The Dimension of Long Term Orientation

Long and short term orientation are opposite poles of the dimension of Long Term Orientation:

Long Term Orientation stands for the fostering of virtues orientated toward future rewards, in particular perseverance and thrift[1].

Short Term Orientation stands for the fostering of virtues related to the past and the present, in particular respect for tradition, preservation of “face” (respect and honour) and fulfilling social obligations.

This dimension is a strong factor in the oriental, Far Eastern cultures and is reflected in Confucian philosophy but it shows itself quite strongly in other cultures too.

Long Term Oriented Cultures

In Long Term Orientated cultures the family is very important. There are strong “senior/junior” relationships based on mutual obligation e.g. father-son, ruler-subject. Virtue is based on the “Golden Rule”: treating others as one would like to be treated.  The acquisition of education and skill, diligence, hard work, thrift and perseverance are also important characteristics. Interestingly this culture seems conducive to excellent mathematical and science skills.

Short Term Oriented Cultures

The family is less important in Short Term Orientated cultures but serving others is important. There is a desire for quick results and there is a strong social pressure towards spending money now as opposed to being thrifty and prudent. There is typically pride in one’s country and family and tradition is important. Face, i.e. the respect and honour of others, is important. Interestingly mathematical and science skills are weaker.

Cultural Contrasts

Short-Term Orientation

Long Term Orientation

There is social pressure towards spending and producing quick results. Thrift and careful use of resources are key alongside sustained and persistent work towards slow results.
Social status and obligations are important and “face” (respect and honour amongst others) is also important. People are willing to subjugate themselves for a purpose. There is a sense of shame instead of face.
Respect for tradition. Respect for circumstances.
Living with in-laws is trouble. Living with in-laws is normal.
Only women have to be humble. Humility is for both men and women.
Main work values include freedom, rights, achievement and thinking for oneself. It’s important to have leisure time. Main work values include learning, honesty, adaptiveness, accountability, self-discipline. Leisure time is unimportant.
Meritocracy with rewards according to ability. It is undesirable to have wide social and economic differences.
People are concerned with possessing the truth and there are universal guidelines to define good and evil. People are concerned to respect the demands of virtue and what is good and evil depend upon the circumstances.
Truth is mutually exclusive so a truth and its opposite cannot be true. A truth and its opposite can simultaneously both be true.
Matter and spirit are separated. Matter and spirit are integrated.
Analytical thinking. Synthetic thinking.


Rankings and Comparisons

The country with the strongest Long Term Orientation is South Korea[2] and the country with the strongest Short Term orientation is Puerto Rico. Taiwan, Japan and China head the Long-term orientation after South Korea. Russia and the ex-Soviet countries occupy the strong Long Term Orientation half of the rankings. South America , the Middle East, Arab countries and Africa occupy the less Long Term Orientated half of the table and Europe, Scandinavia and the English speaking world are spread throughout the stronger two thirds of the rankings. Interestingly Great Britain and the USA, normal very close together are well separated being 41st and 71st out of 93 countries respectively.


  • Take a Moment: Considering the national culture to which you belong:
    • Where do you feel that it fits with the cultural dimension of Long Term Orientation?
    • How well or not does your nation’s culture fit what the Bible has to say on the issues concerned with the dimension of Long Term Orientation?
    • In this light, what are the challenges of being a Christ-centred servant leader in your country’s culture?

Kingdom Perspectives

Plainly the Kingdom of God has the ultimate long term perspective because it is dealing with the infinite eternity of God (Romans 16:25-27) and from the spiritual perspective of man’s eternal destiny (Matthew 25:46). Paul commends the Thessalonians for having this eternal perspective as they await the Lord’s return (1 Thessalonians 1: 9&10).

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

However, in Matthew 6:34 Jesus counsels that we should not be worried about tomorrow (longert term things) because the troubles of today are enough.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:34

As we have already examined regarding the masculinity/femininity dimension, because agape-love is at its root, the Kingdom is strong on service and care for others which is a characteristic of the Short Term pole of this dimension.

