A study by French market research firm Ipsos recently suggested that Chinese consumers are the most materialistic across the 20 countries the survey covered.
As many of you know, I am a market researcher by profession so I think it’s important to point out some potential flaws with the study. Firstly it’s very hard to compare responses across different cultures – in Britain, most people would hesitate to admit that possessions were important in the same way they’d worry about admitting they didn’t like certain races of people. In China, both examples would be less of an issue – certainly admitting you hate Japanese people is to be encouraged!
And then of course you have bias simply by doing this type of survey online – you’re automatically excluding people who don’t have internet access which tends to include those on low incomes.
Nevertheless, I personally have been irritated by a lot of nouveau riche Chinese (some known to me, some not) who seem to feel a strong need to flaunt their wealth as much as possible at every opportunity.
My mother has recently met a wealthy couple from China and they are a good example – the woman enjoys making sure everyone knows how much each of her Hermes handbags cost (she has identical bags in a variety of colours). And I have numerous friends who spend most of each day posting photos of themselves shopping at Cartier and Tiffany and dining at fine dining establishments, not as most people might do as an occasional treat, but as a daily routine.
And then of course there are the Chinese tourists who work themselves up in to a frenzy when they travel to places like Europe and north America to shop for luxury brands, grabbing everything in sight as though they were giving them away for free!
So, are Chinese really more materialistic than everyone else, or are the nouveau riche simply behaving as nouveau riche as someone wrote in the comments section of the article?