to all people does not exist. In fact, time only has miscellaneous cultural-specific concepts with distinct structures.

For the second chapter of this work, which is covering the theory, existing literature on the usage of time, additionally to works on cultural differences, textbooks and business guidelines are examined. Chapter 3 then deals with a survey on time in Turkey and Germany, its findings and analyses. Finally, the work then concludes with a short review and further perspectives.

2 General exposures to time: a theoretical overview

“Time is more than what the clock reads” (De Mooij: 2010, p.72). There are some cultures, mainly located in the Eastern and Latin world, which see time as an “event- or personality-related, a subjective commodity” (Lewis: 2006, p.57) that is susceptible to manipulation and can be stretched or formed. Scientists, such as the social psychologist Hofstede or the anthropologist Hall, have looked into the use of time on a cultural basis.

By setting up a fifth cultural dimension, Hofstede defines two extremes of time orientation - long-term vs. short-term outlook - which describe the degree to which a culture adopts either a long-term or short-term outlook on life and work (Buchanan, Huczynski: 2010). Hofstede set up this dimension, also known as ‘Confucian Dynamism’, in order to explain the economic rise of China (Hofstede: 1993). A national culture valuing dedication, hard work, perseverance and thrift, but also looking for social status issues and quick results is a culture with a long-term outlook; whereas a short-term outlook culture values traditions, fulfils social obligations and protects one’s face (Hofstede: 2001; Hopkins: 2009). According to the GLOBE2 country ranking, Singapore, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark and the English- speaking part of Canada are the most future-orientated countries, whereas Russia, Argentina, Poland, Italy and Kuwait are the countries with the lowest scoring and therefore the least future orientation (Javidan, House: 2001).

Hall, in contrast, came up with the differentiation of monochronic and polychronic societies. In monochronic cultures, such as the US, Germany, Switzerland and Scandinavia, time is being used and experienced in a linear way, which could be visualised with an arrow starting in the past and ending in the future. Those cultures purely concentrate on the job and do one thing at a time, which is possible because monochronic time is segmented, compartmentalised and scheduled. Consequently, monochronic cultures prefer not being interrupted when working. Additionally, time in a monochronic culture is seen as tangible; it is a commodity which people can spend, save, waste or lose (Hall, Hall: 1990). Polychronic cultures are in nearly every aspect the antithesis of a monochronic culture. They are characterised by a greater involvement with people and polychronic systems focus rather on the completion of human transaction than on sticking to schedules. It is a less tangible system which could be visualised through a single point, instead of the monochronic arrow (Hall, Hall: 2001).

Another concept of time is the subdivision into linear time, multi-active time and cyclic time (Krueger: 2005). Linear time is the concept of time in America; with time being “the most expensive” (Lewis: 2006, p.53) commodity. Consequently, every minute in which no money is earned is a wasted minute. Just like the monochronic countries, linear countries are inter alia Switzerland and Germany, for which timekeeping is a kind of religion. As indicated in Figure 1, in a culture with a linear time concept the past time is already over and therefore can no longer be influenced; the present time can still be seized and then parcelled in order to be able to make it suitable for the near future (Jaakkola, Kiyoki, Tokuda: 2008).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: Linear time model (Author ’ s own adopted by Jaakkola, Kiyoki, Tokuda: 2008)

Multi-active time cultures, such as most southern European, Arab or Latin cultures love doing many things contemporaneously. People from multi-active cultures do not show a lot of interest in scheduling their days, just as little as they are interested in punctuality (Lewis: 2006). Additionally, they are more likely to be impulsive, loquacious and emotional people who pay more attention to human relations and commiseration (Moran, Harris, Moran: 2007).

Historically, in some Asian cultures people neither adapted to the linear-active nor the multi-active time. Instead, they follow a cyclic concept of time (see Figure 2).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2: Cyclic time model (Author ’ s own adopted by Jaakkola, Kiyoki, Tokuda: 2008)

Time is “not racing away” (Krueger: 2005, p.8), it in fact comes around again. Specifically, the past is always current in the present. This can be made clear by comparing the cyclic time approach with the rising and setting of the sun; the four seasons; or the growing old and dying of people. People living in a culture observing the cyclic time are meant to be less disciplined if it comes to scheduling their future. This is simply because those people believe that things are not manageable and that people have an easier life if they harmonise with the cyclic events and laws of nature (Lewis: 2006). Although it appears that cyclic time has (in a European eye) only negative aspects, it needs to be stated that India, for example, would not have been able to preserve certain elements (e.g.) which otherwise would not exist anymore (Rapoport: 1980).

Further studies on time have been conducted by scientists such as Trompenaars and Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck. However, going deeper into their studies would go beyond the scope of this work.

3 Exposure to time in the German and the Turkish cultures

3.1 General Classification

This section incorporates comparisons between the German and Turkish exposure to time: these comparisons are based on the results of two surveys (Appendix 1 and 2). The surveys have mainly been carried out online to overcome distance barriers and facilitate speed and efficiency - wherefore social networks such as XING and facebook were utilised. Since not all age groups have Internet access direct questioning has additionally been undertaken. The respondent groups were demographically similar which allows direct comparisons (see Appendix 4). Consequently, the collected data only represents a small portion of the population - in order to receive more representative results people of all age groups, social classes and geographic areas need to be surveyed. Hence, the results cannot be applied to and generalised for the whole Turkish and German population.

