Silver-haired folks grumbling under their breath about the younger generations is nothing new. The older you get, the more intolerable the young seem. Sure, we may have been those partying college kids just a few years ago, but we were never that bad. Or so we think. Still, there is one generation that sticks out above the rest.
Millennials have become synonymous with a lot of other characteristics — and they’re not exactly positive ones. Entitled, lazy, tech-obsessed, social media robots drowning in student debt. You get it. However, beyond all the negative associations, there are a few things that will surprise you about this misread generation.
1. Millennials have many different names: We’re not talking about all the slurs coming from those older folks. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation there are actually 30 different ways to say millennial — Generation Me, Echo Boomers, and Gen Y, to name a few.
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2. The term ‘millennial’ was coined by two dudes in the ’90s: Not by Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne, unfortunately. Historians Neil Howe and William Strauss introduced the controversial tag in their book Generations. An odd choice considering millennials were all born pre-2000.
Katja Motion Picture
3. Millennials are still hard to define: Some say they’re tech-obsessed youngins, others that they’re the generation who will finally slow climate change. However, the only true way to define a millennial is someone born between 1981 and 1996. From there, they’ll have to define themselves.
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4. Millennials are natural-born killers: From the Big Mac to shopping malls, millennials are notorious for killing industries. This could be due to them being the least financially stable generation, but it’s more likely that they are just reshaping the market to fit their contemporary demands.
5. Millennials love to read: It’s easy to think that they toil the hours away on Instagram or playing Candy Crush, but the truth is, millennials are big readers. They read an average of five books per year compared to the four read by the general public.
6. When it comes to books, they want the real thing: Don’t let all those iPhones fool you, a whopping 80% of millennials claim they choose paper over digital for their reads. They also visit public libraries more than any other generation.
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7. Millennials are at a disadvantage when it comes to $$: With crippling student loan debt and a market that hasn’t adjusted salaries to match rising costs, millennials have notably less wealth than older generations had at the same age.
8. But they are working that retirement plan: Maybe because finances are such an immediate and constant concern, millennials are preparing for retirement much more than previous generations. A recent Merrill Lynch report found that 82% of them are contributing to a 401(k) plan.
9. Millennials are all about self-improvement: From NYE Resolutions to going back for that MBA, this generation is all about upgrading themselves. Millennials face a lot of adversity from other generations and many of them graduated during a major recession — investing in themselves makes a lot of sense.
10. They are highly educated: Maybe it’s all those goals they’re setting, or maybe they just know how competitive it is out there. Either way, millennials are better-educated than previous generations. About 40% of them hold college degrees, compared to just 30% of Boomers.
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11. It’s true, millennials are narcissistic: They even say so themselves. A 2016 survey had a majority of millennials confess that they believe their generation is pretty self-centered. The survey also showed that every other generation agreed.
12. They are politically active: To be fair, politics has gotten significantly more “exciting” in recent years, and millennials are here for it! Since becoming eligible to vote, they have doubled the turn out. In the 2018 midterm election, 26.1 million millennials cast a vote.
Rock The Vote
13. The bank of mom and dad is a thing: Not only do more millennials still live at home, but 7 out of 10 adults between 18 and 34 rely on their parents for some form of financial support. This may have something to do with the fact that the average millennial debt is $42,000.
14. They are eating green: A report by The Economist shows that 25% of millennials are vegan or vegetarian. Whether they’re doing it for the planet, their personal health goals, or a social trend, the chickens and cows of the world unanimously approve.
15. Stress is a big factor: Millennials have the highest stress level of any generation, according to a report by the American Psychological Association. On a scale from 1-10 millennials report having an average stress level of 5.7. Maybe that’s why axe throwing has become such a thing.
16. The workspace is millennial dominated: The high-stress levels may be due to their workload. There are currently over 56 million millennials hustling out there in the workforce, followed by 53 million Gen Xers and 41 million Boomers.
17. The work-life balance is a struggle: A recent study conducted by Happify found that millennials care about work a lot. In fact, they value and think about work so much that it is actually taking a serious toll on their stress levels and mental health.
