Trend Alert: Sang culture

Trend Alert introduces you to the latest brands, products and services that are trending with 16-24s.

In the western world, the most common insight we hear about China is that it’s the future business leader, and we should probably all be learning Mandarin if we want to prosper in the decades to come. This suggests that China is a great place to be a young person entering the workforce in the 21st century. However, a growing trend known as “sang culture” reveals that the experience of the Chinese Millennial is not so different to their counterparts in countries like the UK and US.

Just like Western Millennials, the Chinese “post-1990s” generation are facing economic uncertainty due to tough competition for jobs and are feeling disenchanted with society as they’re stuck with uninspiring career options. With the percentage of young people in China attending university increasing, a good education no longer guarantees a stable career or high paid job. Also, as many Chinese students spend time studying abroad in Western countries, they are confronted with cultural differences that highlight their lack of choice and freedom in their career decisions when they return home.

Chinese Millennials use local social media platforms such as Weibo to express their feelings of despondency, known as “sang” (named after the Chinese character meaning “funeral”). The content they post has an ironic sense of humour, and often features pop culture references and emojis, very similar to the relatable memes shared among western Millennials. Common themes are the inability to buy a home, and the pressure to succeed that they feel from their family and society. The trend has also reached the physical world, most notably with Sung Tea, a popular cafe chain selling products with names like ‘Achieve absolutely nothing’ and ‘My ex’s life is better than mine.’

Embracing negativity is cathartic for Millennials in China. “I’m already hopeless, so in a way, it makes things easier,” said a Sung Tea customer in a recent report (above). Sang humour brings a lightness to help them get through the day, but it also reassures them that they are not the only ones feeling this way, just as relatable memes on Instagram and Tumblr make young westerners feel less alone.

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