Chinese people living temporarily in Britain are less happy about swapping their noodles for a jacket potato than their British counterparts living in China are about swapping their steak and chips for spring rolls and bao, a new study suggests.
The study from researchers at Brunel University London investigated whether British sojourners – people who live temporarily away from their home, such as students and expats – embraced aspects of Chinese culture such as food and the media during their time there.
They found that British sojourners, which differ from ‘migrants’ due to their planned stay being non-permanent, had an ‘integrative approach to food consumption,’ during their time in China, in contrast to previous studies which demonstrated that Chinese sojourners tend not to embrace the local cuisine during their stay in the UK.
“Chinese people value food a lot more and this emphasis on food has become an important element of the Chinese culture,” said Dr Dorothy Yen, a Reader in Marketing at Brunel, who co-led the study.
“For Chinese people, food resembles their cultural pride. Hence, when Chinese sojourners come to the UK, they are less willing to embrace UK food and give away their cultural pride.”
Dr Yen suggested that one reason for British sojourners’ enthusiastic embracing of Chinese food is that for the British, drink is far more important to someone’s cultural identity than food is.
“British people are much more enthusiastic about our drinks than our food. Food is important but it is not the “one thing” that makes us proud of being British – queuing is!” said Dr Yen, who published her study in the journal International Marketing Review. “For most British people, Chinese food is not really alien, thanks to the many Chinese takeaways available.
“Many British sojourners grow up with Chinese food as an avid and familiar consumption choice that they were accustomed to in the UK.”
One aspect of Chinese life the study found that Britons fail to embrace though is the media, as they remain suspicious of its message.
“The Chinese media are very much controlled and sanitised by the government,” said Dr Yen. “This is very much against British values, as one of the key values in Britain is the freedom of speech. This explains why when British sojourners use media, they are using it for functional purposes only – for example, finding out about the local weather or traffic regulations.
“As soon as an alternative is available, they are quite happy to give up on the Chinese media.”
The study was carried out on 18 British nationals who were in China recently or who had relocated back to the UK from China in the past three months and each was interviewed for approximately 2 hours on their food and media tastes.
Tim Pilgrim, Media Relations
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