Listen to what Gen Z says
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Jameel Salah, Palestinian, 21, Abu Dhabi

Jameel Salah

He does not believe Generation Z is smarter. “[In my own generation], I see negative aspects, especially in our dependency on technology and platforms like Google, Twitter and Facebook.” The upside, however, is that it makes them more tech-savvy, says Jameel, who is in his second year of Applied Foreign Languages studies at Paris Sorbonne University.

Is Gen Z risk-averse? “It depends on the situation but I tend to be risk-averse. Growing up, I was taught the rules and I stuck by them. For example, I won’t even jaywalk. If you’re good at something, you should stick to it”.

■ Money and fame vs relationships: “The latter wins hands-down. I believe money should serve to build and make better communities, and not drive people away.”

■ Retail therapy: “I like the convenience of online shopping. But for shoes and clothes, I prefer physical stores. Most of my shopping is on music, clothing, film and music equipment, video games, and online subscriptions like Apple music, Netflix.”

■ Reading habits: “I am blessed with parents from a literary background and have a huge library in the house, and so growing up, whenever I was bored, I would read a book. I tried reading from devices like Kindle, but it just didn’t give me the same feeling. I try to keep up with politics and social news, mostly online. I see it as a social responsibility and find it astounding when people say they have no interest in what’s happening.”

■ Cash or card: “I use both. My one regret about the digital economy is that I didn’t invest in Bitcoin.”

■ Coveted consumer: “Advertising for my generation is more influential when it’s not done directly. We’re more influenced by celebrities on Instagram.”

■ Am I worried about the future? “I don’t believe there’s any point stressing about what’s going to happen after 10 years. I live life day to day, focused on graduating, keeping my relationships with people strong, and concentrating on my creative output. I think about global warming and global economy and want to be able to make a real difference rather than just have an opinion about it.”

Malcolm Merchant, Filipino, 23, Abu Dhabi

Malcolm Merchant

He echoes the views of Salah that Gen Z is not necessarily smarter than the previous generations. But it is tech-savvy and “different because each era is different. I grew up with technology. As a result, my generation would struggle if we could not get do something at the touch of a button,” says Merchant, who is in his final year of Computer Sciences at University of Wollongong.

Is Gen Z risk-averse? “I prefer staying on the safe side of things rather than risking it and losing everything. Better to be safe than sorry. I have seen friends and family members face issues such as debt, and that’s also made me avoid risks when it comes to finances. I like to save money and avoid doing anything that can put me in a bad financial situation.”

■ Money and fame vs relationships: “Money and fame are not that important, they can always be achieved. I prefer to have strong relationships and a good community around me.”

■ Retail therapy: “I prefer online shopping. If I shop at a store, it’s because I have already decided what I want to buy. My monthly shopping is mainly on food, fuel, and electronic items.:

■ Cash or card: “I mainly use Apple Pay as I can leave my wallet at home. My expenses come to about Dh1,000 a month.”

■ Reading habits: “I mainly read hard copy books rather than e-devices, mostly non-fiction as well as self-help books. I don’t read much on politics; just check updates on global issues on internet.”

■ Coveted consumer: “I believe we are an important demographic for advertisers, it’s evident that they do a lot of research on us and they know what we’re looking for.”

■ Am I worried about the future? “I feel like I have grown up in a more politically volatile world; I worry about what will happen after I graduate and whether I will find the right job. Climate change doesn’t really concern me though I believe it’s real. I think more about the global economy because that can affect my job prospects.”

Hiba Tariq, Pakistani, 22, Abu Dhabi

Hiba Tariq

Every generation, has their own mindset and Gen Z is able to do things quicker because “we grew up in a much more technologically advanced age,” says Hiba. But she is not oblivious to the downside. “We’re so reliant on the internet, we have lost the ability of exploring and thinking on our own.”

Regarding her place in the world, Hiba, who is studying Electrical Engineering final year at Khalifa University, says, “I don’t know if we’re living in a more politically volatile world; older generations before us had to live in periods of colonialism, dictatorships, and harsher political environments.”

Is Gen Z risk-averse? “I think I occupy the middle space. Usually, when it’s related to stress, I will like to take more risks in order to cope with my stress levels. Other times, I like to stay in my comfort zone. If there is a scenario where I can affect a lot of people due to a risky move, I will avoid [risk-taking] to avoid bringing everyone else down with me.”

■ Money and fame vs relationships: “What good is it to have fame and money and have nobody to spend your time with? There are many people who have the fame and money but aren’t happy.”

■ Retail therapy: “I like both, online shopping and visiting stores. My shopping is mainly clothes and shoes.”

■ Reading habits: “I used to read a lot when I was a kid, but I don’t read anymore. I watch videos and documentaries instead. Politics and news stress me too much so I tend to keep away from them.”

■ Cash or card: “Prefer to use cash. The digital economy is going to make business markets more competitive, and that’s good because prices will come down. The downside is that it’s leading to a lot of data tracking of websites and I am not happy about my data being all tracked and monitored.”

