Risky Business

Chris Taylor

With the recent collapse of the Asian economy, you’d think Eastern investors would take it easy on spending for a while. But studies show that the Chinese take risks far more than the average American–and thanks to advice from traditional proverbs, that’s likely to continue.

Ohio State University professor Elke Weber, Ph.D., who studied the differences between American and Chinese proverbs, found that financial risk-taking is in grained in Chinese expressions, while American sayings urge you to hoard your pennies. For example. “`At a good bargain, think twice’: that’s pretty risk-averse,” says Weber, who had language experts sift through thousands of expressions to determine what proverbs, myths and rhymes tell us about a culture’s economic values. “A Chinese one might be, `Seize an opportunity and make good use of it.'”

Weber says the difference in folklore has little to do with Asia’s torrid economy and everything to do with long-standing cultural norms. A traditional familial “safety net” in Chinese culture means that financial gambles won’t land you in the poorhouse. “But in an individualist culture like ours, you don’t have that,” she says. “Something bad happens, and you’re stuck with it.”

COPYRIGHT 1999 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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