By Karen Schofield
In the second article of this series, we focus on London – what it means to be British, the forces for change in the city, and what this means for London Millennials using the framework outlined in our previous article.
The Culture: What does it mean to be British?
The British are highly individualistic and private people. Children are taught from an early age to think for themselves and to find out what their purpose in life is; the route to happiness is often through personal fulfilment.
This is coupled with a general willingness to realise impulses and desires by enjoying life and having fun – hedonism is a very strong tradition in Britain even though its people are also known for being reserved.1 Brits place a high degree of importance on leisure time, act as they please and spend money as they wish.
They are also comfortable in ambiguous situations – the term ‘muddling through’ is a very British way of expressing this. There are generally not too many rules in British society, but those that are there are adhered to, the most famous of which is the British love of queuing which has also to do with strong values of ‘fair play’.2
Forces of Change
An Improving Economy
Low inflation, a rise in earnings and improving job security have all contributed to a sense of financial wellbeing and consumer confidence among British consumers, which has led to record growth in both overall and discretionary spending.
With a majority Conservative government voted in there is a sense of domestic stability. But this is tempered by concerns over the longer-term impact of spending cuts and vulnerability from global markets. With the memory of the recession fresh, consumers are living for today; enjoying spending while times are good.
Uncertainty Over Europe
Further instability looms around the planned EU Referendum; Britain seems split on whether to leave or stay put, and contrasting opinions are held by older generations and the young. For Millennials there’s nothing new about living in a racially, linguistically and religiously diverse society; they’re less concerned about immigration – one of the key motivations behind many people’s opposition to staying in the EU.
Remaining in the EU is relatively popular amongst those with higher education, whereas leaving is relatively popular amongst those without, reflecting important social divisions within Britain.3
Happiness Drivers: Invest in Wellness
Wellness to the London Millennial is now an all-pronged approach, including physical health, an active social life and spiritual wellbeing.4 Healthy choices are an opportunity to demonstrate self-expression, and there’s an aversion to boredom and having to compromise – new health fads seem to pop up monthly. Functional foods such as ‘green bowls’ and green smoothies are gaining popularity with the lean towards using natural products holding fast.
As London Millennials become increasingly connected by technology, a counter-desire is emerging: to switch off, and escape the demands of their devices. Meditation and mindfulness practices are growing in importance as Millennials search for ways to retreat, relax and grow.
Focus: Experiences, Not Things
For London Millennials, luxury is whatever happens to be scarce – today, that’s time, honesty, authenticity, wellness, and individuality.
Busy London Millennials realise that time is the scarcest resource they have, so aren’t spending precious time revisiting the same chain bar every weekend, which in the age of Instagram doesn’t make for the best backdrop. They’re more likely to want to tell others about something they’ve done rather than something they’ve got; a “unique, fleeting and personal” experience is the London Millennials’ ultimate bespoke status symbol.5
For them, a luxury is something that demonstrates not wealth and status, but their own uniqueness – their experiences, their ideas, and their story.
Success: More Than Just A Job
Hit hard by the recession, London Millennials are dealing with unemployment, low income and high student loans as they try to establish themselves. Yet despite a bleak outlook, they’re looking for more in life than just a job.
Spurred on by the belief that they can become whatever they want to be, and the desire to achieve their full potential, London Millennials want to do something that feels worthwhile. Entrepreneurial spirit is strong, with many choosing start-ups as employers in the confidence that a smaller business is better placed than a larger one to offer them the working conditions they want.6 Demand for co-working communities, luxury hostels and ultra-portable products is spiking as growing numbers of young workers swap the nine-to-five lifestyle for flexible, nomadic careers.7
Relationships: No Time To Date
With London one of the most competitive cities in the world, Millennials are often married to their work. Between squeezing in going to the gym, and seeking out great experiences, not much time is left for relationships. A generation of London Millennials are becoming perpetual singles, getting married later and divorced more, while increasingly busy lifestyles are leaving less time for meeting new people. And they rely on technology to fill the gap.
Time-saving app Tinder has become hugely popular. Quick and ‘natural’ (users ‘like’ people in the same way they would in a bar, on whether they find them attractive at first glance), Tinder is designed for mobile use on the go. It’s also integrated with users’ social media profiles, displaying mutual friends, recent photos and page likes so that common interests and personalities show through too.
World: Making A Difference
London Millennials have grown up with the sustainability agenda. They consider making a difference in the world as a given – both for their own behaviour and for the companies they interact with. They want to feel good about what they buy.
Moved by the global economic crisis, many more London Millennials think it’s important to give back compared to previous generations. They look for companies which aim for social and environmental value as well as business success and profit, and agree that it makes them happier, and develops work-related skills.8
There’s also a clear theme of openness and acceptance of diversity in race, gender and sexual orientation within this group – half of British Millennials don’t label themselves as completely heterosexual.9 Eccentricities, quirks and novel ideas are celebrated.
By Karen Schofield, Managing Director, Join The Dots Singapore
Appendix: End Notes