Over the past year, tons of my Asian friends in Australia, Singapore and Malaysia graduated from university. Along with this, I noticed tons of “graduation trip” photos – photos of my friends striking poses in scenic countrysides, photos of mouth-watering exotic cuisine – popping up on my Facebook news feed. And this actually points towards changing Asian attitudes and culture in society today.
A graduation trip is typically a trip overseas, a reward for studying hard and finally finishing university. A decade ago, graduation trips were not all the rage. For many Asians then, post-uni life meant jumping straight into the workforce or hunkering down and finding a job that pays decently and is well-respected by the Asian parents.
Today, graduation trips are the norm for young university graduates, akin to a rite of passage before entering the workforce. I have never been on one, but judging from the photos my Asian friends post on Facebook, these trips look fun.
All my friends look so smiley in their photos, taking in foreign sights and sounds. The stereotype that Asians are hard-core studious and do not know how to tear themselves away from the books and unwind goes right out the window.
There is much yearning and desire among my Asian friends to go on graduation trips, so much so that they carefully take the time to plan what they want to see and do on these trips right down to every detail. They brag about this and countdown the days until they get on a plane on their Facebook status updates. But this shows just how carefree and driven Asians can be; Asians do desire to brazenly explore new places and see parts of the world they have never seen before, shadowing the stereotype that Asians are timid, passive and live within isolated enclaves amongst their own race.
Asian parents seem to be on the extremely encouraging end towards graduation trips, persistently persuading their kids to go on one. Which is rather ironic given that older generation Asians frequently abide by traditional Asian values and are strict in the sense that they prefer their children to stay home and work hard for money to support their families.
In other words, older generation Asians appear to have a changing mindset. Perhaps they are becoming more relaxed and open-minded towards the way Asian kids live their lives in modern society. Perhaps they are even becoming overly generous, up to the point of funding graduation trips. One particular post on Facebook “confession page” NUS Confessions illustrates this suggestion quite well:
The above example also suggests that Asian “Gen-Y” kids today are pampered and spoilt, with older generation Asians handing them what they want on a silver platter. That many of today’s Asian youths are mooching money off their parents for holidays such as graduation trips. Which is quite believable given a lot of Asian kids today spend most of their time studying and achieving good grades – where do they have the time to work to pocket thousands of dollars on their own to fund overseas getaways.
It is interesting to see a number of my Asian friends choose Europe and the States as the destinations for their graduation trips. I have seen them post countless photos of the Eiffel Tower or some lonely yet majestic-looking Parisian laneway on Facebook post-graduation trips. Photos of authentic fancy English fish-and-chips or paper thin Italian pizza. For some reason, Asian locations do not seem as popular a graduation trip choice.
The reason behind this can be tied to the idea of status, linked to the (traditional) Asian mentality that the developed Western world is comfortably cushy with its modern or long-standing buildings/landmarks and fair-skinned Caucasians are the epitome of beauty. As such, journeying to the West is arguably prestigious and very attractive in the eyes of Asians. Journeying to the developing East, with sunburnt labourers in this continent, is, well, somewhat equated to poor tastes.
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with choosing to holiday in Western countries. There is nothing wrong with parents paying for these trips. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the high life, posh dining and shopping in a foreign land, albeit not taking much time to interact with the locals here.
Having lived and vacationed in different parts of Asia, I have come to realise that traveling is always an intriguing experience when one is immersed in a whole new country.
At the end of the day, traveling – from planning to packing to getting lost in an unfamiliar city – tends to be an enjoyable experience. But also an unpredictable experience.
An experience that can bring out many different sides to us whether we realise it or not.