A study claims that European youngsters are a cynical lot and that alcohol is one of their few pleasures, reports David Short
Generation X drinks to a bleak future
YOUNG people in Europe are the most pessimistic in the world. Faced with a bleak economic outlook, for the first time in history they do not believe that their lives will be better than those of their parents. As a result, they are rejecting the work ethic. Nor are they prepared to take to the streets and protest. Unlike their baby-boomer parents, they reject rebellion. Those are some of the results of a world-wide study into the views and habits of the 20 to 35-year-olds who make up the so-called Generation X. The study was conducted by the London-based group Research International. The cynicism and resignation of Europe's Generation X set them apart from the rest of the world, but in other areas they express the same tastes and attitudes as their counterparts on other continents.
Generation X around the world wear Gap T-shirts, Levi jeans and Nike or Reebok trainers. They pamper themselves with products from Body Shop or Clinique. They may get drunk, but they don't smoke. And against all the assumptions of experts, they are simply not interested in the Internet.
Martine Thiesse, Research International Qualitative's group director in Paris, commented: "Young people in Europe are essentially more realistic. They are coming to terms with economic reality. But they are not complaining; instead they are simply digesting the whole bitter message."
Reduced expectations mean that young Europeans are not behaving as young people normally do. Thiesse said: "They have kind of given up traditional young values. They don't show the `want-it-now' mentality. They accept
postponement of desires and accept that what they have now is ephemeral -; work, money, even relationships." The trend is strongest in northern Europe, particularly in Germany, which Thiesse described as "a very resigned country". If that attitude prevails, the European economy could fall behind the rest of the world where young people have not given up.
"The `want-it-now' mentality is stronger elsewhere in the world, especially in America," said Thiesse. "Outside Europe, a balanced life means having the best of both worlds. For young Europeans, it means trading down, that work is not everything. They are not going to work hard because of the new economic reality."
By contrast, young people in emerging markets showed great enthusiasm and were keen to get a good education.
One Swedish expert questioned said: "Young adults today are not prepared to work hard and have a rough time and get a heart attack at 35." An Italian commentator concluded: "Their passwords are disengagement, cynicism,
Europe's Generation X do not rebel against their parents. "Rebellion is a thing of the past for young Europeans," said Thiesse. That must puzzle those parents -; the baby boom generation born after the Second World War -; for whom protests and demonstrations in the 1960s and 1970s over issues such as the atomic bomb and the war in Vietnam were the highlights of their youth.
Whereas once the world's youth was united in a naive but well-intentioned wish for peace and love, the study found that today "young adults around the world are united by an underlying desire for conformity". Financial security emerged as the key aim among young adults globally. The report discovered that young people do have a "greater social consciousness" but that they will not take any form of direct action. [...]
Generation X "is a generation without strong ideals or stable points of reference. They face an unclear future and are preoccupied with achieving financial security in an uncertain economic climate. In communications with this generation, entertainment is a prerequisite for success". One completely mistaken belief was "the assumed enthusiasm to join the world of the Internet and virtual reality" which was "not borne out by young adults themselves".
Instead they expressed little active interest in computers or the Internet. They viewed computers at best as work machines with little relevance to personal life and at worst as "toys" for teenagers. [...]
Companies which succeed in reaching and selling to young adults tend to have "brands with attitude". There are themes in advertising and marketing which work globally. First they use "approaches which engage". The study found that "advertising which acknowledges current feelings of confusion, stress and cynicism which young people experience, or reflects their sense of living in a crazy world, generates strong identification". [...]
Advertising which pricks a social con-science also works with Generation X. The controversial Benetton press and poster ads were sometimes viewed favourably for that reason. [...]
Getting advertising messages -; good or bad -; across to Generation X can be difficult be-cause they are less attracted to television or newspapers than their parents. The quality of TV programming was criticised, but "TV ad-vertisements remain the most powerful and well recalled by this generation". That is partly because newspaper reader-ship among the generation is declining. The study found that "few under-25s read daily newspapers with any regularity". [...]
There is one aspect of youth that has not changed -; even among today's docile Generation X. They drink. Alcohol was widely accepted as a "social lubricant" for a generation which remains socially-oriented, with beer being the universal beverage of youth, and vodka such as Absolut and Smirnoff being the spirit of choice. One Czech said: "Drinking alcoholic drinks belongs to our life. It is an inseparable attribute of this society." Something has to cheer up such a gloomy generation.