During an episode of the TED Radio Hour called The Money Paradox, I learned about a weird study conducted by Keith Chen; in his own words, this is what he discovered:
I find that languages that oblige speakers to grammatically separate the future from the present lead them to invest less in the future . . . speakers of such languages save less, retire with less wealth, smoke more, practice more unsafe sex and are more obese; surprisingly, this effect persists even after controlling for a speaker’s education, income, family structure and religion . . .
and so if you live in Germany, Finland or China than you save a hell of a lot more money than if you live in America or England or India or Greece, and while I find this disturbing-- that the grammar of your language can have such a large effect on your behavior-- it also makes perfect sense; I love talking about "Future Dave"-- this abstract guy who might do any number of things in some vague time far from now, but Future Dave never appears in my world, so Present Dave never meets him . . . Present Dave refers to him, but always in a compartmentalized future tense, such as "I wonder how Future Dave will feel about having a tattoo of a lizard ripping out of his skin?" but if Present Dave were speaking Chinese, instead of English, then he would say "I wonder how Future Dave feels about drinking a sixth shot of tequila?" and this blurring makes the future and the present more connected . . . I know I should be saving more for retirement, but I care a lot more about Present Dave than I care about Future Dave, so it's hard to get really amped for that guy (and perhaps this is why it's hard to get extremely indignant about the possibility that the pension fund I've been paying into my entire career might go bankrupt by the time I retire . . . because that's not going to affect me, it's going to affect some old crotchety dude with my same name and address, but he's a separate entity).