Before going deeper into the analysis a general classification of Germany and Turkey is necessary: Germany, a land of invention, an economic and political powerhouse (Schulte-Peevers: 2010) is, according to Hall, a classic example of a highly monochromic culture; consequently it should be rather task-oriented, future-focused and follows a tight schedule (Ting-Toomey, Chung: 2005). Hofstede’s studies indicate that Germany is a rather short-term oriented culture (Fang: 2003). Turkey on the other hand, is with 98% of the population being Muslims (Bainbridge: 2009) probably the most untypical Islamic culture in the world (Ermagan: 2010). Many Turks worship Islam in a fairly laid-back way when it comes to religious practices and duties (Bainbridge: 2009). According to Hall, Turkey, unlike Germany, is a traditionally polychronic country, that prefers keeping things flexible, values relationships more than tasks and has the focus set on the past and present. Since Turkey is not included in Hofstede’s fifth dimension, Hall's categorisation will mainly be used when drawing comparisons between studies and the findings. Nevertheless, just for the sake of completeness Turkey is considered a short-term oriented culture (Hofstede: 2001). However, according to the GLOBE studies this has changed: Turkey has throughout the last decades gone through a drastic change of lifestyle, values and norms. These assumptions will be supported throughout the analysis.

3.2 Analysis and interpretation

When thinking of foreign cultures, everybody has an idea of the people, their habits and patterns. Those ideas are mainly based on experiences, reports and/or stereotypes, with stereotypes usually containing “a kernel of truth” (Stangor, Schaller: 1996, p.27). Thus, Germans are not only stereotyped to be extremely punctual, time- dominated and time-obsessed, they, according to Lewis, “are the most punctual of all peoples” (2006, p.225). Time is one principle of organising life and it is an essential part of the German culture. The polling institute tns emnid found out that most Germans will only accept a delay of a maximum of five minutes and the so-called “academic quarter of an hour” is only accepted by 36% of those interviewed (WELT ONLINE: 2010). The results of the current survey however contradict this finding: only 12.50% of the respondents think that somebody is late when he/she turns up 5 minutes late. In this context the following question comes up: What is punctuality?

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Figure 3: When do you think somebody is late?

Turks, in contrast, should not make a big deal if somebody shows up late - “Important people come late” (Hodge: 2000, p.70). Their interpretation varies from the one of the Germans: While 61.25% of the Turks see a delay of 15 minutes or more as unpunctual, only 50.00% of the Germans think that way. The previous graph shows that, in comparison to the Germans, Turks concede a larger time frame to punctuality. Consequently, what is still punctual for most Turks is not equally punctual for a German.

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Figure 4: How important is punctuality for you?

In Turkey, according to research, punctuality is designed to be very generous (Wilken: 2010; : 1997). According to Appl, Schmid, Koytek (2007) it generally is not too dramatic for a Turk to fail meeting a deadline. Since unforeseen circumstances may occur, which disturb the scheduling, it is nearly impossible to plan precisely. However, in business life Turks nowadays tend to be late less often and punctuality has become more important (Gannon, Pillai: 2010). The findings of the survey underline this assumption: 90% of the Turks see punctuality as an important or even a very important trait. In comparison, only 78.13% of the German respondents attach such importance to punctuality. Due to stereotypes and former studies one would have expected it the other way around. This switch might have taken place due to globalisation, accompanied by contacts with foreign business partners and company cultures, additionally to the aim of joining the EU (Appl, Schmid, Koytek: 2007). This aim led to a change within Turkish society. In order to fulfil the requirements to join the EU, Turkey has to become more ‘Western’. Especially the younger generation has realised that traits such as punctuality and reliability are basic requirements (Buzan, Diez: 1999). Nevertheless, it needs to be taken into consideration that, as already mentioned at an earlier stage, the definition of punctuality in Germany and Turkey differs. In addition, the answers and time specifications might have differed if the occasion (business meeting, interview, private appointment etc.) had been mentioned in the question.

But what are the reasons for people to either see punctuality as something important or completely irrelevant?

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Figure 5: Reasons for the importance of punctuality

It seems as Germans are punctual because they have inherited this pattern from their parents who themselves have inherited it from their parents. A German has to be punctual, especially when dealing with other Germans, because both sides purely expect it (Head: 2007). The findings show that the majority of the German respondents (55.63%) pay importance to punctuality because it is polite and shows respect. It is something that is taken for granted - one just is punctual. The amount of Turks giving politeness as a reason still made up 33.75%. The second most frequently mentioned Turkish reason is the loss of time and therefore loss of money, what leads to the question which culture upholds the saying ‘time is money’:


1 ‘Advice to a young tradesman’, anno 1748

2 GLOBE, short form for Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness is a research programme that extended and updated Hofstede’s work since 1993. It is, not like Hofstede’s snapshot survey, a “longitudinal study of leadership and organizational culture of 825 organizations located in 62 countries” (Buchanan, Huczynski: 2010, p.125) that includes nine dimensions: Assertiveness, Collectivism-group, Collectivism-societal, Future orientation, Gender, differentiation, Humane orientation, Performance orientation, Power distance and Uncertainty avoidance (Javidan, House: 2001).

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The Exposure to time in Turkey and Germany
Differences in the concept and valuation of time
The University of Surrey
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ISBN (Book)
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Time, Hofstede, Hall, Turkey, Germany, Exposure, Punctuality, Punctual, Culture, Differences, Concept, Tenure, Approach, Linear, Cyclic, GLOBE, short-term, long-term, multi-active, linear-active, multi
Quote paper
B.A. Corinna Colette Vellnagel (Author), 2011, The Exposure to time in Turkey and Germany , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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