Throughout my travels to Europe, I have been trying to decipher the fundamental differences between urban youth there and in India. Just last evening at a bar in Helsinki in Finland, I bumpedinto an ethnographic researcher from whom I derived certain insights on the formation of Europe’s ’Modern Social Fabric’ that reaffirmed my observation that in almost every way, the two human sets are totally different species unlike compared to say a North America or the Far East. This has more to do with history than geography. In fact, I am exploring making this a chapter in my next book: ‘Species 1988′.
1. Relationships: A lot of my young friends in countries like Germany, Sweden, Austria and France often mock me when I talk about commitment, persevearance and loyalty when it comes to relationships (with partners, friends, colleagues and family). At first I thought, these are just a bunch of brash playboys – but a more indepth reasoning reveals that while they too hate frivolity at one level, practicality takes the front seat. They prefer to remain at the convergence of holding on and letting go – hence making it easier and quicker to decide. The average divorce rate in Finland is 50%! Young India on the other hand gives more importance to emotions, memories and wants to try preserve which is of course great but often becomes a bad practice when dealing with relations that are at its expiry date.
2. Ambition: Indian youth by far surpasses all benchmarks of ambition levels! We always seem to want more and more out of life. Whereas, the average youngster in Europe prefers to lead a less riskier life by following the routine of struggling through college, finding a good (and in today’s times – sustainable) job and shoveling snow out of the driveway! Of course they too have exceptions of some very successful achievers, but then outliers are born everywhere… Just a few months ago, I was at this session on the ‘Indian Jugaad’ for Scandinavian media entrepreneurs and it amazed them on how we had more stories about growth than survival (for every day, common people !). But another truth is that while in our learning system, it is ingrained right from the beginning about the merits of being first (by any means) - for them, it is mainly about substance. Most youngsters these days in Europe are choosing their line of work based on passion and interest rather than on what is the quickest option to make the million.
3. Adaptibility: The Europeans seem to be more resistant to change and prefer to conform to habit. Experimentation is not their favourite hobby. Interestingly, I first noticed this from their beer drinking habits - it has been the same brand since their first time. The bartender always hates it when I take five minutes to ponder over which brew to sample next… he tells me: ”You should know what you want, like everybody else does”. A more serious dig into this reveals that the same conformity is applied in their very way of life – working hours, scheduling, outlook towards work, building new relationships, adhering to rules etc. Whereas we Indians are always on the look out for new experiences, love to challenge norms and are open to anything that is new.
4. Spending: But obviously, the Europeans are more conservative with their cash outflow and one would think recession is the reason. However, this is untrue. Unlike the Americans for example, people from this land have always valued their wealth. When I say conservative - I do not imply in any way that they spend any less, rather they do so more wisely. They think through every major expense (even the ‘rich guys’) and will always ensure there is ample saving. In my opinion, modern young indians are somewhere in between the American impulse and the European caution if one were to average the spending habits of urban 18 to 24-year-olds.