Are young, urban Vietnamese spending too much?

By Editorial   December 16, 2017 | 08:00 am GMT+7

Vietnamese Generation Z grew up during an economic boom; does it justify their 'urge to splurge'?

Young Vietnamese, especially those born from the mid-1990s, or Generation Z, prefer to spend rather than save, unlike their older generations who are known to be thrifty.

A recent poll of 16,000 respondents in Vietnam's three biggest cities - Hanoi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City - by Decision Lab showed that Vietnam's Generation Z, which accounts for 15 percent of a population of roughly 93 million, spend on average VND890,000 ($40) a month eating out.

The HCMC-based market research firm said 56 percent of respondents earned no money or made less than VND3 million ($132) per month, and only 35 percent of them made between VND3 million and VND7.5 million a month.

Fast food restaurants were the most frequented diners, making up 25 percent of the venues of choice, followed by roadside restaurants with 18 percent and convenience stores with 17 percent.

Bubble tea is the queen of drinks, compared to coffee and alcoholic drinks that were preferred by older generations.

In a recent interview with VnExpress International, a group of four 19-year olds who meet up everyday in cafés defended their lifestyle, saying in Hanoi where public spaces are scarce, it's the best way to maintain their friendship, which is "invaluable."

One member of the group, Trung Hieu, put it bluntly: “I don’t think bubble tea is expensive. I only need to work for two hours to pay for it.”

The older generations see it differently. To them, it's wasteful because a cup of bubble tea costs VND50,000-60,000, twice that of a typical office lunch.

Such contrast in perspectives could be explained by differences in the economic and social contexts of their upbringing. 

Those born from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, grew up in a transitionary period when traditional Confucian values still largely shaped lifestyles and moral standards. These were tough times economically and belt-tightening was part of life, even a worthy “trait”. This generation was also the first to access the internet and western cultures and ideals.

But those born from the mid 1990s onward have welcomed a strong cultural wave that carried the concepts of freedom, individuality and right to indulge along with an economic boom.

The "bubble tea" generation “feel they are part of this booming wealth, more so than in the earlier days of austerity,” said Phan Tuong Yen, a psychologist at Hoa Sen University in Ho Chi Minh City. “Therefore, the notion of freedom between these two generations somewhat differs, and so does the concept of cautious spending.”

Also, psychologist say teenagers and twenty-somethings have always wanted to prove themselves through talent, character or social status.

"A decade ago, hip hop, Converse shoes and smartphones were considered cool," said Yen. "Today, it’s the experience you get from fancy services."

But is Generation Z crossing the line of what is acceptable level of spending? Are they taking sufficient responsibility over how they spend their money?

Let us know by casting your vote and leaving a comment.

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