I have recently made a new friend here in China. He is 22 years old which means he was born in 1983. According to Neil Howe and William Strauss of Millennials Rising this makes him one of the first of the next generation here in China. He is a real estate agent who came back to Shanghai after spending two years at university in London. He speaks perfect British English and has a great sense of humor.
He tots around with him his Nokia 6680. Which comes complete with an English-Chinese dictionary so he can easily translate words he does not know. We’ve gone out to dinner a couple of times and his phone is his life line. I find our conversations fascinating in that at any moment we could be interrupted by his cell phone. He is polite and puts it on vibrate, and he always says excuse me before answering it. But during an hour dinner the other night (at a traditional Chinese hot pot restaurant) he made or received 5 calls and at least 3 SMS messages. From what I gather this is how Chinese Millennials operate. It’s not rude to answer your cell or text someone in the middle of dinner. Answering your phone in the middle of a conversation is perfectly normal.
This is how Millenials communicate, they live in a world where they are constantly connected. I was giving a presentation earlier today to parents and during the presentation 3 different cell phones rang. These are not Millennials, but parents of Millennials. How long before we accept that cell phones going off or people getting up and leaving to answer their phone or make a call is just part of a conversation. How many Millennials actually turn off their cell phones during school? Without checking how would you know? My friend keeps his phone on vibrate all the time and is so tuned into it that half the time I swear he answers it before it vibrates. The Nokia 6680 is a PDA/Camera/Phone combo. He showed me a picture of his girlfriend, scheduled an apartment viewing for the next day, and had a wonderful dinner all at the same time. I’m not saying you shouldn’t turn your cell phone off ever. Of course there are still times, like during a movie, that you always make sure your phone is on vibrate at the very least. Maybe it’s a cultural thing. I haven’t been in the US since last July, but the Millennial generation here in China is truly a connected generation.
Update: On CCTV9 China’s International news channel this morning. China Telecom is cutting the price of incoming calls to .02RMB/minute (that’s .0025 USD). At the same time the cell phone companies have slashed cell phone prices by 20% to increase sells.