Chinese students studying in the UK prefer home-cooked food and global brands over local cuisine, new research from Brunel University London suggests.
The study, published in the journal Appetite, examined the food choices of 21 Chinese students studying at two locations in the UK.
It’s hoped the research, which found a preference for home-cooked meals and global brands over traditional British fare, will help those responsible for catering to Chinese students develop their gastronomic offerings.
Dr Dorothy A. Yen, Brunel’s reader in marketing who led the research, said: “We conducted the research using semi-structured interviews with Chinese students living in two different localities – nine in one of the largest and most visited cities in the UK, the other 12 in a small city situated in the Midlands.
“The interview data provided us a good understanding of their food consumption behaviour – ordinary consumption, often associated with their consumption during the week, and extraordinary consumption, mainly during weekends and on special celebratory occasions.”
Dr Yen found that during the week – ordinary consumption – the students predominantly favoured home-cooked Chinese meals or familiar global brands. Whilst the students would often have sampled the local cuisine when they first arrived, it was more rarely consumed after that.
Meanwhile, analysis of the students’ ‘extraordinary’ food consumption found that they preferred global brands, ‘foods of the world’ (for instance, Italian or Thai food) or Chinese restaurant meals at the weekends or on special occasions.
“These are consumed for celebrating and actualising their global youth membership, experiencing variety, new flavours and authenticity, as well as pleasure and quality, depending on the occasions and the presence of other sojourners – people who reside temporarily in another country,” said Dr Yen.
“Whilst the Chinese students’ ordinary consumption differs greatly from their extraordinary consumption, the findings illustrate that as sojourners Chinese students oscillate between two very different patterns of consumption behaviours, reflected in ordinary (immigrants) and extraordinary (tourists) categories.”
The research also compared how the eating habits of students who lived in an urban environment differed from those in a more rural setting. Dr Yen found that the participants who lived in the bigger city tended to be more adventurous with the variety of food they ate, with the more rural-based students preferring to cook their own Chinese meals more frequently.
“These findings should provide insightful knowledge for tourism marketers and hospitality businesses in developing their gastronomic products and services, specifically targeting young Chinese sojourners,” said Dr Yen.
Dr Yen’s paper ‘Food consumption when travelling abroad: Young Chinese sojourners' food consumption in the UK’ is available on Open Access through the journal Appetite
Tim Pilgrim, Media Relations
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