18. Forget the 9-5: Office culture is changing, and that is in large part because of millennials. Not only do they think work hours should be flexible, but 69% don’t believe it is necessary to go into the office. It’s hard to argue with skipping that commute.
Kristle Lauren / Instagram
19. They really want to see the world: Above owning their own home, buying their dream car, or even settling down to have mini-thems, millennials say they want to travel. There’s a whole big world our there and this generation is determined to see it! Well, kind of…
20. They don’t actually take vacation: While millennials may have exotic dreams of swimming with sharks and trying street food in Cartagena, they’re not doing it. More and more companies offer employees unlimited paid time off, but millennials claim they’re too nervous to take it.
21. Millennials diet: On top of eating green, this generation is all about experimenting with diets. No one thinks it’s fun to trade out Popeye’s chicken sandwich for a fruit salad, but health influencers have certainly done their best to make it look glamorous.
Taline Gabriel / Instagram
22. The anxiety is high: Millennials experience anxiety and depression at double the rate of older generations. A psychologist at Berkley studying this phenomenon attributed the spike in anxiety to growing up around social media and worsening economic prospects.
23. But they’re also perfectionists: A recent study showed that the rate of perfectionism has increased dramatically with this generation. Millennials believe that standards are higher in the workforce and people are demanding more of them. This belief is another contributing factor to their anxiety.
24. Millennials are represented: Luckily, they have a few people repping them where it matters. In 2017 there were only 5 millennials in congress; in 2020 there are 25. This generation has some progressive views of the future, and they are making strides to see their visions through.
25: They love the internet: A report by the Pew Research Center found that 97% of millennials use the internet (obviously) and a third of them use it exclusively on their phones. They also found that 73% of millennials believe that the internet has a positive impact on society.
Nicholas Pfosi / Boston Globe
26. They love their smartphones, too: What even is the internet if you can’t access it on-the-go 24/7? The same study that ding, ding, ding discovered millennials love the web, also found that they check their phone about 100 times a day.
27. They have serious health concerns: Despite putting in the extra effort to eat well, millennials are significantly less healthy than older generations were at the same age. Depression and Type-2 Diabetes being the most common conditions.
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28. China is the millennial mecca: There are 351 million millennials living in China — that’s 25% of China’s entire population! A lot of these studies reflect behaviors and conditions of American millennials, but the real hub of this generation are living in the east.
29. Seattle is hot, too: With Amazon more or less taking over, it’s no wonder millennials are flocking to the Emerald City. Opportunity abounds here, unlike affordable housing. But don’t worry, its roots are in punk, so it’s still cool to live in a garage in Sea Town.
Instagram / Baylee Vicente
30. They are the ultimate test subjects: Why? Maybe it’s their rebellious spirit. Perhaps their mysterious smart phone agendas. Whatever it is, millennials are the most studied generation of all time. Love ’em or hate ’em, they do have our attention.
Sarah Jacobs / Business Insider
31. Millennials are about to be overthrown: Not by sword wielding boomers — although they can dream — but by Generation Z! That’s right, make way for the newest batch of young whippersnappers. Gen Z now accounts for 32 percent of the global population.
32. They’ll try anything to get by: The average rent for a San Francisco Bay Area apartment is around $3,000, but in 2017, 24-year-old Sarah Patterson was paying just under $1,000. How was this possible? It’s simple — she was living on a sailboat!
Even with dock fees and the cost of upkeep, Sarah and her husband saved thousands of dollars a month while also enjoying the luxury of living at the heart of the San Francisco Bay. The boathouse also served as the perfect office space for Sarah’s skincare startup.
2. Joel Weber: Tiny houses are all the rage these days, but Joel Weber’s transition into the world of alternative living began earlier than most. Rather than pay for room and board at the University of Texas, Weber constructed this tiny house in a friend’s backyard.
It cost Weber nearly all of his savings, but with no rent to pay on the space nor room and board payments, he was able to graduate college debt free. Despite multiple offers to buy the home, Weber plans on living in it for as long as he can.
Today, Weber’s home is parked on a single family’s property. He exchanges cleaning and childcare services for the use of the land and electricity. Despite not wanting to sell the house, he’s reportedly considering renting it out on Airbnb.
