The Millennial Experience in America and Asia

Millennials. In the past few months, I have repeatedly heard the hottest buzzword about the largest living generation in America. One day, when yet another potential client mentioned their target demographic being Millennials, I decided it’s time for some first-hand experience to better understand the most pursued target in the U.S. I technically fall into this demographic according to my age, but the results of this online quiz, How Millennial Are You?, suggests otherwise – because the life of an American Millennial is significantly different from an Asian one.

The journey to finding my own American Millennial life was bumpy at first. For example, downloading Snapchat and making a profile GIF that reminds you of portraits in the Harry Potter series, means very little when all my closest friends are dominantly using KakaoTalk, the No. 1 messenger app in Korea (Conan O’Brien recently mentioned on his show that Koreans use this messaging service to send over 55 billion messages a day). Other attempts were more natural and fun. Millennials are known to be the “do good for the world” generation, which of course I am totally on board with and I had a blast participating in our office’s efforts for Rural Dog Rescue!

It is also easy to understand many of the societal challenges that surround this generation, as they seem universal. Many Millennials in America, who are entering the workforce, struggle with student loans and high rent. Similarly, in Korea, we have newly coined terms such as ‘3 Po Generation (삼포세대)’ (young people who give up dating, marriage and having children due to social and financial challenges) or ‘880,000 Won Generation’ (representing those who suffer from high youth unemployment and only earn low incomes through contingent jobs). It is also a well-known fact that many youth in Japan are not dating, one of many reasons being financial.

So what’s there to know about this generation in Asia? See below for POVs from my fantastic Edelman colleagues. Note that the term Millennial is originally an American concept and may not be part of the everyday vocabulary for the general public, in which case Gen Y or post-80/90s (8090/8095後[后]) generation can be used.

  • Hong Kong: “Many in post-80s or post-90s generation like ‘buddy brands.’ They like brands that communicate like their peers. This can mean a brand can be friendly but occasionally sarcastic, make jokes or even have political opinions.”
  • China: “Our study shows that the No. 1 aspiration among Chinese 8095-ers is to experience different things as a young adult.”
  • Korea: “There are many contrasting opinions on the purchasing power of Gen Y in Korea. One might simply assume purchasing power would be high in a country that has been a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for 20 years, but Korea has suffered a prolonged state of low growth..”
  • Singapore: “You can’t paint any one generation with a brush. As a market in South East Asia, the biggest challenge is the difference between the larger, aging population and the younger, Millennial generation who are perceived to be less focused, less loyal, more self-entitled and more emotionally fragile. However, older generations said the same thing of hippies and of GenXers.”

It is exciting to be part of the demographic that will largely shape the future. The journey to finding my own American Millennial life will continue throughout my Fellowship. Stay tuned!

Alicia Kim is a Daniel J. Edelman Fellow from Edelman’s Seoul office, who is working in Washington D.C. You can follow her @Aliciakys.