It’s becoming increasingly common for upper-middle class
Chinese millennials to study abroad in the U.S.
At nearly 200,000 undergrads, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, they’re blowing away the rest of the world in packing American universities.
And if and when they return to China, they’re bringing America back with them.
We spoke with two young professional Chinese, Alice Zhang and Jun Chu, both in their 20s, to talk about how American habits are beginning to infiltrate the upper end of Chinese youth culture.
Here’s what they told us:
Jun: “A huge and still growing coffee culture. Chinese people loved tea and we consumed a lot of tea. Now the younger generations are hooked on coffee! There are Starbucks everywhere (and boy are they expensive! A grande latte is 33 kuai I believe, which translates to 5 bucks! that might be cheap for Americans – or not – but average Chinese pay is still at developing-world standards.
“In addition to Starbucks, all sorts of coffee chains, Costa Coffee, Pacific Company (from Hong Kong) are all present. Similarly, young people love western food, from pizza to burgers to pasta to sandwiches, etc. Traditional Chinese go get dim sum on the weekend, now I see a brunch culture. But that could be because of I am in the middle of a yuppy crowd.”
Jun: “Traditionally we want girls to have fair skin, as pale as possible, and as skinny and fragile as possible. Now there are actually women who prefer to look tanned, to have some lean muscles. There’s a Chinese term for this kind of beauties – 美黑 (pronounced as meihei, or dark beauty).”
Jun: “I work in an American firm with American bosses. I also work at a public affairs consultancy so it is a fast-paced industry/office– so I may be biased. I’ve heard in state-owned enterprises people are still very conservative, group-thinkers, and slow. But my Chinese colleagues are not afraid of expressing themselves, they are more independent thinkers. Instead of shying away, they know the work place (and our generation) is more competitive and they need to be more aggressive and speak up. Note that 90% of my colleagues have overseas education experience or have worked in foreign companies before. So I consider it a western influence.”
Unnecessarily high-end food and designer furniture
Alice: “Shopping in Ikea with DIY concept, and buying organic food in high end supermarket or getting them from specialised stores. People who studied abroad before sort of bring back or keep these lifestyle they had when they were abroad.”
Transparency at work
Alice: “Emphasis on more on fair and transparent working environment. The promotion standards are more transparent these days. Care more for the long term career development. A relatively clear career path is usually laid out when firms try to recruit people.”
Alice: “…Esp. among young working population. They’ll go to exotic places like Nepal for backpacking hiking, or snorkelling in Malaysia islands. It was very rare in the past. For my parents’ generation, they didn’t travel that much. And even they did, it was very typical sightseeing and photo taking type.”
“Traditional Chinese go get dim sum on the weekend, now I see a brunch culture…brunch is more popular among the yuppy urban Chinese. It’s not that ridiculous as it is in NYC. I think it is quite expensive for the Chinese standard. Typically $US20.00. But again, I am talking about a small yuppy hipster Chinese. A lot of ordinary Chinese people don’t do brunch still…. One does see long lines outside certain places.”