Cross-Cultural Engagement: Flexible vs. Linear view of Time

Flexible vs. Linear View of Time

According to GlobeSmart, “Guatemalans have a flexible view of time; relationships may be prioritized over schedules and deadlines. For example, it may be considered rude to cut short a meeting or conversation even if it means being late to the next appointment.”[1] Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (2012) in When Helping Hurts furthers this view of time by describing time as viewed as “a somewhat unlimited resource. There is always more time…Tasks typically take a backseat to forming and deepening relationships.”[2] This flexible view of time confirms the importance placed on relationships in collectivist cultures. While it can be a source of frustration for those who operate in a linear view of time, it should serve as an early warning sign that the core values of the culture are different. On the other hand, the United States views time very differently, and many see time usage as an opportunity for efficiency. Corbett and Fikkert (2012) write that time is seen as “a limited and valuable resource. Time can be lost or saved. Good stewardship of time means getting the most out of every minute.”[3] It is important to note this difference, as there can be underlying assumptions of work ethic and efficiency applied to either culture based on their view of time, when in actuality the view of time is indicative of a culture’s view of relationships and the value of community rather than their work standards. Working across differing views of time requires flexibility and fluidity of schedule and task list in favor of deepening relationships.

[1] GlobeSmart., “Core Values and Implications for Business.”

[2] Corbett, Steve and Brian Fikkert. When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2012, 153.

[3] Corbett and Fikkert. When Helping Hurts, 152-153.


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