Thrift and prudence are characteristics that belong to the Long Term side of the equation. This has certain echoes in the Bible. For instance in 2 Corinthians 12:14 Paul refers to the responsibility for parents to save up for their children and not the other way round. In 1 Corinthians 16:2 he speaks of saving up money to give as aid to others outside of the immediate community. He also encourages Christians to work (especially those who previously stole) to save up in order to share with others. (Ephesian 4:28). Proverbs 21:20 is also an injunction to use ones resources wisely and not waste them and in Proverbs 6:6-8 the ant is cited as an example of prudence and industry.

Thus we see in the Kingdom culture a mix of characteristics belonging to both Long Term and Short Term Orientations. So we can conclude that whilst this dimension may reflect things from the Kingdom it is not aligned with Kingdom values.

The Dimension of Indulgence

This dimension was derived from the quest to understand why some nationalities seem subjectively happier than others and it focuses on the degree to which cultures gratify behaviours which are perceived to be reflected in the subjective sense of happiness.  The two poles of the dimension, Indulgence and Restraint, are defined as follows:

Indulgence stands for a tendency to allow relatively free gratification of basic and natural human desires related to enjoying life and having fun.

Restraint reflects a conviction that such gratification needs to be curbed and regulated by strict social norms.

In essence this dimension is about the degree to which people in a nation, feel that they can act as they please; spending money and engaging in leisurely fun pursuits and this resulting in subjective happiness. In opposition to this is the sense that such free and unstrained behaviour is wrong and needs to be restrained.  Indulgence is equated with gratifying desires and thus enjoying life resulting in subjective happiness not simply gratifying human desires.

Indulgent Cultures

The Indulgent culture claims a higher number of people who subjectively feel that they are happy and have sense of control over their lives, have lots of leisure time and feel that friends are important and thrift is not. There is more participation in sport. These cultures are more positive and optimistic and also feel healthier (even if they are not) and are notable for lower levels of cardiovascular disease. They tend to lack moral discipline and have less strict sexual norms.

Restrained Cultures

The Restrained cultures have lower percentages of subjectively happy people. They tend to lack a sense of control over life and with that have a higher sense of helplessness. They are more pessimistic, friends are less important and thrift is more important, and there is less participation in sport. Fewer people feel healthy (if even if they are) and the levels of cardiovascular disease are higher. There are higher degrees of moral discipline and stricter sexual norms.

Cultural Contrasts



There are higher percentages of very happy people. There are lower percentages of very happy people.
People possesses a sense of being in control of one’s life, leisure and friends are important, thrift is not. Active involvement in sport. There is a sense of lack of control and helplessness, leisure and friends are less important, thrift is important. People are rarely involved in sports.
People are more likely to remember positive emotions and have a positive attitude and optimism. People are  less likely to remember positive emotions and be cynical and more pessimitic.
There are more extroverted personalities. There are more neurotic personalities.
Generally there is a positive attitude. People tend to be more cynical.
There is less moral discipline. There is moral discipline.
More people feel healthy and there are lower cardiovascular disease related death rates. Fewer people feel healthy and there are higher cardiovascular disease related death rates.
Higher birth rates in countries with well-educated populations. Lower birth rates in countries with well-educated populations.
Higher levels of approval of foreign music and films. Lower levels of approval of foreign music and films.
People enjoy a more satisfying family life. Family life is less satisfying.
Partners should share household tasks. Unequal sharing of household tasks.
Less fish is consumed but more beer and soft drinks are consumed. More fish is consumed but less beer and soft drinks are consumed.
There is a higher percentage of obesity in wealthy countries. There is a lower percentage of obesity in wealthy countries.
Loosely prescribed gender roles and less strict sexual norms in wealthy countries. Tightly prescribed gender roles. Stricter sexual norms in wealthy countries.
Freedom of speech is relatively important and maintaining order is not a high priority. Lower number of policeman as a percentage of population. Freedom of speech is not a primary concern and maintaining order is a high priority. Higher number of policeman as a percentage of population.
Smiling is the norm. Smiling is suspect.