■ Coveted consumer: “We are the main target audience for advertisers but it also depends on the type of products advertisers are looking to sell.”

■ Am I worried about the future? “Yes, I do think about how things will be in 10 years’ time. Global warming is something we’re going to have to deal with. It will require a total shift in our mentality. As for global economy, the world is becoming very interdependent and if the economy in America goes bad, it will affect the entire world.”

Yaser Khan, 20, Indian, Dubai

Yaser Khan

He was unaware that he belonged to Gen Z. “However, as we are technologically more advanced and used to newer and more efficient practices, it is obvious that we would be smarter in that sense,” says Yaser who is a third-year BA Honours Business Management (Marketing) student at Middlesex University. “I think it is a great but complicated time to be alive right now.”

Is Gen Z risk-averse? “We like to play it safe, in most situations, because we are sceptical. We are sceptical because we’re aware of the mistakes that have been made in the past.”

■ Money and fame vs relationships: “I would spend time building communities and relationships faster because I think it is what the world needs right now.”

■ Retail therapy: “I love shopping online. People from this generation value time and ease over most other aspects.”

■ Reading habits: “I often read a lot on social media. I like to be updated about the world, technology, politics, general knowledge.”

■ Cash or card: “I prefer using my debit card over cash. I am sceptical about the security of the transactions, but I value time and ease. I spend over Dh500 on myself which includes food and fuel.”

■ Coveted consumer: “I think we are the most important target audience for advertisers because of the way we spend, which is after being thoroughly convinced.”

■ Am I worried about the future? “I worry due to the global economic conditions as well as climate change. To be honest, there isn’t a shortage of things to worry about.”

Layan Khamis, 22, Spanish-Yemeni, Dubai

Layan Khamis

Nothing happens organically anymore, says Layan, an HR administrator. “From meeting new people to doing something as simple as going to the grocery store ... Most people meet online now and instead of leaving the house to run errands, you can have everything delivered to you at the click of a button.” Does she see any difference between Gen Z and Millennials? “I think growing up in this environment as opposed to learning to adapt to it is what sets us apart from millennials, otherwise, I don’t see much of a difference between the two generations.”

Is Gen Z risk-averse? “Maybe we have observed Millennials and learnt from their mistakes which is why we are perceived as risk-averse.”

■ Money and fame vs relationships: “Building relationships and creating a sense of community is more important to me.”

■ Retail therapy: “I prefer brick and mortar. It’s not only about the actual purchases, it’s more about the experience of shopping that I enjoy.

I would only shop online if I was desperate or if I find good deals. I like window-shopping and the whole experience of walking from shop to shop.”

■ Reading habits: “I read books and I genuinely dislike Kindle. For me, it’s all about the ‘whole experience’, whether it’s shopping or reading a book, I like to experience things the way they are intended to be experienced.”

■ Cash or card: “I usually pay using my card, I barely carry cash anymore.”

■ Coveted consumer: “I don’t think we are the most important targeted audience; I think we are the easiest targeted audience because this generation focuses immensely on trends. I guess that makes us the most important audience, which isn’t a good thing.”

■ Am I worried about the future? “I do worry about tomorrow’s world and I worry about the kind of world my kids will grow up in. I am worried about climate change, we are experiencing it now and instead of focusing on being more technologically efficient, we should all focus on using technology in a positive way to prevent climate change.”

Adiba Ejaz, 17, Indian, Dubai

Adiba Ejaz

Beyond the ‘passive awareness’ of being Gen Z, she totally claims this aspect as part of her identity.

An IB 2 student at Gems Modern Academy, she reads a lot, but is aware that in this digital age, “I have to be sceptical of the sources I frequent.”

Is Gen Z risk-averse? “I would agree, with a few reservations. We find ourselves in hypercompetitive environments — both in school or college and in the real world. By natural consequence, to preserve ourselves, we choose to sacrifice some ideals of following our innermost passions for the sake of our comfortable sustenance.”

■ Money and fame vs relationships: “I think this [choice] is false — a person need not compromise on one to have the other. Success, fame and wealth mean little after a certain threshold has been achieved. Fame is not on my radar, nor is exorbitant wealth — instead, a comfortable way of life in which I am empowered to enact good.”

■ Retail therapy: “I like both, online shopping and visiting stores. My shopping is mainly clothes and shoes.”

■ Reading habits: “I read around 1-3 articles a day, primarily during the commute to and from school — on an app on my phone. These mostly span current affairs, science/math developments, music news, and analyses in literature/philosophy. On an average during the past year, I read a book a month.”

■ Cash or card: “This depends what I intend to buy. Electronics form the largest portion of my expenditure. Volume-wise, food would probably be the front-runner.”

■ Coveted consumer: “I believe we form an important target demographic for advertisers. Owing to our cost-minimising habits, we’re not particularly keen on brand loyalty either.”

■ Am I worried about the future? “I try my best to remain optimistic. While we seek economic efficiency through automation and AI, we should be wary of the risk associated with developing a technology so potent. I am extremely worried about climate change and what worries me most about global economy, at present, is the increasing insularisation of states.”