On Yuppies, Nouveaux Riches
09 Jan 2006
How are American yuppies different from (Shanghainese) Chinese yuppies? This is a question I discussed with a Shanghainese friend recently.
I have to admit, I feel pretty unqualified to describe the modern American yuppy, since I’ve been living outside of the United States for so long. For example, in the year 2000, I might have put “talking on a cell phone wherever they go” in the list of yuppy behavior in Florida, but now that cell phones are so widespread, that just seems silly. Still, we were able to list just a few contrastive characteristics of both breeds of yuppy.
The American yuppy:
– has a big house in a gated community in the suburbs
– drives luxury sedans and (luxury) SUVs
The Shanghai yuppy:
– owns a home not far from the city center, lavishly decorated in a certain (quasi-European) style which includes certain ubiquitous features such as a prominently placed large-screen TV
– owns a car
What other contrastive features are there? I don’t normally pay a lot of attention to this kind of thing.
Aside from income level, what is the difference between the Chinese nouveau riche (暴发户) and the Chinese yuppy (雅皮士)? My friend replied that the stereotypical Chinese yuppy is interested in art, although he doesn’t really know what fine art is. The nouveau riche is not even interested. The yuppy tries to cultivate a style by carefully choosing fashionable brands based on a variety of sources of information, whereas the nouveau riche blindly buys whatever expensive brands he thinks are famous (such as Louis Vuitton). I think these kinds of differences are pretty obvious, but what I find interesting are specific examples. For example, do Shanghai yuppies eat at Pizza Hut, whereas Shanghai nouveau riches prefer super expensive Chinese food?
I’ll admit I don’t know a lot about all this, so I guess the main aim of this post is to elicit reader responses. Let me know what you think.
– TIME Asia: China’s Bouveau-Riche (photo essay)
– TIME Asia: Wretched Excess
– ESWN: The Most Popular Forum Post Ever In China (focuses on the Chinese nouveau riche)
– China Daily: Nouveaux riches challenge one-child policy
– World Watch: China’s Affluent Entering “Enjoy Now” Phase of Consumption