In recent years, newly wealthy Chinese have become known around the world for their serious appetite for luxury goods. Although it may be a stereotype, it’s not wholly inaccurate — Chinese travellers reportedly spent upwards of $8.5 billion on luxury goods overseas in January 2013 alone, according to CNBC.
But it seems that many well-to-do Chinese are unhappy with this image. According to Agence France Presse, dozens of wealthy Chinese women have been signing up for 2-week courses held at Institute Sarita in Beijing, a high-end finishing school that aims to teach China’s nouveau riche the rules of high-class etiquette. The 10-day, 90-hour course is taught in a luxury hotel and can cost a whopping 100,000 yuan, or about $16,000. Private lessons are also available for an undisclosed price.
The Institute opened in March and was founded by Sara Jane Ho, a 27-year-old Hong Kong native and Harvard Business School Graduate who speaks five languages and who attended the Institut Villa Pierrefeu, a famed Swiss finishing school. Her students are, for the most part, wealthy women in their 40s who have benefited greatly from China’s economic growth in recent decades.
Students tour art galleries, learn to dress with elegance, and practice “elite” sports like golf and riding. They also spend a lot of time at the table — Ho recruited a chef straight from the French embassy, and students learn silverware placement, table decoration, and how to appropriately eat potentially tricky foods like escargot at a Western-style meal.
But while they learn mostly “teachable” skills — advanced table manners, appropriate posture, and how to correctly pronounce designer brand names — they also leave with newly-imbued non-teachables, namely a sense of confidence and poise, AFP writes.
“They recognise that being viewed as ‘nouveau riche’ makes them vulnerable to popular criticism,” said Harvard sociologist Martin Whyte in an email to AFP. “They feel a need to demonstrate to the world that they are not just crude money-grubbing upstarts, but have some cultural refinement and civility.”
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