Everything you know about Chinese students is (probably) wrong

Everything you know about Chinese students is (probably) wrong

Adam Omar
15th November 2017

What do you think is one of the main worries for Chinese students coming to study in the UK? Homesickness? Change of language? Culture shock?

Nope. Which shampoo to buy.

Chinese students have found their hair too thin after arriving in the UK (possibly to do with the change in water or climate) and fill WeChat messaging groups with discussions over which shampoo is best to keep their hair thick.

It’s just one of the many surprising things that we found out from one of our many focus group with Chinese students based in Leeds. Our aim was to understand the demographic of students that spend £2 billion a year and make up 42% of all international students here in the UK. The market that’s so important to the HE sector, but is so difficult to communicate with.

It all started when we went on TUCO’s Study Tour to China back in 2015 and was immersed in China’s quirky, forward thinking yet traditional culture. When we arrived back in the UK, we saw Chinese students in a new light and started to understand the culture shock they might be facing.

We ran our focus group working with the Confucius Institute in Leeds finding that Chinese students loved Downton Abbey, hiking in the British countryside and were relieved to find that they could buy hair bobbles here. They worried about the differences in Chinese and British medicine, whether they could buy Chinese ingredients for cooking and how they would talk to accommodation staff if they had a problem with their room.

The focus group was such a success that Sharon (her English name) had work experience with our content team for a week and the video team produced two Campuslife Readymade films all in Mandarin:

A Guide to Living in the UK (which showed Chinese students what to expect when arriving in the UK) and Rick’s Rice Cooker Story (which shows Chinese students that there’s no need to bring their Chinese rice cooker with them, they can buy their own rice cooker here). We also made a Behind the Scenes film so you can see the method behind the madness!

There’s still a lot to learn so we’re continuing our research with a new group of Chinese students who have just started their studies in Leeds and will soon be sharing video blogs of their experiences of life in uni accommodation. Make sure you subscribe to our YouTube playlist to watch them when they’re released as we’ll be finding out what they love and don’t love and which shampoo they end up using.