3. Chateau Ubuntu: This upper-class abode looks like any other you might come across in San Francisco, but you won’t find a stuffy old-money couple or startup billionaire here. Instead, this home serves as the living space for over 30 millennials!
Dubbed “Chateau Ubuntu,” this mid-century mansion plays host to a commune of younger people looking for cheap rent in the heart of San Francisco. Most of the residents here pay around $600 a month, though they typically share rooms with up to five other people.
Chateau Ubuntu SF / Facebook
4. The Car Movement: Most millennials just want a place with four walls, a few windows, and a place to lay their head — and wouldn’t you know it, cars have just that! Instead of paying thousands for an apartment, many young adults have actually begun moving into their cars.
Sure, it takes a certain kind of person to rough it in their car, but think of all the money you’ll save with your only living expenses being car insurance and upkeep. Most cities have pretty strict rules when it comes to car living, but where there’s a will there’s a way!
Wanderlust Not Less
5. Peter Berkowitz: Moving into a buddy’s cramped apartment may seem like the quickest way to end a friendship, but Peter Berkowitz was able to make it work. And no, that’s not a dog crate — that’s his apartment.
Berkowitz constructed this cozy wooden space for just $1,600, and with a rent payment of just $400/month, it seemed he had finally found the perfect living situation. Unfortunately, Berkowitz’s box turned out to be in violation of the building’s fire codes, and he was forced to move out.
6. “Brandon”: Though he’s concealed his name for privacy, Brandon’s story is known far and wide. A software engineer for Google, Brandon chose to skirt the high living prices of San Francisco by moving into a box truck parked on the Google campus.
It isn’t much, but by charging his electronics while at work, eating meals at the office, and showering at the company gym, Brandon has managed to cut his living expenses down to virtually nothing. And with all that extra cash, he was able to pay off $20k worth of student loans in just under a year!
7. Martin Greenberg: As the CEO of the home-renting company Bedly, you’d think that Martin Greenberg (right) would have had a beautiful place of his own. Ironically enough, he didn’t, and during Bedly’s early days, Greenberg actually slept in conference rooms!
“You’d be surprised, the conference rooms were very comfortable,” mused Greenberg. “When you’re working late it’s hard to coordinate with friends whose couches you want to sleep on.”
8. Heather Stewart: Despite shelling out just $2,200 for their San Francisco apartment, Heather Stewart and her boyfriend Luke Iseman still felt they were paying too much. And so, the couple leased a vacant lot and built a shipping crate home on top of it.
San Francisco Public Press
Because the container was already sturdy and waterproof, the only real work that needed to be done on the home was in the interior. But alas, after only a few months Heather and Luke were forced to vacate the space as their living arrangement was not up to code.
Fortunately, the couple stumbled upon a vacant warehouse nearby and began work on an entire community of box houses. Today, Heather and Luke are proud residents of “Containertopia” and continue to build container homes for those eager to join the movement.
9. Bree Rathburn & Kieran Murphy: When this Santa Rosa couple decided it was time to tie the knot, they knew they needed to find a creative way to find a place to live while also saving up for the wedding and a honeymoon in Greece. The solution? A tiny house, of course!
For just $21,000, they constructed their tiny home in 18 months. The California couple is now hoping to find a permanent place to park the house so that Kieran can start his own vineyard and wine label.
10. Jason Roesslein: Like Brandon, Jason Roesslein chose to get creative with his living situation despite a solid tech salary. Instead of paying $1,250 in rent, the Tesla engineer cut his monthly bills to just over $300 by converting a Dodge Sprinter van into a home.
Jason opted for a more minimalist approach to his new living space, installing wood panels for insulation and little else. Instead of a bed, he uses a sleeping bag and gas heater for warmth, though he maintains that he prefers sleeping in the cold. Definitely not a lifestyle for everyone…
Millennials on the other side of the world are also going to insane lengths to save on rent, and one of the most popular alternative housing solutions in the east has origins that aren’t what you’d expect.
The new way that millennials in China are finding ways to live on the cheap actually owes its origins to the tensions that arose between China and the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War.