Rankings and Comparisons

On the Indulgence v Restraint dimension the most indulgent and least restrained country is Venzuela followed by Mexico, Puerto Rico and then El Salvador and Nigeria.  The most restrained and least indulgent countries are Pakistan and Egypt with the Baltic States and ex-communist Central Europe and Russia and Iraq, Honk Kong and Bangladesh close by. All of the ex-Soviet states in the survey are in the lower two thirds tending to Restraint. Africa, Middle East and Arab countries are spread throughout the range with Saudi Arabia in the middle. The majority of the English speaking countries and Europe are in the more indulgent half of the rankings. Sweden is the most indulgent and Great Britain is more indulgent that the USA, which is about in the centre of this cluster.

Those who have sought to study subjective happiness directly have discovered that by their measures, the happiest countries (those with the highest percentage of happy respondents) tend to be amongst the least wealthy. They are Nigeria, Ghana, Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela.


  • Take a Moment: Considering the national culture to which you belong:
    • Where do you feel that it fits with the cultural dimension of Indulgence versus Restraint?
    • How well or not does your nation’s culture fit what the Bible has to say on the issues concerned with the dimension of Indulgence versus Restraint?
    • In this light, what are the challenges of being a Christ-centred servant leader in your country’s culture?

Kingdom Perspectives

At first sight the Christian may align with the Restraint end of the dimension because the latitudes of indulgence are obviously about self and are allied with lack of moral discipline. In this light restraint seems more virtuous. However, from on reflection it can be seen that it is equally indulgent to simply engage in the “negative virtues” of restraint. The Bible shows us that feeling pessimistic, lacking joy unduly and living with anxiety and a legalistic outlook are as much indulgences of the flesh as immorality.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Ephesians 2:1-3

In Ephesians 2:3 Paul describes the world as indulging the passions of the flesh, the desires of the body and the mind, reminding his readers that before they were Christians they once lived that way, but no more.

The worldly implication of Restraint is the application of moral codes but Paul teaches that as Christians we are not be controlled by law and such codes because righteousness cannot come through adherence to them (Galatians 2:20&21). In fact adherence to rules is as much of the flesh as is indulgence.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Galatians 2:20-21

The Bible’s teaching is that we exchange the deluded ways of the world for something entirely different, not simply restrain them. It is a positive, not negative exchange that works on a completely different plane to that of indulgence and restraint, namely that of living by faith and grace. In doing so we embark on an entirely new and different way, leaving behind the ways of the former life; it being transformed into Christ-likeness which centres us on Godliness and honouring God (Ephesians 4:17-23)

But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:20-24

In Ephesians 4:16-24 Paul teaches that it is the Holy Spirit who transforms our characters so that they are reformed to be Christ-like and holy. In this case neither conforming to the world’s indulgence nor its forms of restraints; both are of the former life and are thus corrupt.

It is the positive action of the Holy Spirit, not the negative action of rules and laws that leads us to behaviour that honours God, neither indulging nor being restrained in terms of the cultural dimension in question. The Holy Spirit leads us to delight in things which honour God, which is an entirely positive motive quite contrary to both these ideas of indulgence and restraint.

The Kingdom counterpart to the worldly search for happiness is joy and ironically this is not about whether we indulge ourselves. Paul writes to the Romans “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17) Rather it is about seeking God’s kingdom which requires sacrifice but results in joy. As we saw, Jesus teaches this in the parables of the hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great of Price (Matthew 13:44-45).His challenge is “Seek first the Kingdom…..”

Closing Reflections

  • Take a Moment: Review what you have discovered in this module.
    • What are the key take home points for you?
    • Compare the view you now have of your national culture with what you noted in the first exercise of this lesson.
    • How do your own overall cultural beliefs, values and attitudes compare to what you have seen about the Kingdom of God?
    • Considering the Ladder of Inference, how do your cultural beliefs, values and attitudes cause you to react and respond to the situations that you face each day?
    • How will you apply what you have learned to your daily leadership situation?


[1] The quality of using money and other resources carefully and not wastefully OED

[2] Consider the sinking of the ferry in South Korea – April 1014 – which involved more than 300 students from one school, most of whom tragically died.  The Korean captain of the ferry, who left the vessel, was widely reported as saying he felt “deeply ashamed”. See Long Term Orientation characteristics.