In my last post I mentioned the expensive cars at Soong Ching Ling kindergarten. This morning when I took Scott to school I observed something else: almost every single expensive car belonged to a Chinese family and all the average Buick and Honda minivans were driven by non-Chinese families.
Of course the main reason is that many foreigners are here on corporate expat assignments and top of the line BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus or Landrovers are not part of the package. When you’re posted somewhere for a few years you may also not want to invest a large amount of money in a car, especially not if that car costs here twice as much as in the US or Europe.
Another reason is that a car is a very important status symbol for many Chinese. If you made it you just have to drive the most expensive car to make sure others know that as well. A bit different from Holland, where this is frowned upon (IMHO showing how conservative and small-thinking Holland actually is). In China just a Mercedes-Benz is not enough if you really made it, it should be an S-class and preferably the S600. And the result is what you see at the school’s parking grounds.
The main reason we have a Honda Odyssey minivan is because with 2 kids, 2 nannies and 2 strollers a sedan is just too small. We sold our Buick Lacrosse last summer when we realized that we had only been using the Odyssey after Elaine was born. Do Chinese families not have this problem? Or do they have another, more practical, car at home for family outings? I haven’t figured that one out yet, but my driver made a good remark: most Chinese still only have one kid. Maybe that explains it.
I also think it’s mostly because the one-child policy is still in effect (though I guess if you drive an S600, you don’t care about the fee for the 2nd child). I don’t think many Chinese families have 2(!) nannies either. And I don’t know anyone who has two cars at home either. All that stuff is not affordable when you earn below 10K RMB/month as a family.