As the conflict between the two nations reached its breaking point, the Chinese government was forced to take drastic measures in order to protect the country. At the behest of Chairman Mao Zedong, the people of China began work on a massive underground tunnel system in 1969.
Over 300,000 men, women, and children were put to work on the project, constructing 10,000 bomb shelters connected by nearly 20 miles of tunnel. Ancient structures and cultural landmarks were toppled for the sake of Mao’s vision, with nearly all of China’s resources being poured into the endeavor.
By the end of the decade, 75 of China’s largest cities had been outfitted with enormous underground bunkers. With the shelters capable of housing roughly 60% of each city’s population, the survival of the Chinese people amidst the imminent nuclear war was all but guaranteed.
But the bombs never fell, and Mao Zedong’s death in 1976 quelled the fears of annihilation at the hands of the Russians. With new leader Deng Xiaoping ushering in a “golden age” of socialism in China, it appeared that Mao’s massive undertaking had all been for naught.
Being the economic mind that he was, however, Deng refused to let such a significant – and costly – project simply crumble into obscurity beneath the streets of China. Through the Office of Civil Defense, the country began an initiative to commercialize the abandoned bunkers.
Sim Chi Yin
Over the next two decades, laborers transformed Mao’s defunct tunnel system into a network of underground cities, the largest of which formed beneath the sprawling Chinese capital of Beijing. Complete with supermarkets, schools, clinics, and even karate dojos, this project represented another leap forward for China’s expanding economy.
But even after these spaces were repurposed, the Chinese government continued to push forward with their subterranean efforts by mandating that all new buildings have underground defense shelters that could double as a source of income. And so, in addition to stores and clinics, these bunkers became homes.
Today, over 1 million people live below the streets of Beijing, clustered in small communities that range from a few dozen to over a hundred individuals strong. Residents of this underground city are known as the shuzu, or, more commonly, “the rat tribe”.
Scott Sherrill-Mix / Flickr
This peculiar society is mostly made up of young migrants from the countryside who arrived in search of affordable housing in Beijing. And with an average rent of 400 yuan a month – roughly $58 – for one of these rooms, they’re sure getting what they’re paying for.
Each windowless room is typically between 40 to 100 square feet, just big enough to fit a small bed and a dresser or two. Some aren’t so lucky, as there are those that can only afford to stay in rooms that are shared by up to a dozen other people.
Singapore Home Decor
As far as amenities go, a single communal bathroom serves as a dumping point for personal bedpans, and at 50 cents a pop, one can help themselves to a lukewarm, five-minute shower. But despite the poor living conditions, some residents see their situation as motivation.
“Many of my colleagues live above ground, but I think it’s too comfortable,” said Wei Kun, an insurance salesman who shares his 300-square-foot apartment with nine other men. “This place forces me to work harder.”
But even so, a tremendous amount of stigma still surrounds those that call themselves members of “the rat tribe.” Some individuals won’t even tell their families where they’re living out of fear of judgment.
“When my father came to visit me he cried when he saw where I lived,” aspiring actor Zhang Xi recalled. “He said, ‘Son, this won’t do.'” Unfortunately, the Chinese government’s stance on the issue has only grown increasingly mixed as the years have gone on…
Though city officials have expressed concern over the safety risks involved with underground living, most have chosen to turn a blind eye to the practice. With overcrowding becoming a growing problem in Beijing, there’s really no other place for these individuals to go.
“We never allowed residential use of air-raid shelters,” said Xu Jinbao, office director of the Beijing Municipal Civil Defense Office. “But as time went by Beijing became so populous that people started to cram in underground.”
Despite the hardship and controversy surrounding “the rat tribe,” it appears that they’re making the most of the situation while keeping their eyes set on what lies ahead. For these individuals, life underground is not a product of hard times, but rather a calculated sacrifice for the future.
“I found a lot of people still hope one day to buy a house, or at least to live above ground,” sociologist Li Junfu observed while studying underground housing at the Beijing University of Technology. “They have a positive spirit.”
Check out the video below to learn more about “the rat tribe” and their remarkable lives beneath the streets of Beijing.
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